Catching up with Coyotes assistant GM Darcy Regier
NHL assistant general managers do most of their work away from the spotlight. They travel a lot to scout players in at AHL affiliates, scout draft prospects and scout trade prospects.
But Darcy Regier is no ordinary assistant GM. He was the Buffalo Sabres’ GM from 1997-2013. While he didn’t leave on his own terms (few GMs do), he has a breadth of experience that Coyotes GM and good friend Don Maloney called invaluable and impossible to find.
With four months under his belt in the Coyotes organization, we caught up with Regier on Thursday to gain his perspective on the franchise, to find out what he’s been up to, and to learn how his experience is benefitting the Coyotes.
Can you give us a rundown of what you’ve been doing since you arrived in July?
Regier: "I’m actually in Portland, Maine right now with (development coach) Steve Sullivan to see the Pirates (AHL) play and I was here last week. I did some travel with the Coyotes in exhibitions and I’ve been in a lot of meetings. If there has been a focus, I’d say it’s probably been on the pro scouting side and on player development. I’m trying to get to know the organization as quickly as possible, but I’d say I’m still trying to observe and understand before I offer observations. I am still gathering information."
GM Don Maloney has talked about the need to infuse more skill into the system. What have you found?
Regier: "I think Don’s right. We have a group of high-quality, hard- working players but I agree with Don to the extent that we need to add skill. It’s not so much a deficiency. The talent is here. When I talk about skill, I’m talking about offensively gifted players. The players here in Phoenix are talented but they’re talented in other areas. Don will give us direction on this going forward, but when you’re looking for players that can give you a lot more offense, we’re talking about forwards. On defense, we’ve got that covered."
Ownership gave Don Maloney an increase in scouting budget and I know the staff has been beefed up, too. You just added Brian Rolston as a pro scout and analytics guy. Was there a deficiency before in this department?
Regier: I think you always have challenges when your organization is like ours was for so many years, but for us, this was more of an opportunity to look at scouting in a little different matter.
We’re trying to find a way to get more coverage, to see more players and to be more thorough. But we’re also trying to look at the game differently utilizing video and integrating analytics. It just provides us with a greater opportunity to evaluate more players and have a better understanding of what we’re seeing."
Analytics are gaining widespread acceptance in the NHL, with several teams adding staff positions to address this area. What’s your take on this movement?
Regier: Whether it’s analytics or advanced stats — whatever you call them — we have tools available to us now that allow us to better analyze players. You start out watching the players; watch them develop and you develop your own feelings and ideas and tendencies. Analytics can either confirm those beliefs, or point you in another direction, or even cause you to question your own views and your way of evaluating.
For us it’s a very valuable tool. You can really dig for information to measure strengths and weaknesses in a player.
Do you find analytics alter the way you watch players under the old eyeball test?
Regier: "Yes, because they cause you to ask different questions and look at things from different angles, different perspectives. If you look at things from one angle you’re going to view things narrowly. This allows you to get to different viewpoints to get to better answer.
I don’t think you’d ever want to just run off analytics or advanced stats. I still think the most important assets are those guys out in field, but this can help."
What’s your assessment of the quality of player development in this organization?
Regier: "Based on what I’ve seen up to this point, I would say it is good and will keep improving. Player development is a high-priority and Don has allocated additional resources for it. The hiring of Steve Sullivan is an example of this along with adding additional learning tools for players. Steve is with me on this trip and while I will remain with Portland through the weekend he will go on to see our players in the QMJHL."
Organizations have different ways of doing things; different cultures. What’s your early read on the Coyotes off the ice and on it?
Regier: The organization is first class and has a very good culture. I’ve had a chance to be around the coaches a bit and the philosophy is impressive. With the team, they are in large part what they were when I saw them before I joined the organization: very hard working with a sound structure in place. I know the success hasn’t been there early, but I think that quality will show itself, rise to the top and we’ll back on track."