In the wake of missing the playoffs for the third time in five seasons, Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier wants to focus on the positives.
"I agree we have missed the playoffs in three of the five years," Regier said in a phone interview today. "We've also made it in two of the last three. I framed it in the best way, you framed it in the worst way."
To frame it another way, the Sabres are also 0 for 1 in making the playoffs. The long offseason will be spent trying to make sure Buffalo doesn't go 0 for 2 (or four of six or seven of 11).
"We have to compete harder," Regier said. "That’s a big statement, and it covers off individual play. It covers off the coaching staff. It covers off what I have to do as a general manager to help create that.
"I can tell you that Terry [Pegula] has set the tone as an owner. It’s a focus for our organization. I think those are the types of things you’re going to see over the offseason. You’re going to see improvements when we come back in the fall. We expect to be a much more competitive hockey team."
So how do they get there? The first step, Regier said, is to increase the team's competitiveness. It was questioned throughout the season and was cemented when the players admitted to lacking mental toughness.
"It comes back to competing as an organization, as a team, as individual players," Regier said. "That really is our focus. To the extent that we came up short, those are things we have to address.
"I think that can come in a lot of ways. It can come in the individuals becoming better, mentally tougher. It can come in the growth of a younger guy to an older guy, which in large part is the same thing. It can come from other players supporting that mind-set from the outside. It can come from players in the minors that have proven that they have that and are ready to play in the National Hockey League.
"I don’t think there’s a silver bullet. I think it’s got to come from a number of different areas."
The jobs of Regier and coach Lindy Ruff were deemed safe by team President Ted Black last week despite the lack of short-term and long-term success. Regier feels fortunate to be part of the organization.
"I think that when I look at since Terry has purchased the team and the tone that he has set for this hockey club, it’s been very positive," Regier said. "To be a part of that, I certainly am grateful. I also think that his time line is shorter, focused on what things we can do now to improve the hockey club, and with the resources backing that I think that’s real positive. I do feel very good about being part of that."
Regier said he never wavered in his belief that Ruff should be part of that, too. Both joined the organization in 1997, and Regier said he did not think about firing Ruff this season as the team struggled through an extended slump.
"No, I did not," Regier said. "The improvement in how we approached the game, how we approached building the team, the growth that I have seen in the coaching staff, led by Lindy, his work ethic and how he is growing, I think he’s only going to get better."
The phone interview featured Regier's first public comments since the season ended because the team decided not to hold a wrap-up news conference for all members of the media.
"We have certain broadcast affiliations that we wanted to acknowledge," Regier said. "I think that was part of the plan, and I was fine with that."
To hear Regier's thoughts on individual players and the NHL draft, click the audio file below.