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Will a Clean House Solve Buffalo’s Problems?

Trouble in Buffalo

Tensions in upstate New York have been rising over the last few years. It seems to have all come to a head this week when the owners, the Pegulas, fired a total of 22 employees, including GM Jason Botterill, two assistant GMs, 10 amateur scouts, and three coaches from their AHL affiliate in Rochester. This came not long after owner Terry Pegula announced Botterill’s job was safe. 

While the front office may say this a consequence of financial tightening, it seems a bit too convenient a time when the Sabres have had nine straight seasons without a playoff appearance. Earlier this year, Buffalo superstar and Massachusetts native Jack Eichel made his unhappiness with the team’s performance known.

The fans share Eichel’s opinion it seems. When the 24 teams set to finish the season were announced a few weeks ago, there was outrage in Buffalo that they weren’t one of them. One angry fan even listed them for sale on Craigslist. Funny, but ouch.

The New GM

What’s really wild is that the Pegulas decided that instead of hiring a new, experienced GM to replace Botterill, they would promote Kevyn Adams. Adams did play in the NHL, for six teams from 1998 to 2008, racking up 136 points as a centerman. He was once an assistant coach with the team but was fired two years later. Last year he was the Senior Vice President of Business Administration within the organization. No one can prove their worth without a first shot, but it’s an incredibly risky move to hire a green GM in a time of such turmoil. It will be very interesting to see if he can translate all of his experience into being a GM. 

What fans may take away from this move is that the Pegulas expect this brand new guy to flip the franchise around. The owners are putting a fresh GM in charge of hiring people for some critical roles within the organization. What’s missing in the connection between fans and the Buffalo Powers that Be is trust. Adams has not had the time or opportunity to build any kind of trust with fans. It’s going to be a very rocky road for him if he slips up even once.

Is This The Move?

So the question that everyone wants to know is, will this be what it takes to turn the Sabres around? I’m not convinced.

There are eight roster players potentially becoming UFAs in the [real] offseason, eight roster players becoming RFAs, while 12 nonroster players, including several good prospects, are to become RFAs or UFAs. There are plenty of reasons for those UFA players not to return, namely the opportunity to play for a more successful team. The front office is going to have a heck of a time convincing some of them to stay, and if they don’t they’re going to have a heck of a time finding free agents later who would sign with Buffalo over other offers.

Even if they managed to draw the number one pick in the draft this season, there’s no guarantee that the player would even be ready to play in the NHL next year. One player isn’t enough, they should know this by now. They need a strong team of coaches in the AHL getting their prospects ready for the big league; yet another role Adams has to fill.

Looking for the Silver Lining

Maybe hope lies in the new scouts Adams will have to hire. High-quality scouts can draw high-quality players. But that will take time, something the organization may not have to spare. Between the unrest in the fan base and the consistent losing streak, it may only be a matter of time before selling or moving become options.

I really do hope they’re able to turn things around. I can’t imagine it’s too much fun in a cold city without any championship sports teams. But, that said, I’m not optimistic this was the right move for the team.

-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)

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Heidi Thomas

Armchair hockey coach, passive horse racing fan, full-time dog referee.

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