By IAIN HIGGINS
Weeks after Buffalo Sabres owners Kim and Terry Pegula publicly backed General Manager Jason Botterill for another season, an announcement was made this morning confirming his firing.
The news contradicted what the Pegulas had previously posited for Botterill’s future with the organization. In an interview with the Associated Press in May, Kim Pegula assured fans “He’s our GM, our plan is to continue with him.”
The owners cited “philosophical differences” with the former GM as the catalyst for this morning’s announcement. Botterill served as General Manager of the Sabres for three seasons.
The Sabres were one of only seven teams this season that failed to qualify for the large 24-team playoff format necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the Sabres have finished at or near the bottom of the Atlantic Division in each of Botterill’s three seasons as GM, complete with a losing record each year.
Botterill’s tenure with Buffalo is marked by a handful of unfortunate stumbles. Head Coach Phil Housley was hired and fired in a quick two-year span. First round pick (2017) Casey Mittelstadt has struggled to live up to expectations. Ryan O’Reilly, Robin Lehner, and Evander Kane each found success with new organizations.
Sure, the Jeff Skinner trade brought life to a boring Sabres offense last season, but he struggled this season to put up the numbers fans had expected from him, despite his shiny $72 million contract.
To his credit, Botterill locked Jack Eichel in for an eight-year deal in 2017 and drafted the promising young Rasmus Dahlin, but none of his choices made the immediate impact the Sabres have need to break out of their nine-year playoff drought. Time will tell if Botterill’s final acquisitions, Wayne Simmonds and Dominik Kahun, prove to be productive. It seems that Ralph Krueger, hired by Botterill to replace Housley as head coach in May of 2019, will remain at his post.
Replacing Botterill as general manager is the former Senior Vice President of Business Administration for Buffalo, Kevyn Adams. Adams was drafted in 1993 by the Boston Bruins and played for six different teams in the NHL until his retirement in 2008. He also served as assistant coach for the Sabres from 2011 to 2013.