Since the Buffalo Sabres drafted Jack Eichel in 2015, they’ve employed three general managers and three coaches. The startling numbers illustrate the franchise’s dysfunction.
After the Sabres fired GM Jason Botterill on June 16, Kevyn Adams, his replacement, called Eichel later that day. Adams and owners Terry and Kim Pegula also had a conversation with their captain and biggest star.
“From there, (we) exchanged some notes back and forth,” Adams said on a Zoom call Tuesday. “I think he’s starting to get to know me just in what we’re doing here. Obviously, I’ve spent time talking to his agents as well. I just look forward to building that relationship.”
Adams, who had no experience in an NHL hockey department before taking over, wanted to keep the conversations private.
“But I think from my standpoint, he is our franchise player, he is our captain, and it’s really important he understands what we’re trying to do here,” Adams said. “Obviously, has a great relationship with (coach Ralph Krueger), and now it’s time for me to build that as well.”
The last time Eichel spoke to the media on May 28 he said he was “fed up with the losing.”
“I’m fed up and I’m frustrated,” he said.
The Sabres haven’t made the playoffs since 2011, the NHL’s longest drought.
During a recent Sportsnet podcast, the hosts speculated the Sabres could pass on giving defenseman Brandon Montour a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent this offseason.
“That’s definitely not something we’ve talked about,” Adams said.
He added: “All our conversations regarding Brandon are very positive from the coaching staff and myself included. Yeah, I’m not sure where that came from.”
Montour, 26, compiled five goals, 18 points and a plus-13 rating in 54 games in 2019-20.
Botterill traded defense prospect Brendan Guhle and a first-round pick to the Anaheim Ducks in 2019 in exchange for Montour.
Botterill, who spent 11 years in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ front office, quickly brought in Steve Greeley and Randy Sexton as assistant GMs when the Sabres hired him in 2017.
Adams, a neophyte, has no one under him. Does he plan to hire any assistants?
“It seems to be one of the things I get asked the most about,” he said. “To be totally honest, I completely understand. I am a new general manager, I have a lot to learn and I am going to work to learn every day. I am a big believer in asking questions and surrounding myself with great people. I know there’s a theme of, ‘You really need to bring in someone that’s done this job before and experienced,’ and I understand that sentiment. I’m most interested right now in people that fit into what we’re doing here. I’m not as concerned about exactly what role or a title or filling a specific job. …
“I’m not saying that I’m not going to do that or fill that role. At this point, I’m just working on the people and how they all fit together.”
“I don’t feel it’s a great idea ever to talk publicly about specific individuals and their contract status or what you’re going through,” he said. “You named players who are very well-known and are very good players in the National Hockey League. But we’re looking at our roster overall and we’re working through each individual situation, but not in a vacuum – how the one individual fits into the bigger piece of all this.
“We’re going about it methodically. I’m not dodging the question, I’m just being honest that I believe everybody is a priority and that’s the way we have to think every day.”