In June of 1997, the Buffalo Sabres hired a former journeyman defenseman named Darcy Regier as the sixth general manager in franchise history.
What followed was one of the longest relationships ever between GM and organization. Regier spent 17 seasons on the job in Buffalo and, prior to his dismissal, was the NHL’s third-longest tenured general manager.
As such, there’s plenty of history to look back on during his time in Buffalo…
1997: Regier is hired and replaces embattled GM John Muckler, who was in a feud with then-head coach and reigning Jack Adams winner Ted Nolan. Regier reportedly made Nolan a one-year offer, which Nolan rejected before leaving the organization entirely.
Regier replaced Nolan with Lindy Ruff, who would go on to coach the Sabres for 16 seasons.
’97-98: Regier made his first major trade, dealing franchise legend Pat LaFontaine to the Rangers, just prior to the start of the season. The move came after LaFontaine feuded with Buffalo’s team physicians — he felt he was OK to return from a concussion, Sabres doctors felt differently.
LaFontaine went on to score 62 points in 67 games with the Rangers before retiring after the season.
1998: John Rigas purchases the Sabres from the Knox family.
1999: Arguably Regier’s finest time in Buffalo. Led by the stalwart goaltending of Dominik Hasek, Regier made three key additions at the trade deadline — Stu Barnes, Joe Juneau, Rhett Warriner — that helped Buffalo advance to the second Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.
Buffalo lost in six games to Dallas, a series infamous for this goal (or, depending where you’re from, no-goal):
2000: Regier loads up at the deadline, acquiring Doug Gilmour, Chris Gratton and JP Dumont. The moves fail to pay off, though, as the Sabres are eliminated by Philly in five games in the opening round.
2000-01: Regier engages in a contentious contract squabble with captain Mike Peca, which leads to Peca sitting out the entire season. The impasse leads to Hasek questioning the club’s commitment to winning.
In June, Regier trades Peca to the Islanders and Hasek to Detroit in what marks a changing of the guard for the organization. The moves were made to reduce payroll (Hasek was dealt just before his one-year, $9 million extension kicked in) and begin a rebuild.
In the three seasons following the Hasek/Peca deals, Buffalo failed to make the playoffs.
2003: Tom Golisano purchases the team from Rigas after Rigas and was indicted on conspiracy, securities, bank and wire fraud charges. Rigas amassed $150 million in debt on the Sabres, and the financial situation handcuffed Regier from spending on and retaining free agents.
2001-04: After stockpiling picks, Regier brings in a fresh new crop of Sabres via the draft. The 2001 class yields Derek Roy and Jason Pominville; ’02 nets Keith Ballard, Daniel Paille and Dennis Wideman (none do much of anything for Buffalo, mind you), ’03 lands Thomas Vanek and Clarke MacArthur; ’04 sees Buffalo obtain Drew Stafford, Andrej Sekera and Patrick Kaleta.
Regier also goes about re-establishing the team’s identity through a series of trades, most notably acquiring Daniel Briere and Chris Drury, who go on to serve as co-captains.
2005-06: The rebuild is a success as Buffalo emerges from the lockout as one of the NHL’s most dynamic teams. The Sabres win 52 games and rack up 110 points during the ’05-06 season, boasting one of the league’s best offenses featuring six 20-goal scorers.
Ryan Miller, the club’s fifth-round pick in ’99, emerges as a bonafide No. 1 and the club’s best goaltender since Hasek. The Sabres lose in the Eastern Conference final to Carolina.
2006-07: Buffalo is as good, if not better, than the year before, winning 53 games while racking up 113 points. The team finishes first in the NHL in goals for (308), Briere and Drury post career highs in points and Vanek has a breakthrough campaign, scoring 43 times.
But the Sabres once again fail to get to a Stanley Cup Final, losing in the EC finals to Ottawa.
2007-09: Things begin to crumble. Briere sign in Philly, Drury signs with the Rangers and Vanek signs a massive offer sheet with Edmonton (seven years, $50 million) forcing the Sabres to match, putting a pinch on the club’s finances.
Buffalo fails to make the playoffs in ’07-08 sand ’08-09, their first misses since the lockout.
2009-11: Miller emerges as one of the best goalies on the planet, the Vanek-Roy-Pominville trio emerges and the Sabres are a solid 40-45 win team, but they crash out of the opening playoff round in ’09-10 and ’10-11. Regier appears to hit a draft pick out of the park, though, when ’08 first-rounder Tyler Myers wins the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.
2011-present: New Sabres owner Terry Pegula purchases the team from Golisano and essentially gives Regier a blank checkbook, and Regier proceeds to sign Christian Ehrhoff ($40 million), Ville Leino ($27 million) and trade for Robyn Regehr.
The moves failed to make an impact, though.
Buffalo missed the playoffs in 2011-12 and Regier began shipping out assets. Jordan Leopold, Paul Gaustad, Roy, Regehr, Sekera, Pominville and Vanek were all moved for either prospects or picks (the Sabres end up with five first-round picks from 2011-13, selecting Joel Armia, Mikhail Grigorenko, Zemgus Girgensons, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov.)
Nov. 13, 2013: Regier is relieved of his duties as Sabres GM.