Seth Appert shakes hands with goalie Brandon Halverson following Friday’s season-ending loss. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu, Rochester Americans

Sabres promote Rochester coach Seth Appert to assistant in Buffalo

In 2020, the Buffalo Sabres made an interesting move, hiring Seth Appert, who had spent his entire career in college and junior, to coach the Rochester Americans, their AHL affiliate.

Appert, who was coaching at the US National Team Development Program, said then he understood any skepticism that accompanied his jump to pro hockey because he had never done it before.

Today, after four seasons leading the Amerks, Appert, 49, is in the NHL.

On Monday, three days after Rochester’s season ended, the Sabres promoted Appert to coach Lindy Ruff’s staff as the assistant coach in charge of the forwards and power play.

Appert, a former goalie at Ferris State, enjoyed a successful four-year run in Rochester, making the Calder Cup Playoffs three straight seasons and winning four series. Last year, the Amerks advanced to the Eastern Conference final for the first time since 2004.

At the same time, Appert and his staff developed prospects for Buffalo. During his tenure, goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, defenseman Mattias Samuelsson and wingers JJ Peterka and Jack Quinn graduated to Buffalo, where they have become major contributors to the Sabres.

The loquacious Appert builds relationships with his players and staff – he has a knack for defining roles and making everyone know they’re important – and empowers his assistants. Two of them, Michael Peca and Mike Weber, moved up to the NHL last year as assistant coaches.

The arrival of Appert and Amir Gulati, who was hired Monday as video coordinator, completes Ruff’s staff. Gulati spent the last two seasons on Appert’s staff.

The Sabres have begun their search for Appert’s replacement.

“Seth should be immensely proud of the culture he has built in Rochester and the success that has come with it,” Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said in a statement. “While his addition to the NHL coaching staff is a loss in Rochester, there is no doubt he has earned this position. Under his leadership, the Amerks have had tremendous results as a team, and he has also played a significant role in the development of a number of NHL players.”

Ruff had openings on his staff because the Sabres also let go of assistant coach Jason Christie and video coordinator Matt Smith when they fired coach Don Granato on April 16.

“One of my top priorities over the last few weeks has been finalizing the hires and roles of the coaching staff,” Ruff said in a statement. “After conversations with Seth, he reaffirmed what I already knew – he is ready for this opportunity. As we move into next season, I am thrilled with the staff we have assembled, and the work has already begun to prepare for training camp and the entirety of the season ahead.”

Ruff told “Sabres Live” he did not know Appert until recently but he has learned they “talk the same language.”

Matt Ellis, the assistant coach who was in charge of the forwards and power play under Granato, has been shifted to the Sabres’ eye in the sky in the press box.

The Sabres’ power play, which ranked ninth overall (24.3 percent) in 2022-23, dropped to 29th this season (16.6 percent).

Ruff said he and Appert have discussed “where the NHL power plays are at and the movement inside of NHL power plays.”

“Even more, the way most teams are starting to kill now where they’re set up in a diamond, they’re set up where they’re taking away the flank shots, that you have to get some motion,” he said. “You have to have your bumper player be almost the important player on the ice to support wherever the pressure’s coming from to relieve that pressure to create the down-low two-on-ones.”

Ruff also said Ellis will work with the team’s centers and aim to improve their faceoff skills. The Sabres ranked 32nd in faceoffs last season, winning just 45 percent.

“The idea of getting a lot better with faceoff percentage and having the puck more, becoming a team that can get up in the top 15,” Ruff said.

The Sabres also have assistant coaches Mike Bales (goalies) and Marty Wilford (defense), rehab and skating instructor Mike Ansell and video coordinator Justin White on staff.

Dan Girardi, a defense development coach, has left the Sabres.

Appert occasionally filled in with the Sabres in different roles. When Granato was sick in December, he served as head coach for two games, going 1-1-0.

He compiled a 123-94-22-10 record with the Amerks. Following Friday’s 5-2 loss to the Syracuse Crunch in Game 5 of the AHL North Division semifinal, he told his players he loved them.

“I’d love to win a Calder Cup, but probably more importantly, I’d love to just get to coach them in practice this coming week,” he said in Blue Cross Arena.

Appert coached RPI in Troy for 11 seasons, registering a 152-221-48 record overall. In 2011, he led the Engineers to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 15 years. He was fired in 2017.

Early in his career, he won two national championships as an assistant at Denver.

Appert and Rochester GM Jason Karmanos are scheduled to meet with the media today.

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