Turning Points in New York Islanders History: Milbury Fires Darcy Regier

I try not to dwell on the Milburian era because it's old news and it was torture enough at the time, so apologies for that ahead of time.

However, this came up in the GM tree posted at Copper & Blue (where the finest GM of them all is pictured in the kind of tie I can never pull off), so it had me digging for the exact date.

On Dec. 27, 1996, history was made [Daily News]. Little did we know how much the future of the franchise shifted:

Mike Milbury took another step yesterday toward making himself the undisputed top dog of the Islanders when he fired assistant general manager Darcy Regier, the longtime organization man who had been beaten out by Milbury for the general manager's position a year ago.

"He has been a valued employe of this organization; however, we were unable to fully agree on an organizational philosophy," Milbury said of Regier in a press release. "I respect the contributions he has made to the franchise, and wish him the best of luck."

Milbury later said the biggest problem between him and Regier, who had been assistant GM under Don Maloney, was an "uncomfortable" working relationship between the two after Milbury was named GM Dec. 12, 1995.

Of course the promoted Milbury (he started out as the Islanders coach but was given the GM title to to replace Don "Must Go" Maloney a year before parting with Regier) would have to deal with his share of ownership messes in his first five years on the job. But I think we all know what came of Milbury and what came of Regier.

Interestingly, Regier has been a pretty astute small-budget manager for the Sabres over the years -- I've actually never trusted him less than I do now, having seen him burn through his Terry Pegula surplus on things like a six-year, $4.5 million AAV deal for Ville Leino and a massive commitment to Christian Ehrhoff that reportedly far exceeded* what the Islanders were offering.

* Reports have Ehrhoff wooed by the "chance at a Cup" Buffalo offers, and that may be all well and good, but something tells me an extra $17 million and the chance to walk away with most of that money three years before the contract expires were larger factors.

Anyway, for years Regier managed the Sabres pretty wisely while under severe financial restraints, whether from a would-be-crook cable operator owner (Crook owners in telecom? Never!) or in the bankruptcy and age of austerity that followed. It helps to have Ryan Miller, and to score in trades with "good era" Daniel Briere and Chris Drury, but all in all Regier showed a patience and level head in Buffalo that Milbury ... found wanting on Long Island.

Odd then, that he would basically burn through the Pegula dividend entirely in one summer, without holding any dry powder for when Leino proves to be not all that the unpredictable happens.

 

Peca - Connolly: In Which Former Awkward Colleagues Swap Their Problems

Regier and Milbury actually consummated a major, pivotal trade between the two teams, one that probably made the 2001-02 playoff run possible for the Isles and the 2006 playoff run much better for the Sabres. It's fascinating that while this trade represents conservative (and handcuffed) Regier and "I Can't Believe This Teen Isn't A Veteran Yet" Milbury in their natural elements, that trade ended up both hurting and helping each team (which I guess makes it a good trade): Michael Peca immediately gave the Islanders what they wanted, but was felled by injuries; Tim Connolly eventually gave the Sabres what they wanted (briefly), before succumbing to injuries, too. (I'll always believe Connolly was finally "getting it" during that 2006 playoff run when he suffered yet another, jarring concussion.)

Anyway, the point is it's 2011 and when this came up the other day I realized that some younger Islanders fans might not know or remember that detail: Milbury, who has been a talking head on TV since ending his association with the franchise he steered like a 14-year-old driving a Camaro through traffic, once fired Regier, who has been GM in Buffalo for an almost unbelievably long tenure.

Neither has a Cup from their GM tenure -- and honestly, neither ever really had the resources to get one -- but it's always a thought-provoking bit of trivia to think that the Islanders once passed on Regier (who had been in the organization since the Bill Torrey days) to give Mike Milbury a promotion.

 

Moving On Then...

Of course, that was in the Gang of Four era of Islanders ownership (Hey! Only half the four have been arrested!), who themselves came before the fraudulent John Spano, which is all part of an ownership history that few who slag off the Islanders bother to recall or research. So describing some of these moves as "the Islanders did X" is almost an insult to all the people who have busted their tails to actually uphold the pride on which the club was founded and ultimately won four Cups, 19 consecutive playoff series, and a few other things that practically created their own wing in the Hall of Fame.

By the looks of things, venue uncertainty aside (ed. Wait. That's an ASIDE?!) we're past that ugliness now ... even if the league's peanut gallery depicts gathering to watch a 9-3 victory as some sort of crime against humanity. So enjoy the watch party tonight, which has been modified to watch the Grabner hat trick OT win over the Sabres instead.

And maybe sneak in an iPhone clip of Micheal Haley turning Kris Letang around and making Brent Johnson look silly into the party to remind people that game would've rocked even if there were zero PIM.

P.S. Man, I hate it when innocent conversations dig this stuff back up. (This post is not sponsored by Chivas, but it might as well be.)

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