When analyzing the most recent moves by Darcy Regier, I see decisions that were motivated by adding toughness (Ott, Regehr) and talent down the middle (Leino, Hodgson). While the success of those deals is obviously up for judgment, the one thing that is clear is that Regier is not only capable of identifying his club’s shortcomings but is capable of addressing them.
What is sometimes lost in translation is that the direction Regier has attempted to point the team in has been widely greeted with praise recently. The execution with those acquisitions has been what has been questioned. Ultimately, those fans who are quick to judge see these moves as terrible decisions and trace the timeline back to Regier and ultimately place the blame on him.
Again, remember how you felt about the Regehr trade when it happened and as he settled into the roster. You would have been hard pressed to find a fan who didn’t think much of what the Sabres gave up and the type of player they got in return.
The issue lately has been how these players are being implemented. Should the blame be placed on the coach? Are some of these players just not fitting in? Are some of the players busts? All valid questions and each is probably part of the equation at some point.
For example, it is looking like Ville Leino just isn’t the player they expected to sign. His contract is now cumbersome and he hasn’t offered anything to the Sabres in terms of production. He obviously falls into the “miss” category. However, for players like Regehr and Hodgson, they’ve brought a wrinkle to the roster that was missing and have undoubtedly filled a need.
That brings us to coaching. Plenty have clamored for Lindy Ruff to be fire. Hell, Jerry Sullivan had a nice pre-written column that just needed to be slightly tweaked after Thursday’s win. I can’t say I disagree anymore.
I’ve never been one to immediately turn to the option of firing a coach but it just seems as if Ruff has run out of ways to skin the cat. While his message connects strongly with some, it missed the mark with many others. For as many Danny Brieres and Jason Pominvilles that he develops, there are just as many examples of players hitting a plateau or even regressing – Drew Stafford and maybe even Tyler Myers are strong examples of this.
The reason I have made the connection to the coach rather than the GM is because I do question Ruff’s ability to develop his players. Just look at what Kevin Dineen did in Portland with Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Ennis and Luke Adam. While AHL success is not an indicator of NHL stardom (Mark Mancari), three-straight Rookie of the Year titles says a lot. While Tyler Ennis is showing flashes of brilliance, there hasn’t been much produced by Adam or Gerbe.
You could connect these development issues further up the roster to players like Drew Stafford (who has stagnated) or even Tyler Myers (who has regressed). Is this all Lindy Ruff’s fault? Probably not. But the coaching staff at the NHL level seems to be missing important aspects of the player development process. In turn, with their players not developing, their roles aren’t properly filled which has led to let downs season after season.
It would certainly be interesting to see how a different coach would manage this roster. Mikhail Grigorenko would certainly be utilized in a different manner, Thomas Vanek would likely see significantly more ice time and perhaps the backup goaltender would be used in a different fashion.
Even introducing some new assistant coaches might help to inject some life. This goes from goaltending out. As a few people – including Paul Hamilton – have pointed out, Ryan Miller and the horrendous backup goaltending situation haven’t taken a step forward in sometime. The power play hasn’t been as potent as when Scott Arneil was the architect. Tyler Myers has regressed and the defense has been categorized as soft by many. Even the general manager was quoted as saying as much.
I’m not in a position to say who would be a viable replacement for Buffalo’s assistant or head coaching positions. I just think that perhaps those gentlemen who have been putting together the puzzle aren’t putting the pieces provided by the general manager in the proper manner.
Part one of this post ran yesterday, I hope you read it.
(Chris Ostrander is the publisher of “Two In the Box”—a well written blog covering the Buffalo Bills, Sabres, Bandits, UB as well as other sports teams and items locally. He’s also an occasional contributor for Buffalo Sports Daily and other blogs that cover Buffalo sports. You can check out all his articles by clicking the logo below.)