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by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Larry Quinn (Photo: Buffalo Sabres)
[Editor's Note: The following transcription is the final part of the Buffalo Sabres end-of-the-season press conference. Managing partner Larry Quinn, general manager Darcy Regier and head coach Lindy Ruff each addressed the media, answering questions about the franchise and potential changes for next year.]

Q: Any movement on the AHL team, where you are going to put them next year?

Larry Quinn: Not yet, but when we are able to do that we will be happy to talk to all of you but we can’t do that yet.

Press Conference: Part I
Press Conference: Part II
Press Conference: Part III
Press Conference: Audio | Video

Q: Darcy, you are going to have to pick up more players, whether it’s through college, junior or whatever, to stock up the team.

Darcy Regier: We have begun that process. We’ve signed a couple of college free agents, both of whom were second-team all-stars in their respective conferences.

We have a number of players, college players, to sign; we’ve got [Nathan] Gerbe who is up for the Hobey Baker, we’ve got [Tim] Kennedy and [Chris] Butler as well. Kennedy was at Michigan State and Butler in Denver. And then we have European players, [Dennis] Persson and [Jhonas] Enroth, players like that and we’ll fill with either quality leadership players at the American [Hockey] League level or more free agent players.

Q: Do you feel that you are going to get into a situation where you are going to have to pay Gerbe, Butler and Kennedy more because they can get the leverage back in their favor if they decide ‘I’m not going to come out, I’m going to play this season out’ and become unrestricted next August to a team where they have their choice?

Darcy Regier: I think that is always the choice that the college players have. In doing that, they do lose one year of eligibility on the NHL level, so there are pros and cons. But at the end of the day you approach things, and the players are approaching things from a good-faith effort, in order to get them signed, get their pro careers started and get them ready for the National Hockey League.

Q: Any movement on negotiations with them?

Darcy Regier: There have been with Kennedy and Butler. We have not started anything with Gerbe because he continues to play in the Frozen Four.

Q: Lindy, after the season finale, we talked about Thomas [Vanek] and he said you can blame me for a lot of this. You said that was too easy of an answer. What is the difficult answer?

Lindy Ruff: The hard answer is every player has work to do. I feel that his comment was an easy comment to make, you can blame me for us not making it, he scored 36 goals or whatever he scored. His growth, where I see his growth coming, is not in a goal-scoring category. That is his gift that he’s always had.

His growth comes and I've told him, his growth is going to come away from the puck, It's going to have to come possibly from the penalty killing, it’s the play away from the puck where I saw growth at times and other times I didn’t see growth. I identified that as an area that I would like to see his growth continue.

We may not be as close as we are if Thomas didn’t get the number of goals he got. We don’t win the game in Boston ifThomas doesn’t score. By him saying that, this isn’t an individual sport it’s a team sport.

We’ve mentioned other players. We’ve had players that have had a very good year, I think we had some players that exceeded some expectations. We had some young players that had some good growth. We had some young defensemen who stepped in and played some very sound hockey in a very tough, pressure-filled situation and then you are going to have players, the reason you don’t make it, is you are going to have players that disappointed. We had some that disappointed.

It’s a ‘what are we going to do about it, what are you as a player going to do about it [situation].’ We want those players to continue to grow. Thomas is still a young player. There is a ways to go on a maturity level and I just thought that was an immature statement. You're not playing singles tennis here.

Q: You had noted that the salary cap keeps rising and no one may have had the vision facing a $56 million salary cap. What is ownership’s feeling on the escalating salary cap and can this team stay competitive facing it in this market?

Larry Quinn: If it goes up 12 percent each year forever, I think it is going to be pretty difficult, but I don’t expect it to do that at all. We spent last year, when you add in signing bonuses, about $47 million on hockey players, or something like that. When we bought this team we were spending $29 million.

I think when we talk about  the team’s ability to grow the hockey salary, we’ve proven that we can. We do it with, as I said, a lot of smarts, a lot of efficiency, hopefully being better than the other guy. This year we had to do it with a lot of young players, but those young players now are under contract and they are going to be prime players in a few years so we are encouraged by that.

It’s always a challenge but I wouldn't want any other one, I really love doing this in this town. As much as it can drive you crazy with some of the experiences you go through, I think there is nothing better than going out and watching this team win and the enthusiasm that takes place in this city so it’s worth doing here and we’ll make it work here.

I think any one of us, from time to time, might [say] ‘oh I’d like to go to a big city,’ and how much easier it is. But you know what? It’s not as much fun and it’s not as gratifying. I just think we will find a way to make it work. We didn’t this year and I think we can apologize to our fans for it but I think over a period of years I think we’ve done a darn good job and we certainly work hard at it and I think we’ll be back.

