OK, So I am not the Guy (pun intended boss) that talks about the Blues. Sorry, I’m A MassMutual East fan, So I want to talk about is a franchise that was smoking hot in the mid to late ’90s and should have been much better than they are this season.
The Buffalo Sabres
Who are the first people you think of when you think of the Buffalo Sabres? … for me, a few names that come to mind are Pat LaFontaine, a former BGSU Falcon, and an NHL Hall of Famer. Alexander Mogilny is yet another Buffalo lifer, that will be remembered in the annals of franchise history. Daniel Briere is a Buffalo hero who helped the Sabres reach the Stanley Cup. Miroslav Satan was another member of that famed 1999 Sabres team.
Then, of course, there’s the “Dominator” Dominik Hasek who was the heart and soul of the Sabres for many years.
Terry and Kim Pegula buy the Buffalo Sabres
So, fast forward to 2011. This is when many Sabres fans say the team fell apart and “The Virus” began. The Virus is Kim and Terry Pegula who saved the Sabres and the Bills from bankruptcy. The Pegulas told the fans that their goals and aspirations for the team were to spend and compete for championships. Whatever they needed to bring a Stanley Cup to Buffalo, they were willing to do.
In 2011 The Pegulas retained longtime GM Darcy Regier. In his 14 seasons, he led the Sabres to the Cup Final, a President’s Trophy, and 8 playoff appearances. When Darcy was finally let go in 2014, the Pegulas hired Buffalo hero – the previously referenced Pat LaFontaine as President of Hockey Operations. The team hired long-time Scout and Assistant GM of the Ottawa Senators Tim Murray as well.
Tim Murray New Buffalo Sabres GM #1
Murray butted heads with LaFontaine on a lot of questionable calls regarding trades and signings. One, in particular, was the handling of star goaltender Ryan Miller. LaFontaine wanted to extend Miller’s contract, while Murray wanted to ship him off. Eventually, Murray won – shipping Miller And veteran forward Steve Ott to the Blues for Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 2015 1st rounder, and a conditional 2016 3rd round pick.
That was the last straw. LaFontaine resigned and Murray had full control.
Murray then took that first from the Blues and got Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, and Jason Kasdorf from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux, and this pick which became Jack Roslovic.
But with his 2nd pick in that draft Murray wanted Connor McDavid.
Murray got Boston University Center Jack Eichel instead, and Murray thought he had a winning combination. What Murray actually did though is trade away prospects and draft picks to try and rush the rebuild, only for it to fail miserably. The Sabres were at the bottom of the NHL. In 2017 Murray was fired 3 years into his tenure. It was, at the time, the shortest tenure for a GM in Sabres history.
Jason Botterill New Buffalo Sabres GM #2
To replace Murray the Pegulas hired another first-time GM. Jason Botterill spent 10 seasons in the front office of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He helped the Pens win 3 Stanley Cups in his time there. So it should have been a win right? … Not even close. Botterill will be remembered for his abysmal trades, poor contract management, and horrid drafting. (GoodLuck Seattle!!!)
The Trades that Botterill is best known for involves once again the St. Louis Blues, go figure. That trade sent current captain Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis for Vladimir Sobotka who was in and out of the Sabres lineup nightly. Tage Thompson is the only piece that still plays for the Sabres organization. Patrik Berglund only played 23 games for the Sabres before retiring. A first-rounder in the 2019 draft became D-man Ryan Johnson and a second-rounder in 2021. We all know what O’Reilly has done for the Blues. The rest of that trade has produced a combined total of 32 points in 174 games.
The other so-called “Mega trade” Botterill made was Acquiring Carolina Forward Jeff Skinner, in exchange for Cliff Pu, the Sabres 2nd in 2019, and their 3rd, and 6th in 2020. If that wasn’t bad then, he signed Skinner to an 8-year, $72 million contract extension that has a full no-movement clause after his first full season with the Sabres.
Botterill will also be remembered for his horrible drafting and dubious free-agency pickups. In three Entry Drafts, Botterill drafted 18 players. Of those 18, only two players have taken the ice in an NHL game. Rasmus Dahlin was a 1st round defenseman selected in 2018, and Casey Mittelstadt was the 2017 season’s 8th overall forward. As for free agency, Botterill’s top 2 free agent signings in his tenure have been Marcus Johansson, and Carter Hutton (Oh, Dear God why!!!).
Botterill was relieved of his duties on June 21, 2020. He was replaced by VP of Business administration Kevyn Adams, who also has no previous management experience in hockey.
So, now we come to this year’s Buffalo Sabres.
This dumpster fire is horrible, but shouldn’t have been with the pieces brought in and retained.
Kevyn Adams Current Buffalo Sabres GM #3
Adams made a trade of Marcus Johannson to the Minnesota Wild to get Veteran Eric Staal. He signed Tobias Rieder to a 1-year deal from Calgary. He signed Cody Eakin to a 2-year deal. The big deal was a 1-year $8 million deal for top free agent Taylor Hall to pair up with Jack Eichel. Plus, he avoided arbitration with Sam Reinhart on a 1-year $5.2 Million deal. Adams also re-signed Linus Ullmark (1-year,$2.6 mil), Brandon Montour (1-year, $3.85 mil), Victor Olofsson (2-year, $6.1 mil), and Tage Thompson (3-year $4.2 Mil) that would be the only questionable signing, but it was a move in the right direction…. Or was it?
In the first 6 games of the new season in the MassMutual East Division, the Sabres played the Capitals four times and the Flyers twice and were 2-3-1. In their next 4 games, there were 2 against the Rangers and Devils they went 2-0-1. On February 2, 2021, the Sabres had a team Covid outbreak after playing the New Jersey Devils, who also had a Covid outbreak. The Sabres had a total of nine players on the Covid list, including head Coach Ralph Kruger. The Sabres then returned to the ice on February 15, 2021. That’s when it went downhill. Since their return, the Sabres are just 2-12-2, and they have lost 11 in a row as of this writing.
The Sabres have lost players to injury also. Zemgus Girgensons (hamstring) out until July 6, William Borgen (forearm) out until April 6, Jake McCabe (knee) out until September 1, Linus Ullmark (lower-body) out until March 31, Jack Eichel (neck) out until March 22, and Dylan Cozens (upper-body) is listed as day-to-day.
One Sabres Fan Patrick LanKanen @BuffaloSabres06 that I reached out to had this to say
“Well, I see it as an ownership problem. Since the Pegulas took over, they have one playoff appearance (2011, when they took over midway through the season) In every full season the Pegulas have owned the team, the Sabres have missed the playoffs.” LanKanen messaged me. “They tore down and rebuilt, got Reinhart, Dahlin, and Eichel. In 2018, they got Skinner and started to compete. Tried to compete last year. Now this year, they got the skilled players and were ready to contend. And somehow they are even worse. They’ve gone through 6 coaches and 4 GMS. It’s clearly ownership, we don’t even have a Pres(ident) of Hockey Operations.”
What Patrick didn’t mention also is that the Sabres don’t have scouts anywhere outside of the USA. The team has no coverage in Finland, Russia, or Canada. So come July for the Entry Draft, I guess the Pegulas will be relying on virtual meetings and darts on a board.
Remember the Sly Fox sniffs out the story for the fans.
Jeremy “Fox” Miller