Niagara Gazette

Columns

August 5, 2006

TIM SCHMITT: Sabres rookie ‘camp’ isn’t just for fun

NIAGARA FALLS — Think the Sabres aren’t serious about the future? Then you didn’t notice where Darcy Regier’s post-arbitration interviews came from this week.

Regier hightailed it back to the Pepsi Center most afternoons for the Sabres rookie camp, gathering as much info about guys like Patrick Kaleta and Michael Funk as possible.

The idea of a rookie camp isn’t new to the Sabres, they ran them prior to the lockout. But the idea that the camp might be grooming someone for this year’s club is novel.

For example, Daniel Paille, who spent the year in Rochester, isn’t here to stay loose. He’s in Amherst because he knows he could follow in the skateprints of Derek Roy and Jason Pominville. And don’t count out former first rounder Drew Stafford, who’s got the tools the Sabres are looking for.

Drafting and developing talent in the NHL has always been an inexact and painstaking art, but with the emphasis on younger, faster talent, it’s become even more vital.

•••

Although the emphasis is on the future, the Sabres seem committed to adding enough payroll to make a serious run this season.

The reason? The fan base.

At the press conference announcing the old logo’s return, Larry Quinn said full season-ticket packages were over 12,000. That’s more than the team had after figuring 10-packs and other marketing tricks in 2005. Although the size of HSBC won’t allow comparisons to the ‘70s, when tickets were nearly impossible to find, it could mean most big games will be sold out.

•••

Here’s the good news — Ed McLaughlin seems a great fit for the Niagara University athletics director job. He’s young, personable and has fundraising as a strength on his resume.

But this begs a bigger question — how long will he stay?

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