At the start of the season, Darcy Regier said the Buffalo Sabres were a playoff-caliber team. Now, with 27 games left, they sit atop the Northeast Division. It leads their general manager to believe they can do something more than merely fill a playoff spot.
"I view us as in the group of teams to contend," Regier said Thursday. "But we have a lot of work to do, too."
Though several teams began trading players this week, Regier isn't interested in that route yet.
"The focus isn't to look right now for outside help," he said. "It's how do we all get better internally. I think we're all focused on that.
"You're always looking at ways internally within your own organization, first and foremost, how you can become better. You're looking at your minor-league club. You're looking at players in positions, which are the things [coach] Lindy [Ruff is] doing. We sit down and talk about how we can become better internally or on the outside."
Other comments from Regier:
*"I don't think there are going to be a lot of sellers because a lot of teams are in the running," Regier said. "In most cases they're not going to want to give up players off their roster with the chance of making the playoffs."
*On giving up draft picks in trades: "Picks in this system have become more valuable," he said. "It's not just the picks, it's the cost of the picks. Those are relatively inexpensive players, and if they have success they could become expensive players, so you need to constantly replenish.
"It's really tough to do for a rental player because the likelihood is that player is going to go to the market, and for that short period of time you will have given up significant assets that are going to have a long-term impact on your club.
"You have to do it in the most opportunistic way, and you have to be in the upper echelon of teams, which historically has been top five teams in order to win the Stanley Cup."