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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Darcy Regier (Photo: Buffalo Sabres)
By pairing up with the Portland Pirates, the Buffalo Sabres have established sole affiliation with their American Hockey League counterpart.

Holding exclusive rights to their minor-league team for the first time since the 2004-05 season - when the Florida Panthers joined Buffalo in a dual affiliation with the Rochester Americans – Buffalo will again be able to have total control over the method in which their prospects are developed.

“It’s something we’ve gotten away from over the last couple years in Rochester,” Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said. “The importance of [the sole affiliation] is to provide the same culture for all the players there, the same learning environment [and we have] the coaching staff, the players connected to us.”

In addition the Sabres have the luxury of surrounding those young players with the right veteran leadership.

In the past, journeymen like Chris Taylor and Jason Botterill guided the youngsters along the road to the NHL.  Life lessons wouldn’t always be taught at the rink.

“Veterans can be an extension in a lot of ways of the coaching staff in that regard,” Regier said. “The support off the ice is, I think, every bit as important [as the support on the ice]. It revolves around helping them understand what it is to be a pro, what it takes and the things that you have to do.”

Watch the press conference announcing the Portland Pirates as the Sabres new AHL affiliate
Press Conference

The stockpiling of talent began months ago in preparation for Tuesday’s announcement.

With an abundance of new players agreeing to terms with the Sabres- including Nathan Gerbe, Tim Kennedy, Dennis Persson, Felix Schutz, Jhonas Enroth and Chris Butler- leadership will be crucial in continuing their growth.  

But almost as important, so will roster stability.

“When you have two organizations providing the players to one development team, things become difficult from the standpoint of positional play. You can have too many defenseman, too many centermen, you can have not enough wingers,” Regier said. “You can have a situation where it’s difficult to decide between two goaltenders, one from each organization… It puts a lot of strain on the coaching staff, it puts a strain on the development process.

“While it can work… it is much more difficult than having your own organization.”

The Sabres are part of a trend in the NHL to break away from joint affiliation.
Following the 2007 season the Colorado Avalanche moved their prospects from the AHL Albany River Rats, an affiliate they shared with the Carolina Hurricanes, to the Lake Erie Monsters. The Edmonton Oilers also opted out of having prospects split in Grand Rapids, Wilkes-Barre Scranton, Hamilton and Milwaukee in favor of placing them in one team, the Springfield Falcons.

“It’s a greater investment, but it’s an investment very well spent in the young players, in the development of these young players,” Regier said. “I don’t think there is anything that is negative, I think it’s all positive and allows us to really create the environment we want for our players.”

There are additional advantages that Portland offers as well. In particular, according to Regier, is the proximity of divisional opponents.

Although player movement, to and from Buffalo, may be slightly affected because of the distance between the AHL and NHL club resulting in longer call-ups, Regier believes the pros outweigh the cons.

“Their travel is considerably less than what they experienced in Rocheseter. It means that instead of maybe getting back extremely late from a road trip, they spend a lot more time in their own beds, I think that’s conducive for a better development situation, development cycle,” he said.

“It’s a beautiful town, great area… and I think the team will adapt very well.”
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