By John Wawrow
The Associated Press
Quickly putting aside the disappointment of missing the playoffs, the Buffalo Sabres are already turning their focus to how to improve next season.
And those plans include moving forward with general manager Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff, Sabres president Ted Black told The Associated Press by phone Wednesday.
"I'm still going to lay in bed still trying to think 'What if?'" Black said, referring to how the Sabres second-half surge to make the playoffs ended with a 2-1 loss at Philadelphia on Thursday. "Next year started on Friday. ... As management, we're moving forward.
"There's no time to wallow in the misery."
In providing management's first comments since the Sabres' offseason began, Black particularly cleared up any lingering questions regarding Regier and Ruff's futures by saying both will be back. The two, who have been working together in Buffalo since 1997, have been criticized in the media this past week and blamed for the Sabres finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference standings.
That's not what was expected from a team that in September was considered a bona fide playoff contender after new owner Terry Pegula backed a significant offseason spending spree to add talent. Aside from acquiring three veterans through trades and free last summer, the Sabres also re-signed several core players to lucrative contracts.
That moves included re-signing defenseman Tyler Myers to a seven-year, $38.5 million contract extension that kicks in next season.
Black vowed the Sabres will continue their aggressive approach this offseason, starting at the draft in June. The Sabres have two first- and two second-round picks, giving them options to add talent by trading or using the picks.
"We'll see what Darcy and the team will be able to do with those assets," Black said.
Regier has been criticized for being too patient in making changes to his roster, particularly during the Sabres' low point of last season. That was during a mid-November to late-January slump in which Buffalo went 9-19-5 while also setting a franchise low by losing 12 straight road games.
The Sabres eventually responded by going on a 20-8-6 run to close the season. That wasn't enough for a team that's now missed the playoffs for the third time in five years.
Pegula, in January, blamed the team's woes on a rash of injuries.
And Sabres officials have defended Regier by noting how swiftly he acted in acquiring and then signing defenseman Christian Ehrhoff over a two-day stretch in June before the veteran was scheduled to become a free agent. Regier also earned praise in February, when he addressed the team's biggest need at center, by acquiring rookie Cody Hodgson in a trade with Vancouver.
"You look at our track record since Terry got here," Black said, referring to the team's objective to build a winner. "Fans, I think, should expect more of the same."
Black said the most significant benefit that came out of last year was how the high-priced additions the Sabres made helped transform Buffalo's small-market and cost-conscious reputation into a hockey destination among players.
"That is intrinsically tied to the passion Terry Pegula has for this city and franchise," Black said.