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by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Larry Quinn (Photo: Buffalo Sabres)
The Buffalo Sabres management team addressed the media Thursday morning and discussed the state of the team. Head Coach Lindy Ruff, Minority Owner Larry Quinn, and General Manager Darcy Regier fielded questions for nearly an hour at HSBC Arena. Take a look at a transcript of Part I of the interview below. 

It’s interesting to me that three of the four top seeds are already out and I know the epitaph is going to be sort of the same; that they were built better for the regular season and not big enough, strong enough, tough enough – whatever. That’s the perception, maybe of all three… if all of you, I’d like to hear your opinion, if that’s a perception or if that might be somewhat reality. Lindy you’re the coach…

I don’t think that’s the right perception; big enough, strong enough, tough enough. We had our opportunities in this series to grab the momentum in the series. We could have grabbed it in Game 2 with the two-goal lead. We could have grabbed it in Game 4 with a two-goal lead.

Our inability really, to kill a penalty at the start of the third period in Boston, I thought hurt us. Our strength during the year was playing with the lead and how well we played with the lead. We made some errors that allowed Boston some momentum in this series. I don’t think it had anything to do with bigger or stronger. I thought physically we were fine in that series. I actually thought we were the harder team.

DARCY REGIER: I’ll give you a different perspective on that. In order to win in the Stanley Cup… no, in order to win a Stanley Cup – this is going to sound obvious – you have to be a good team in the regular season. You can’t build one when in the regular season and then have it fall through to a Stanley Cup.

If you look at the modern era of the NHL, going back to 1966-67, from a six team expansion to 12. Now we have 30 teams. No team has won from a lower overall position than eighth place. The New York Islanders won from eighth place after they had won a couple Stanley Cups, the Pittsburgh Penguins did when Mario [Lemieux] was sick – Pittsburgh did twice last year including last season – and the Montreal Canadiens did it once. So, and quite frankly, in the last 15 years, only one team – Pittsburgh last year – won from an eighth overall position.

Before Pittsburgh, you had to be in the top five; which if you look at the two years we went to the Conference Finals, we were in the top five. You have to be a good hockey club. You must be good in the regular season. Can you get to the Finals? Yeah you can get to the Finals. Edmonton did it I think from the 16th position. We did it in 1999, we weren’t a top-eight team at that time. You have to be a very good hockey club and you have to be good in the playoffs, and that can involve a lot of things.

It’s easy after the fact to say that you aren’t built for the playoffs. I would challenge people to say it before the fact. Teams traded, one team traded in the East for a superstar, another team made a number of trades, we made one trade. I do think that there are flavors in the playoffs that can help you more, but it’s just a very easy conventional wisdom topic to say built for the playoffs.

But Darcy, along those lines then, based on what you’ve seen regular season and post-season now, what with regard – and Lindy you too – what with regard to the makeup of this team then needs to change? Do you need to alter anything moving forward?  
I think we do need to alter some things, yeah. Exactly what, do I have some thoughts? Yes. We met with the players individually; Lindy met with them and then I met with them – both individually because in some ways we want to come from different positions. We are in different positions. We used to meet with them together, and we have found that it’s more productive to meet with them individually. So we’ve got that out of the way. We had a brief time yesterday to talk; we spent seven hours doing it yesterday. We had a brief opportunity yesterday to talk about some things, a little bit this morning. The answer is yes, I think we have to make some changes. What exactly they will consist of, it’s too early to know.

When you added up this year, and going to what you said before, going into the playoffs, you’re going in with a lot of youth who hadn’t seen it, you hadn’t been there in a couple years – I’m convinced that there’s a process to it – do you think that you had the making this year to make a serious run at it? Or is it more of a fact that you have to understand that some of these players have to go through this stuff in order to get to where you need to go, the following year?

REGIER: I think the biggest word you used in there is process; it is a process. I’d like to tell you no… Lindy talked about where he thought things turned in that series. I would like not to accept what you just said, but I think there is a reality to it, unfortunately.

Do you think that the way that the League has gone… when you came out of the lockout, and you could go and win with a bunch of smaller, scatback-type guys, because of the way things are being coached and called now, that you have to alter your roster to get maybe a little bit more size that can play, with talent, or perhaps have your talent be bigger? In other words… somewhere in the middle.

REGIER: I would much prefer the highest-skill guys to be big.

Who wouldn’t, right?

REGIER: Exactly.

But you know what I mean, right?

REGIER: I do, I do.

To answer his question earlier, New Jersey and Washington are two of the biggest teams in the conference, physically, and Alexander Ovechkin is not a creampuff. So I don’t think that it’s necessarily that simple. It’s certainly – I think Darcy’s answer is correct – but you can’t just go there and not think it through, because those are two big teams that were eliminated.

Last year when you came out of the season, there was some talk about you guys getting bigger and tougher, and the general feeling that you guys felt you were on the right path and everything. But then you went and addressed it in the Draft. I mean you drafted big, tough guys in the Draft. There’s no question you went in that direction. Then you added [Steve] Montador and [Mike] Grier. Do you feel you added enough toughness to the team? I mean, obviously you knew you needed more toughness because that’s the direction you were going.

REGIER: We did. We added more size. We felt that we had young smaller players on our team; Derek Roy, Tyler Ennis – we knew he was coming – we also knew we had Tyler Myers. And we did draft bigger players last year. The hard part here, and not to avoid… ultimately it’s my responsibility and it’s our responsibility to figure this out and to win. But I’m not going to sit here and tell you, yeah it’s that easy, you’re just going to go and get these big guys and win. If you look at the Detroit Red Wings and they don’t have a tough guy there and they don’t have a big team and nobody, and I mean nobody in this first round has competed like they’ve competed for pucks. So it’s not cut and dry, and it is about blending people together, bringing it through chemistry if you want to use all those words. But we did recognize that we were getting smallish as an organization and we started last year to draft some bigger guys in the draft.

Larry there is a report today that you picked up the option on Lindy?
QUINN: Yeah I did. I had to wait a few days for him to understand what it was. No, we have an option to pick it up. We told Lindy that we were going to do that earlier but the contract didn’t allow us to do it until the season ended. We gave him the letter yesterday. We will be talking to both Lindy and Darcy about the future. Any notion that they are not going to be a part of - let’s use Bucky’s word there - the process, let’s dispel that now.

You’re already talking about a longer-term extension?

QUINN: Well I haven’t talked to him about it yet, but we will if he’s willing. And I don’t want to get out ahead of Lindy either, but we’ve picked up the option and we’ll talk to both. I think both Lindy and Darcy have next year on their contract and we’ll hopefully this summer have a conversation about the future.

Would you like to return to coach?

Yeah, yeah. I’m excited about our team. The obvious disappointment is staring us right in the face, but I am really excited about this group of players. I was excited going into the year. I can just say that this season was a tremendous step forward, in the regular season. And it was a kick in the backside and step backwards in the playoffs.

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