After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the ninth consecutive season this year, the Buffalo Sabres fired GM Jason Botterill and named Senior Vice President of Business Administration Kevyn Adams as GM on Tuesday morning. Assistant GMs Steve Greely and Randy Sexton were also fired.
“This morning, we informed Jason Botterill he will no longer be the General Manager of the Sabres. This decision was made after many candid discussions with Jason during a full review of our hockey operation. We recognized we have philosophical differences regarding how best to put ourselves in a position to compete for a Stanley Cup. So, we decided to make this change,” the team said in a statement.
Botterill, 44, was named Sabres GM on May 11, 2017.
The past two seasons, the team was in a position to end their drought as they started a league-best 17-6-2 in 2018-19 before finishing the campaign with a 33-39-10 record, 27th. This season, the team started 9-2-2 only to end the year with a 30-31-8 record, coming three points shy of the Montreal Canadiens for the final qualifying round spot in the Eastern Conference.
Last summer, Botterill re-signed forward Jeff Skinner to an eight-year contract that carries a $9 million cap hit after he led the team with 40 goals in 2018-19. This season, the 28-year-old posted only 14 goals, 23 points, and a -22 rating in 59 games. They also signed or traded for forward Marcus Johansson, defensemen Colin Miller and Henri Jokiharju, forward Dominik Kahun, forward Wayne Simmonds, and forward Michael Frolik over the past year.
The team’s averages of 2.80 goals-per-game and 3.12 goals-against per game this season both ranked 21st in the NHL. Their 18.9% power-play efficiency was 20th while their 74.6% penalty-killing rate ranked 30th.
“New General Manager Kevyn Adams and Head Coach Ralph Krueger already have a close working relationship and we are excited to see what they can do together as we reconfigure our hockey operations. We have the benefit of this long 2020 pause to take time to reorganize and re-energize our hockey department. We recognize the importance of this offseason with so many player decisions to be made.”
Center Jack Eichel, the team’s second overall pick in 2015, has never made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in his career and expressed frustration after the NHL’s Return to Play format, which did not include the Sabres, came out. The 23-year-old led the team in goals (36), assists (42), and points (78) in 68 games this season.
The Sabres have had a top-10 draft pick, including the second overall one in 2014 (when they selected forward Sam Reinhart) and 2015, in each of the past seven seasons and that could very well be the case again for the 2020 NHL Draft.
By Harrison Brown