Share this article

print logo

Regier goes to the video

Darcy Regier makes no apologies for being a gadget freak and computer geek, once affectionately described by Sabres managing partner Larry Quinn as "the biggest nerd in the place." Let's be honest, Regier has been called worse names since climbing aboard in 1997.

The Internet was in its infancy when he was hired, nothing compared to what you see in today's modern technology. Cell phones roughly the size of refrigerators and affordable only to the wealthy have evolved into pocket-sized necessities. The iPad does everything but make dinner and fold the laundry.

"I admit that I love gadgets, especially gadgets that bring simplicity," Regier said Thursday. "Apple does a lot of that. Quite honestly, there are people I work with who know 100 times more than I do about that stuff."

Regier was the first NHL general manager to fully embrace the idea that he could circle hockey's globe from his office. Five years ago, he reshaped his scouting department and replaced respected hockey evaluators with young computer whizzes whose greatest strength was collecting and breaking down video.

Naturally, people were skeptical of his new linemates. The Sabres were criticized by old-school thinkers who believed scouting was attending games and taking notes. Regier's approach was shrugged off as him doing business on the cheap, a tactic that would be exposed. Truth is, they have been exposed.

As innovators.

"The people who work here deserve tremendous credit for having a growth mind-set over a fixed mind-set," Regier said. "A growth mind-set is nothing more than asking, 'Is there a better way to do this?' If you have enough people working from that angle, you figure out better ways to do things."

Translation: Think outside the box.

The Sabres discovered they could evaluate more players in less time at less expense than scattering manpower across North America and beyond. Why send several scouts to a tournament in Europe when one videographer can return home with evidence for everyone, complete with the option to rewind?

In many ways, the new way helps scouts confirm what they suspected at first glance and makes them more accountable for their evaluations. It eliminates prejudice from regional scouts who become smitten with players they've watched numerous times.

The Sabres are using video as the first step toward scouting, not the only one. If a player grabs their attention, they send one of their nine scouts on the road for a closer look. Every player they have drafted over the past five years has been evaluated based on live action and video.

Scouting remains an inexact science, and in no sport is projecting growth in 18-year-olds more difficult than in hockey. For all the personnel mistakes the Sabres have made over the years -- we'll spare you the long, nauseating list -- they deserve credit for their results.

Tyler Myers emerged from the 2008 draft and became NHL rookie of the year. Tyler Ennis, taken in the same draft, was the AHL rookie of the year last season. Nathan Gerbe, picked in 2005, was AHL rookie of the year in 2009.

Forward Luke Adam and defenseman Cory Fienhage, both 2008, were impressive in training camp. Class of 2009: Zack Kassian made an early push and could be in the NHL sooner than expected. Brayden McNabb, a talented 6-foot-5 defenseman, will someday follow.

Defenseman Mark Pysyk, their first-round pick in June, looks like a very good player. Seventh-rounder Riley Boychuk is a physical 6-foot-5, 220-pound forward. The Sabres discovered online that he won the Paul Gaustad award for fitness at WHL Portland. Who knew?

Regier can keep up with them on his computer, unless he has an iPad.

e-mail: bgleason@buffnews.com