November 31-in-31: Buffalo Sabres

Kevin Wong

2020-11-04

Photo courtesy of the Buffalo Sabres

Kevin Wong is the DobberProspects Buffalo Sabres writer and scout and has kept the entire Buffalo Sabres system up to date. Check out the team page here

 

The 2020 NHL off-season has been shocking but potentially transformative for the floundering Buffalo Sabres. The organization’s actions have been bold, and although the end result has yet to be determined, the personnel changes have been enough to provide at least some sense of short-term optimism for the team’s supporters.

 

The Sabres finished 25th out of 31 teams in 2019-20 and lost six of their last seven games just before the termination of the regular season in March. They were abysmal across numerous stretches of the season. Substantial changes were necessary, especially with regards to the improvement of the team’s prospect pool and on-ice product.

 

Since March 2020, the Sabres have replaced their general manager, purged their front office, acquired one of this year’s top free agents only two years removed from his Hart Trophy season, traded for a former marquee player in Eric Staal, and drafted a 50-goal Ontario Hockey League sniper. This franchise has endured a decade of monumental challenges, including nine years without a playoff berth. Throughout that time, they have experimented with numerous different player lineups, the latest of which seems promising in theory but also requires a cautious sensibility based on past precedent. The organization has been stuck in a state of mediocrity. Fans have hoped desperately for the team’s fortunes to shift.

 

The changes began with the team’s decision to end its relationship with general manager Jason Botterill on June 16. The Sabres’ Vice President of Business Administration Kevyn Adams was simultaneously appointed to be his replacement.

Botterill served as general manager for three years beginning on May 11, 2017. Among his most controversial moves was his decision in 2018 to trade Ryan O’Reilly to the St. Louis Blues. The very next season, O’Reilly won the Stanley Cup, the Frank J. Selke Trophy, and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the league’s playoff MVP. The organization has also experienced a certain degree of on-ice turmoil ranging from star Jack Eichel’s vocal displeasure at the team’s lack of success to the perceived absenteeism of the ownership group. ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski recently observed some of the team’s controversies of the past few years [https://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/28643117/why-buffalo-sabres-nhl-biggest-disaster]. With ticket sales in decline and the product in a perpetual state of inadequacy, a major shakeup occurred in June 2020.

 

A barrage of other firings occurred on the same day Jason Botterill was released. Among those relieved of their duties: assistant general managers Randy Sexton and Steve Greeley, Rochester Americans coaches Chris Taylor, Gord Dineen and Toby Petersen, director of amateur scouting Ryan Jankowski, assistant amateur scouting director Jeff Crisp, and nearly all of the amateur scouting staff.