State-Run Sources

The Buffalo Sabres were aggressively targeting Max Domi in the 2013 NHL Draft. General manager Darcy Regier offered a pair of picks to the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 14th overall pick in the draft. By jumping up two spots, the Sabres felt they could grab the London Knights center before anyone else wanted him. They just needed to make Columbus a better offer.

This isn’t an old hockey rumor. The source here is the Columbus Blue Jackets. Starting at the nine-minute mark of a video from the Blue Jackets’ official site, it sounds like the offer includes Buffalo’s 52nd pick, which the Sabres later used on Buffalo-native Justin Bailey.

“52?,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen asked. “No, not for that.” Darcy keeps talking, and Kekalainen says the deal is for Buffalo’s 16th and 38th overall picks. Kekalainen says he will get back to Regier.

“The math says you do that deal,” someone at the Columbus draft table says as he takes another call. Whoever is on the line mentions the 21st pick, which belongs to Toronto. Kekalainen says he has a better deal on the table.

Columbus vice president of hockey operations John Davidson wants to get the potential deal down on paper. Kekalainen says Buffalo is offering the 18th and “possibly” the 38th, but the rookie GM is getting an earlier offer from San Jose confused with what Regier has. The Sharks have the 18th pick. Buffalo has the 16th. Davidson wonders who the Sharks, Sabres, and Leafs are chasing. He guesses Max Domi.

It’s not a mystery for long. The Phoenix Coyotes draft Domi with the 12th pick and, shortly thereafter, the Blue Jackets got a call from the Sabres saying the deal is off. It’s still an assumption that Domi was their man, but it is a pretty solid one. The Blue Jackets draft Swedish center Alexander Wennberg with the 14th pick. Buffalo drafts Nikita Zadorov 16th overall. San Jose and Toronto keep their picks as well.

Later on, Kekalainen tries to work a deal with the Sabres in case their target at 27 gets picked.

“Is 38 still with Buffalo?” he asks the table. He talks about working a deal to get the 20th ranked guy on the Blue Jackets’ draft board. Kekalainen dials Regier again (18:25). The video cuts to a view of the Sabres’ table as Regier picks up the phone and Kekalainen offers the 27th pick for Buffalo’s second-round picks at 38 and 52.

“They’re thinking about it if our guy’s gone,” Kekalainen says. He’s not. The Blue Jackets draft Slovakian winger Marko Dano with the 27th pick, and that’s that.

What happened in the 2013 draft cannot be changed. Instead of Max Domi, the Sabres will live with Zadorov, Connor Hurley and Bailey. What’s stunning about the video is not that the Sabres were looking to make deals at the draft. It’s that—thanks to the Columbus Blue Jackets—I got to watch an NHL general manager say hello to the Sabres’ GM and make a decision about dealing with the club.

That video is the most interesting thing that’s happened to the Sabres this summer. Another hockey team decided to post video of its brand new general manager working the draft, and the Sabres happened to be caught in the crossfire. It was a collection of almosts, but that a pro sports team put this out there is still a bit surprising in 2013. I’m not sure that Darcy Regier will be thrilled to know this video exists.

Buffalo News sportswriter Tim Graham did a podcast with Brad Riter at Trending Buffalo a few weeks ago that addressed the problem of “state-run media” which I found very interesting. The worry is that real journalism can’t happen when you work for the team. The real worry, of course, is that fans aren’t smart enough to know the difference.

The scuffling between traditional media outlets and a sports team’s soft PR is pointless. While it’s troubling to imagine a world where traditional media isn’t necessary, it’s silly to expect the Bills and Sabres can replace that traditional media in the first place. What they can offer, however, is something different. I’ll tell you one thing: I’m very much in the market for “different” if it’s more like what Columbus put together. I like that kind of “different.”

I’m really glad that Buffalo sports are currently covered by people like Chris Ryndak and John Vogl and Paul Hamilton. Chris happens to be a (former?) Roost member, but I really do feel like he will do good work for the Sabres. I expect media members who don’t work for the team to continue doing the same. What I didn’t expect, though, was for the Columbus Blue Jackets to create the first thing I really enjoyed about the Sabres’ offseason. I’ll take videos like this over 30 fabric samples of the Sabres’ new third jersey.

Now if only the other 29 teams would release their draft footage, we can figure out what happened in the top 10.