BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – When the Sabres announced the firing of general manager Jason Botterill, one of the first things most people asked was what changed?
That’s because three weeks ago Sabres co-owner and team President, Kim Pegula backed up Botterill in an interview with the Associated Press and said he would return for a fourth season as GM. That was just three weeks go.
So again, what changed?
“At that time we had just found out that the regular season had ended and then in the next three weeks especially with the announcement of the draft being really pushed back to sometime this fall it gave us a little bit more time to start digging in and say what does the future look like? Let’s start looking and planning for the future and I think that’s what changed in those three weeks,” Kim Pegula said on a zoom call with reporters.
By doing that “digging in” and “looking at the future”, they found they weren’t as much on the same page with Botterill as they originally thought.
“When we were in detailed discussions with Jason on how we felt we needed to move forward effectively, efficiently and economically running this franchise we felt that there were too many differences in opinion going into the future,” Terry Pegula explained.
The Pegulas didn’t go into much detail or give specific examples as to what those “differences in opinions” were but they did say they “felt like they weren’t being heard.”
“We need to make some adjustments in the business side of our operations that we provide that foresight to the organization and we felt like we weren’t being heard,” Terry Pegula said.
Kevyn Adams is now the third GM the Pegulas have hired since taking over the team in 2011. Adams first joined the organization in 2009 as a player development coach, then became an assistant coach before joining the business side of things with LECOM Harborcenter and most recently was named Senior Vice President of Business Administration in 2019.
Even though once again they’re taking a chance on a first-time GM, they said that familiarity with him and having Adams in the organization for years now is part of why they think he is the right fit.
But not there’s another first-time GM with a head coach that couldn’t finish out his first year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then not making the 24-team playoff. A President of Hockey Operations would make sense to bring in with the inexperience of these two. But that’s not going to happen as Terry Pegula said he “doesn’t believe in that philosophy” and likes the line of communication between ownership, the GM and head coach.
Even though it happened in a bizarre way with Kim Pegula’s comments about first keeping Botterill then firing him, it was the right decision to move on. I don’t agree with the choice not to hire a President of Hockey Operations given the inexperience of the people in charge now and the need to fix this immediately. The Sabres’ playoff drought is at nine seasons, just one short of tying the league’s longest postseason drought.
Captain Jack Eichel emerged as a super star this season and only continues to elevate his game year after year but his talents are wasted having never displayed them in the postseason.
Botterill did not supply enough talent around him to where they constantly relied on Eichel and the top line for scoring as secondary scoring has been an issue for years.
We all know what happened with the Ryan O’Reilly trade and how that turned out but it left a hole at center, one Casey Mittelstadt wasn’t ready to fill yet.
He brought in a surplus of defensemen while lacking depth at forward after not getting enough production from guys like Jimmy Vesey, Conor Sheary and Michael Frolik, some of players Botterill traded for.
Botterill also couldn’t deal Rasmus Ristolainen after wanting out of Buffalo last year and still continued to add defensemen. He was also relying on guys like Dylan Cozens and Tage Thompson along with Mittelstadt to be ready for this upcoming season to fill the void and help turn things around. Three young prospects aren’t going to do that alone. This roster lacks toughness and veteran talent.
Kevyn Adams has his work cut out for him and the pressure of building a roster to break this playoff drought or it will tie the league’s longest at 10 seasons.