Q: Coach in Lydman and Tallinder’s case, before Tallinder broke his arm for the second time he was on his way to being an All-Star. Since then, maybe things haven’t gone as well for them. Have you lost any confidence in them as a pair and if not, what do they need to do to get back to the point where they were such a good pair?Lindy Ruff:
First off, I’ll talk about Henrik. You addressed that he broke his arm twice, separated his shoulder this year. He’s had some very serious injuries that maybe didn’t allow him to train as hard in the offseason, get physically strong enough in the offseason.
I think his game wasn’t anywhere near where I have him as a defenseman. There were games where you really liked him and there were games where you were obviously disappointed in Henrik’s case. Henrik's biggest challenge is to physically get back to where he needs to be.
That was discussed with him. I really feel he is a tremendous talent, but that being said, I didn’t have him where I needed to get him to. It showed from game in and game out, he wasn’t as consistent. There were games you liked him and there were games you were disappointed and that wasn’t good enough for us.
We used them as a lock-down pair and they didn’t lock it down nearly as well. And I’m dealing with Henrik now so I think his biggest challenge is to mentally get over those injuries and physically get stronger and be ready for a type of season that we need him to play.
In Toni’s case, Toni for the most part always shows a lot of battle. He’s going to lay down blocked shots, he’s going to hit, he plays a little bit of a different game, that's why I think those guys have been good together. One guy uses a little bit more brawn, one guy uses a little bit more skill.
In Henrik’s case he skates his way out of situations, in Toni’s case a lot of the times it’s by strength, it’s by his ability to look people off and make plays. And physically, he’s a more physical defenseman.
I think they sort of fed off each other. Toni isn’t going to make any excuses. Toni’s game wasn’t as good either. I think those two kind of fed off each other’s weaknesses sometimes and we’ve addressed them as a pair, we’ve addressed them individually. Obviously disappointed; they are disappointed, we are disappointed. When you get to this point you know that you are going to need players to play better. They are a pair that we obviously needed to play better and be that pair that was a one-two defensemen for us.Q: This is for Larry or Darcy. For whatever reasons, I’m lumping these three guys together: [Tim] Connolly, [Ales] Kotalik and [Maxim] Afinogenov. Did you get your bang for your buck from them and what, with only one year left on their contracts, are their respective futures here in Buffalo.Darcy Regier:
We will certainly work through that. You had circumstances in two of the three cases where they missed a large number of games [due to] injury, illness, injury and we’ll assess that.
I think that at the end of the day you want to take the resources you have available and use it to have the best product you can have on the ice. In fairness to players individually, there are factors that play in where players have off years.
As far as in Ales’ case, I think Al did what we thought he could do, what we expected him to do. He was a good player for us and one of five guys that scored more than 20 goals for us. But again at the end of the day it will be an assessment that this is what we have available, this is the direction we want to go with the team, this is what we think will be the best for the hockey club and not just in the short-term, but in the long-term.
Q: As a follow-up when you addressed the Ryan [Miller] situation; to what degree is back-up goaltending a priority this off-season?Darcy Regier:
It is a priority. We will revisit it again. I haven’t spoken with Jocelyn [Thibault] regarding his situation or his agent. At some point in the not too distant future I will, but it’s an important consideration for us over the summer.Q: The Miller situation, obviously the contract numbers usually don’t go down. He’s been compared to Lundqvist’s money, which is in that six-year, $42 million-range. Is this organization prepared to pay him that kind of money based on what he’s shown he can do?Darcy Regier:
We certainly discuss the ballpark [figure] that he will be in. All that I will say is that we will cross that bridge beginning at the earliest point it can be on July 1 and we will work towards getting him signed. You’ve heard the commitment from Tom, Larry, obviously from a hockey [standpoint] myself, Lindy, we all feel it’s important for us to find a way to keep him here.Q: There is this new focus on guys who only have one year left. You also have one year left. Have you given thought to it?
