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The Buffalo Sabres announced this morning that they have relieved general manager Jason Botterill and assistant general manager's Steve Greeley and Randy Sexton of their duties. This comes just three weeks after owner/president Kim Pegula told the media that Botterill would keep his role as GM for the final year of his contract.
As with many things in life, timing is everything here. The only major event that bridges the gap between "he's our guy" and "see ya" is Lawrence Pilut's departure to the KHL. Obviously without knowing what went on behind close doors this is purely speculation, but most of what has leaked regarding this story points towards yet another sign of mismanagement, something of an ongoing trend during Botterill's tenure that peaked this year with the overcrowded blue line.
Kevyn Adams, the Sr. VP of business administration was then promoted to the general manager position. Adams was an assistant coach with the Sabres for two years before he was fired along with long time head coach Lindy Ruff. The assumption is that Adams will be an interim GM until the Sabres find a suitable candidate for the job, although it is interesting that the organization did call him the interim GM in their press release.
Botterill's tenure with the Sabres was a bizarre one. He came over from the Pittsburgh Penguins with high praise, many folks believed him to be the architect behind Pittsburgh's recent cup success. Though he was labeled as a salary cap specialist, Botterill never really managed this well. He was careful not to commit term to just anyone, which is good, but he also never really pulled off any moves that made you think he was working the cap to his advantage. For most fans, the beginning of the end was the Ryan O'Reilly trade, which brought back quantity over quality, and most of those assets likely won't see any playing time with the Sabres next year and beyond.
Ultimately I think what really sealed Botterill's fate was his unwillingness to or fear of making changes to the core. Most of the moves he made, even the best ones, were simply window dressing. Two seasons have passed since the O'Reilly deal and the best options for replacing him were a way in over his head Casey Mittelstadt and a winger in Marcus Johansson, the results were about what you would expect. He also held onto Rasmus Ristolainen for his entire tenure, watching his trade value plummet during that time. Ristolainen represented the quickest and perhaps easiest opportunity for Botterill to add value to the Sabres, as the defeseman's reputation far exceeded his actual on-ice results. If he sells high two or three years ago, there's a decent chance he still has a job right now.
With the NHL entry draft several months away, the Sabres will have plenty of time to vet candidates for the role but there's a healthy amount of skepticism as to who will lead the search. Many fans would like someone with experience tapped for a president of hockey operations role, so that they can lead the search instead of ownership. It's unclear at this time if they'd be willing to go this route but it may be the prudent course of action if they'd like to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Pierre Lebrun tweeted out that ownership has indeed named Kevyn Adams the full time GM. While this comes as a surprise, the Sabres may still be looking for other management candidates, even beyond assistant general managers. It's possible they may look for a structure in which the long term vision of the team is shaped by someone above Adams in a different role. While uncommon in the NHL, this trend has picked up in recent years in the NBA. The Toronto Raptors, reigning NBA champions, have seen a lot of success with this structure, sparking other franchises to follow suit.
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