The Maine Blueline Blues

by Ryan

Last week prior to the trade deadline I asked what Darcy would need to do with Portland. Now that we know just what has happened at the deadline, it would make sense to assess how the Sabres and Pirates General Manager did. Here’s what I said last week:

However, I’m just not sure how much Darcy Regier is willing to do given the assets this team has. Is it really worth moving Afinogenov for a few AHL-ready defenseman, or should more long-term goals be in mind tomorrow? When it comes down to it, is the demand for action with the Sabres or Pirates the larger concern at the deadline? Can Darcy manage to buy, sell, and restock the farm team at the same time?

I think we’re more than likely to see him try doing all three, and that may include something similar to the Zubrus deal we saw two years ago. Sabres brass won’t be looking for guys to make a major push, but they will be looking for help up in Maine for sure. It won’t be the priority, but it has to be on the radar, right?

So, how did Darcy do? Well, I hadn’t really thought about it until yesterday when I was checking Maine Hockey Journal. It appears that the Pirates problems on the blue line are getting worse, with Nathan Gerbe a potential emergency defenseman. Here’s what Chris Roy had to say:

The Sabres made several moves on trade deadline day, but they failed miserably in addressing the Pirates need for a defenseman, by either sending a player down or acquiring a player by means of an AHL trade. The result of those inactions is the Pirates using assistant coach Eric Weinrich and Nathan Gerbe on the blueline. Weinrich is not attempting a comeback, but to take one of your top offensive players and use him on the blueline as a need is baffling.

While the Sabres sit five players, two who could be better served by playing in Portland, the Pirates are scrambling to have a roster that resembles an AHL team by Saturday.

There was quite a lively debate about the role of an AHL team in the comments, but I’m not going to get into that. In fact, I wasn’t going to address this at all until I saw this post claiming the Pirates are back down to five defenseman.

So was Darcy responsible to the Pirates at the trade deadline? Many people certainly think so, and while a Sabres fan may not feel the farm team needs to be much more than that, he does serve as their GM as well. So why didn’t Darcy pull the trigger on Wednesday? Was he ignoring the Pirates?

As I wrote last week, Darcy would try to serve the Pirates as best he could, but there were other things on the agenda. Connolly’s contract, the goaltending situation, and what to do with the UFAs on the roster just to name a few. It would be absurd to think Darcy isn’t aware of the problems in Portland, but where they rank on the totem pole is up to him.

Now we’re no Darcy apologists, but I think you have to cut him some slack here. Regier wasn’t exactly standing around on Deadline Day. In fact, it was one of his most active as a Sabres GM. Starting with the Connolly extension, Buffalo was a big part of the trading landscape throughout the afternoon. The Tellqvist trade, the Moore deal, and the late announcement of Kotalik’s departure put us right up against the deadline, and it’s hard to believe there was much more Regier could have done with the day.

It’s a fair criticism to say that Darcy didn’t pick up a defenseman for Portland, but you can’t ask him to rush a trade just to do something. A hurried trade to move a minor league player could cost the franchise more than the short-term return that player brings, and we know that Regier is anything if not careful.

Besides, it’s not exactly fair to say Darcy completely ignored the farm team. The Tellqvist trade was a move solely to give Jhonas Enroth back to the Pirates, who were also experiencing some serious injury issues between the pipes. Tellqvist will get some starts for the Sabres before the season ends, but the Sabres traded away a 4th round pick for a few spot starts from a UFA and to give Portland their goaltender back. Darcy may have ignored the blue line, but that shouldn’t be forgotten, either.

There is reason to be upset about the situation on defense if you’re a Pirates fan. However, Sabres fans do know what it’s like to have one good defenseman. It wasn’t very long ago that Jay McKee put the final nail in the coffin in Carolina, and the image of a motionless puck between Rory Fitzpatrick’s skates still haunts us to this day. It is unfortunate that a player like Butler sits in the press box every other game, but seeing the front office err on the side of caution in this case is tough to criticize from this view.

It may be tough to defend, but it’s not hard to understand.