If the NHL could’ve held its draft as scheduled next week, Jason Botterill would likely still be employed as the Buffalo Sabres’ general manager. But the COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to postpone the annual event until the fall.
The extra time gave Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula an opportunity to discuss and plan the team’s future – “Really start digging in,” Kim Pegula said on a Zoom call Tuesday to discuss Botterill’s firing – with their now former GM.
Three weeks ago, Kim Pegula told the Associated Press that despite missing the playoffs again, Botterill would return for his fourth season in 2020-21. But their recent conversations with Botterill alarmed the Pegulas, who learned they shared different visions of the future.
On Tuesday, the Sabres axed Botterill – one of a slew of firings – and named Clarence native Kevyn Adams, who had been serving as the team’s senior vice president of business administration, his replacement.
“When we were in detailed discussions with Jason and how we felt we needed to move forward effectively, efficiently and economically running this franchise, we felt that there were too many differences of opinion going into the future that we just thought – since we had more time – it would be best for us to make this change,” Terry Pegula said.
Botterill’s dismissal, however, was just the beginning of one of the ugliest days in franchise history. The Sabres cleaned house Tuesday, also firing assistant general managers Steve Greeley and Randy Sexton.
Later in the day, they let go Rochester Americans coach Chris Taylor and his assistants, Gord Dineen and Toby Petersen. They also fired Ryan Jankowski, the team’s director of amateur scouting, and much of the amateur scouting staff, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
Since the Pegulas, who are billionaires, purchased the Sabres in 2011, they’ve employed one of the NHL’s largest hockey staffs. But with the pandemic battering the economy, those days are over.
Going forward, the Pegulas want the Sabres to become a different kind of operation.
“We’re going to get leaner,” Terry Pegula said. “It’s just the way the world’s heading. Any business today, you look at the things you do, they’re more efficient, they do things quick, they use this new technology that we all have at our fingertips.”
Clearly, Botterill did not agree with the changes the Pegulas want to implement.
“The last six months in the world have not been easy times for sports teams (and) businesses,” Terry Pegula said. “We believe in acting and not reacting to certain situations. We as owners had a vision to where we need to go in these uncertain times. We don’t know if we’re going to have fans next year and what not as far as competitive sports go.
“Looking ahead, we need to make some adjustments in the business side of our operations that we provide that foresight to the organization. We felt like we weren’t being heard. I’m not going to sit here and dish on Jason Botterill, but we have a vision and we want to see our vision succeed.”