Q: Have you told Steve Bernier that maybe he needs to work on getting into elite shape to get to the next level?

Lindy Ruff: First let me say that he is in elite shape. He is as in as good a shape physically as any player that has walked into our training room. He’s very lean. We have told players in the past that we have had players that have had to llose 15, 16 pounds to get into elite shape and that’s a long ways to go.

Steve is very lean, he’s in elite shape right now. What he needs, where you identify with a lot of young players, as a big man he needs a little bit more quickness. That takes footwork, that takes five months of it may be skating instruction, it may be off-ice footwork, there are lots of ways to get there and we’ve discussed that with him.

I think where he is, he’s a young player that needs a lot of direction but he’s not an out of shape player. He’s an elite athlete when it comes to conditioning.

Lindy Ruff (Photo: Getty Images)
Q: You generally haven’t had the same thoughts about captaincy in the league. How important is it for you to find a guy heading into next year with all the talk about leadership?

Lindy Ruff: I’ve always been a guy that, if leadership isn’t everywhere, or if we don’t get it from everywhere, it just can’t come from one person. The co-captaincy seemed to work good for us forDanny and Dru, with their relationship it worked very well. In an ideal world I would like one captain.

I just felt that as young as we were that to see where leadership was coming, how guys would react to the leadership, and I thought we saw a lot of good things from some different people. But at the end we were still a very young team. I mean very young. For that leadership to come from one person, I think at times is overrated. I really feel that you need a lot of players to help support a leader. But you need a lot of leaders.

Q: You were talking about that fact that it’s up to $47 million now. Is it fair to say that you did your part in contributing to that rise because you weren’t more aggressive? Is that a fair assessment?

Larry Quinn: No, I don’t think it is. I think you are going to always to have situations where you feel that you didn’t get the best deal with the player. But if you look at our roster you are going to find players with who we’ve made tremendous deals. That's what cost us this summer but Jason Pominville scores what he’s scoring and he’s making $900,000 and I rarely hear any of you mention that.

We’ve had our share of ones where we’ve been lucky but if you’re referring to Thomas Vanek, Steve Bartlett is one of the best agents in the business. He knew there was nothing to be gained by coming to Darcy early because there was no upside for him. Steve did a very effective job aof going out and using the tools of the collective bargaining agreement to see if he could get somebody to make an offer.

If Thomas had a stupid agent, maybe we could have done something, but Steve is a very smart guy, he knew what he was doing and he did the best for his client. We were never not going to match that. I think we told you that before it even happened and we matched it. Did we cause that? I don’t think so.

Q: I mean in reference to it all. All of the players, and we don’t have to go through every detail, but just a general approach. You’ve obviously changed your approach, you want to get on board with Miller and Pominville, that tells me there is a shift in approach that this organization has had. Because you didn’t have that approach before, did it cost you?

Larry Quinn: I mean, yes, obviously there are players that left that if we locked up would have stayed. But if I go back to our plans four years ago, Tom and I first sat down with Darcy, he laid out where all these players were coming from and what the future was, he made a good point.

He said ‘we’ve go to let these kids grow to the point where they can really compete for the Cup and win championships' and, talk about them being young now, they were really young then. What you are seeing is a commitment to those core of players.

You saw it with Derek and Thomas this summer and hopefully you will see it again in the future, which means that if you identify those six or seven or eight or nine or whatever they are and they grow up together, some of the other players that left weren’t really part of that group but they were really great contributors to it and in some cases great leaders to it. We would have really liked to have kept them but we didn’t. That’s life. We make mistakes, of course we do, I think everybody does.

But I don’t want us to come away from this thing not looking at some of the really smart moves that we’ve all made collectively and some of the great values we have. You wrote a column recently about how Derek Roy, who many of you said ‘what are you people crazy?’ this summer, he turned out to be a great value so time heals a lot of these too.

Q: Your view on the Teppo Numminen situation and the possibility of dealing with him moving forward? He said he wants be here.

Darcy Regier:   He’s expressed that to us as well at the year-end meeting and It’s something we will look at. He played one game but he’s one of these guys that makes the game look very easy and very easy to play. We will revisit that. He’s obviously an outstanding individual, quality person, quality player and is a veteran. In the number regards, it fits.

Q: Did it catch you off-guard that he said he wanted to play?

Darcy Regier: I had a number of conversations with his agent, Don Baizley, and he never came out and said it, but people like Teppo, they are a very unique individuals. With respect to, you wonder how people want to play at 40 years of age, whether it’s a Chelios or a Numminen or players like that. When everyone else thinks it’s time to retire, they don’t feel that way and I think he falls into that category.
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