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Sabres Central

Will Pegula lead the Sabres out of the wilderness?

Thursday was the day when the Sabres finally would officially acknowledge the fact that Terry Pegula was the new Sabres owner. During the 1 hour press conference, Tom Golisano only talked about their perceived accomplishments: Having the 6th best record in the NHL since the lockout, hosting the first Winter Classic, posting two straight 50 win seasons and even introducing ice crew with shovels. He boasted about how the attendance soared and the ideas that the Larry Quinn-Golisano partnership made into a reality, like the Winter Classic, and the World Junior tournament that just was played in Buffalo.

Golisano certainly deserves credit for saving the team and bringing them out of bankruptcy. He helped build the team into a financially stable and profitable team. Kudos should go out to him and managing partner Larry Quinn for all their efforts.

Golisano would not accept any criticism of the team, his policies or his staff. He turned around the question about whether he was responsible for dismantling a President's Trophy team to where it is now, in 10th place.

Golisano, instead of humbly going out in style and class, came across as an arrogant, defiant owner who bristled at any criticism he or his team took over the years.

Poor decisions mark the Quinn-Regier era

Larry Quinn came up with some brilliant ideas during his second tenure with the Sabres. He helped bring in two different uniform changes and finally went back to basically their original uniforms. Quinn also helped develop variable pricing scheme for having different levels of prices against certain teams. The most in demand games would get the premium price tag, while the lesser ones would cost much less. Other teams have adopted that policy that the Sabres have had in place for years now.

Quinn also was instrumental in getting the outdoor Winter Classic being played in Buffalo. That was the inaugural game and he played a big part in it, as he did in securing the World Junior hockey tournament that was played in Buffalo in the early part of January in Buffalo.
Quinn also was the key player in helping Golisano acquire the Sabres in the first place. Kudos go to Quinn and all his efforts in helping build the Sabres to a financially successful team. However, he made many questionable decisions too. Like continuing with the “club policy” of not negotiating players contracts during the season. Being bullheaded about not offering a player who was close to free agency a new contract during the season cost the team many stars.

On top of that, Quinn put money on players who should have been let go, like Tim Connolly, Jason Pominville and Jochen Hecht. The money was spent on the wrong players.

Last summer, to the surprise of many Sabres fans and media, Larry Quinn was promoted to part owner of the Sabres. That just emphasized the Good Ol' Buddy network in the Sabres organization that encompassed Quinn, GM Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff. Of the three, I feel that Ruff is the pickle in the middle and has not been given the tools to get the job done. The Good Ol' Boys have been together for over 12 years and they are getting quite stale as the Sabres slide down the standings to oblivion.

It was a mistake to even bring Quinn aboard once again after he made a mess of the Sabres during his first stint in the organization. That's when he stirred the pot in the Ted Nolan-John Muckler-Dominic Hasek feud where both Muckler and Nolan where shown the door.

In one of the biggest surprises of the summer, Tom Golisano appointed Larry Quinn as a minority owner of the Sabres. He also made Dan DiPofi a part owner. Quinn was awarded for his help in getting Tom Golisano the Sabres when he made a bid for them. Right at the onset, Quinn was made the Sabres managing partner.
During and after the press conference Thursday, Quinn, true to form, lashed out at the media and the political environment in Buffalo in his parting shots during the Golisano goodbye speech. Quinn, who was brought on board by Golisano during his bid to buy the Sabres, was made part owner as a reward for his efforts.

Quinn was the man stirring the pot that eventually led to the departure of coach Ted Nolan, GM John Muckler and Vezina Trophy winner Dominik Hasek. Sabres fans had hoped that they would never hear Quinn's name being part of the Sabres again, but they were dead wrong. Quinn was originally involved in brining both Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff into the Sabres fold after he had helped get rid of Muckler and Nolan.

Golisano was asked who made the decision of letting players go and extending contracts, and he said that the only thing that mattered was to "at least break even." Thus, Quinn was responsible to make sure that Regier toted the bottom line and that profitability was the key to the franchise, not winning.

Should Pegula honor Regier’s new contract?

It was revealed that the Sabres extended Regier’s contract for 2 years last October. Now that Pegula is taking over the big question is whether he will honor that contract or bring in a general manager of his choice?

Regier signed a 2-year, $2.5 million contract extension. Of course he wants to come back under Terry Pegula. Who wouldn't want to be paid that much and not do anything to earn it? Regier has been asleep at the wheel for 13 years and it's about time he be shown the door...just like he has shown the door to so many good players on this team.

The list goes on and on about how Regier, who failed to negotiate contracts with players entering their last year of their contracts, who were lost to free agency. Why? Because Regier and Larry Quinn had a policy of not negotiating during a season. All other teams do that. It makes common sense to sign a player BEFORE they even enter their last season. You will get them much cheaper then, before they smell the green grass on the other side of the fence. The Sabres could have re-signed JP Dumont, Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, Brian Campbell, Michael Peca and many others if they had the foresight to get these important players locked into long term contracts. To let them go, most without even compensation, boggles the mind.

Sabres contract much cheaper than what they eventually got elsewhere in free agency.

Some can say that Quinn was controlling the puppet strings of Regier. That could be, but Regier has to have the backbone to stand up to this straight jacket and make a case that keeping these players would have benefited the team in the long run. Instead, Regier played hardball during most negotiations and wouldn't budge an inch. I think the same should be done to him as he did onto others. Play hardball and then show him the door.

What direction will the Sabres take under Pegula?

That is the question that all the Sabres fans and media are asking this week. Will Pegula retain Regier? Will he offer Lindy Ruff a new contract or decide to go another direction? All these questions will be answered in the next few months. In my opinion, Regier should be shown the door. Thank him for his 13 years of service, but then go out and find a general manager who can build this team into a Stanley Cup contender.

Ruff is a different situation altogether. Most experts say that if Ruff is let go, he’ll be snatched up by another NHL team almost instantly. Ruff has been involved in the Olympics and World Cup championships as either head coach or assistant coach for Canada. He is very respected throughout the NHL and while some see his message becoming stale in the Sabres locker room, he will definitely land on his feet elsewhere.

Unless someone of great stature becomes available to coach the Sabres, Ruff should be given an extension by Pegula. A Pat Quinn, Ken Hitchcock or Mike Keenan aren’t the answer for the Sabres. Unless a better coach than Ruff is hired, it would be wise for Pegula to try his utmost to keep Ruff. To let Ruff go and then replace him with someone not as good would be a huge mistake.

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