No, I haven’t given any thought to it. I have focused on the players that have one year left though.Larry Quinn:
I don’t think he minds me saying this, I talked to Darcy in the winter I just said ‘Darcy, do you still love it, do you still want to do it?’ I think then he did, I don’t know if you still do but I think as far as ownership is concerned, if he still has the fire in his belly and he still has it in Buffalo he obviously knows he can stay here and we’ll have that conversation when he’s ready.
Q: Why did Brian Campbell get offered a three-year deal when anyone in the hockey world knew he wasn’t going to accept it and Darcy even said that day that he knew that wasn’t going to be sufficient?Darcy Regier:
|Darcy Regier (Photo: Buffalo Sabres) |
That is probably because he told me that, just so you know. That is an agent telling me that it’s not sufficient. I will tell you that dollar-wise, that was a very fair offer and in some ways it was above where the market was.
I think the reality of what we’re looking at when you go to free agency, and this is a consideration that all players are going to have the opportunity to, the decision they have to make. They are going to have to evaluate a lot of things; they are going to evaluate the total package that they can get, they are going to try in some cases to choose the teams that they think have the best opportunity to win and they are going to look for things that might involve no move, no trade clauses.
That was a contract offer that quite frankly would have allowed, in his case, and I’ll speak to the contract. It allows the player to have two kicks at the can. You have a young player at 28 years of age who will be 31, gets paid at a very high rate and then has the opportunity again to go into the marketplace.
So with respect to what you said, there is a positive opportunity in that contract offer. To play down that side, to go down that road, isn’t just in favor of the club. It is also, I can make a very good, and did make a very good argument how it could have been very good for the player as well if you believe that the market is going to continue to go up. I don’t think it’s as short-sighted as perhaps you are proposing it is. Q: With the potential of injury, how realistic to think that any guy is going to accept three years in that situation?
His teammates over there did. Larry Quinn:
That’s exactly right. And the six-year, seven-year thing is a recent phenomenon. We’re not opposed to it, we’ve obviously got two young players on our team that are seven and six-year contracts. I think what we tried to do with Brian was to try to find out what was important to him. We obviously came to a point where we didn’t think we could get something done and we moved on, it’s really that simple.
I don’t think it has anything to do with paying or not paying people. In this game, and some of the teams will experience it now, there are a lot of teams as Darcy alluded to who got better this year and their players now will be viewed as important players and valuable players. They will go through what we went through. There will be people filing through arbitration, there will be people maybe getting Group Two offer sheets. We were the, let’s face it, one of the top teams coming out of the lockout and this CBA system is being defined in large part based on our players.
Other people will have their turn and there will be players that make a lot of money but there will ultimately be players too who don’t find a good home. We’ve had that experience with a lot players that have left here. I wish Brian really well, I think he’s a first-class person and we really loved being associated with him and I don’t know what else there is to say.Q: So there is some disappointment I would assume that he would make those comments?Larry Quinn:
I never know what comments a player makes. I didn’t read them, I wasn’t there when he made them, and who knows? All I know is that I have a lot of respect for him and what he did for the organization. That is all I can say.
Let me add one more thing. He has every right to make that choice, as do we. You can look at, whether you want to look at Thornton or Marleau, those aren’t long-term contracts. In fairness to Brian, he can get that long-term contract on July 1, so it’s a personal choice, but I don’t share the view that we didn’t for that period of time, didn’t acknowledge his value. I think we did a very good job in that department.Larry Quinn:
You take just even recent history people forget it, Chris Drury came to this team in a trade and Tom Golisano and the team, by the way, Darcy made the trade, and he signed a four-year deal. He didn’t want a six, didn’t want a seven [year deal], so this seven-year deal, six-year deal thing is going to be important and when you make it for a player, you’ve got to be darn sure that he is your core and your foundation. We’ve seen this in other teams where they have done it too freely and now they can’t change, they can’t grow. You just have to be really careful who you give them to.