BUFFALO – After Randy Sexton completed his duties with the Pittsburgh Penguins last month, the veteran executive caught an early flight from the NHL Draft in Chicago to begin his job as one of the Sabres’ new assistant general managers.
Just weeks after winning his second straight Stanley Cup, Sexton was leaving a strong gig as Pittsburgh’s director of amateur scouting. Still, the opportunity to work with his friend, new Sabres GM Jason Botterill, and build another team helped lure him here.
When the 57-year-old checked into the Marriott later that morning, he peaked out the window and immediately felt at home.
“Lo and behold, there was a trailer down there with the slogan that said, ‘Let’s go, Buffalo,’ and I don’t think there’s any greater chant in our league,” an excited Sexton said Saturday inside HarborCenter. “So as soon as a I saw that, I knew I had made the right decision.”
Sexton spoke passionately about every subject he he touched on during his eight-minute chat with the media, including why he joined the Sabres.
“When Jason asked me to come aboard, I thought this was just the perfect opportunity to start to rebuild another championship team,” he said following the first session of development camp. “I know it’s kind of an old saying, but it’s too good an opportunity to pass on.”
Sexton, a former GM with the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers, believes he can be a sounding board for the 41-year-old Botterill, a rookie GM.
Over their seven years together in Pittsburgh, he said the two developed a “very close working relationship.” They’re “open” and “candid” with each other.
“I have to catch myself calling him ‘Bottsie,’ because the only time I really call him Jason is when I’m angry with him,” Sexton said. “We have a great relationship.”
Sexton, of course, had other reasons for coming to Buffalo. He said the commitment of owners Terry and Kim Pegula “to do things right” and the “long-term sustainability” of the organization were attractive.
As part of his duties, Sexton is also the GM of the Sabres’ AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. Coincidentally, he also had the same role with the Amerks during their brief affiliation with Florida.
The Amerks, long one of the AHL’s model teams, have struggled in recent years, missing the playoffs three straight seasons. Sexton plans to worked doggedly to give Rochester, what he believes is a “wonderful hockey market,” another winner again soon.
“We are not going to rest until we restore the Americans to what I think is their rightful place among the elite teams in the American Hockey League,” he said. “It will come one day at a time, it will come one person at a time. But we will be relentless in our pursuit of that success.”
The Sabres have already signed about five or six players for the Amerks.
The Sabres have hired Ryan Jankowski as their director or amateur scouting and promoted Jeff Crisp to assistant director of amateur scouting, the team announced today.
Jankowski spent the last four years in various roles with Hockey Canada, including head scout and director of player personnel. He also spent 10 years in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders.
With the Islanders, Jankowski was part of the staff that drafted Sabres winger Kyle Okposo seventh overall.
Crisp was the Sabres’ head amateur scout last season.
Williamsville’s Justin Bailey, who’s participating in his fifth development camp, grew up rooting for the Sabres. Like a lot of local children five or 10 years ago, one of his favorite players was former captain Jason Pominville.
Pominville’s reacquisition from the Minnesota Wild on June 30 means Bailey has more competition for one of the wing spots during training camp.
Still, Bailey doesn’t care. He loves that Pominville is back.
“I remember in preseason we played Minnesota, I was on the bench with (Nick Baptiste) and I was a little bit starstruck,” Bailey said. “I think that was the first time I was a little bit (like), ‘Whoa.’”