Seth Appert coached Rochester four seasons. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu, Rochester Americans

Seth Appert happy to join Sabres, work with Lindy Ruff; Rochester roster could look different next season

In his 27-year career, Seth Appert coached at just four places prior to his promotion to the Buffalo Sabres as an assistant. Instead of jumping at the next opportunity, he always chose to stay and build a program.

“I take a lot of pride in trying to create a culture, trying to build things the right way,” Appert, who on Monday was named to Lindy Ruff’s staff, said on a Zoom call Tuesday. “And I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve been able to do here in Rochester, the way we’ve been able to do it.”

By last year, after the Americans advanced to the AHL Eastern Conference final in the Calder Cup Playoffs, it was clear Appert, 49, would eventually receive interest from NHL teams. So last summer, Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams asked Appert if he wanted to pursue assistant jobs the Amerks’ success would possibly give him a chance to get.

“I made it pretty clear to Kevyn that if he wanted me to stay and continue on in Rochester, I was excited to stay and keep here and keep the work here going,” said Appert, who never formally interviewed with any teams.

But when the Sabres recently showed interest in adding Appert to Ruff’s staff, he said he found the opportunity intriguing. Why?

He could work alongside Ruff, one of the winningest coaches in NHL history. He also has faith in Adams, who gave him his first opportunity in pro hockey in 2020.

“It’s … probably the biggest reason I joined the organization four years ago, because I believe in Kevyn, his vision, the kind of man he is and direction he’s leading this organization,” Appert said.

Appert took comfort in understanding owner Terry Pegula’s passion for the Sabres. Joining Buffalo would also allow him to stay in the organization.

“We worked so hard,” Appert said. “When Kevyn hired me four years ago, this organization was in a tough spot. We’re not there yet. There’s a lot of work to do. But we’re a lot closer than we were four years ago, and I’m proud of that. This is an opportunity with a lot of guys that I’ve coached along the way to kind of help push us through to Buffalo.”

Adams and Ruff both reached out to Appert shortly after Ruff’s hire last month.

“Just making sure that I’m the right fit for what Lindy was looking for, that our vision in terms of how the game’s supposed to be played is aligned,” Appert said. “So it just kind of had a natural evolution from those first conversations leading up to the eventual hire.”

Appert said their first conversation “was really easy.” Right away, they learned they share similar philosophies. They both like to play fast, direct and get to the net. In young players, they stress winning puck battles, angling and causing turnovers.

“Stylistically, he and I are very connected on identity and style that we want the Buffalo Sabres and he wants the Buffalo Sabres to play,” Appert said. “So that excites me. “

On Monday, three days after Rochester’s season ended with a loss in Game 5 of the North Division semifinal, the Sabres officially hired Appert.

Appert said about 400 people, including former Sabres captain Kyle Okposo, reached out to congratulate him.

“Not surprising, because he’s all class, but he’s in the middle of a Stanley Cup playoff run right now, and I thought that was incredibly classy of him,” he said of Okposo, who was traded to the Florida Panthers on March 8.

The Sabres had an opening on their staff because they fired assistant Jason Christie along with coach Don Granato. Appert’s duties will include the forwards and power play, areas assistant Matt Ellis handled under Granato.

The Sabres’ power play, of course, struggled this season, dropping from ninth to 29th. Appert might run the power play meeting, but he expects it to be a collaborative effort.

Appert said he wants the Sabres to have a presence at the net to “create chaos.”

“If there’s no net presence, you’re at the mercy of trying to score these highlight-reel goals that look great the next morning on NHL Network but aren’t consistent and don’t come all the time,” he said. “So net presence, to me, establishes a shot mentality, an attack mentality. And then when you have an attack and a shot mentality, you have a chance to get the penalty kill out of structure.”

Ellis has been shifted to the Sabres’ eye in the sky in the press box and will also work with the team’s centers and aim to improve their faceoff skills.

Amerks GM Jason Karmanos said the organization has started looking for Appert’s replacement. He would like to have a new coach before the NHL Draft late next month.

“We’re not coming into this as an organization with a background preference or anything like that,” Karmanos said. “We’re looking for the right person for the job. Obviously, at this level the development component is key.”

He said Appert’s assistants, Nathan Paetsch and Vinny Prospal, will stay with the team and be considered for the head job.

Meanwhile, Karmanos said the Amerks, who had their top nine scorers return this season, will likely have some roster turnover this summer.

Goalie Dustin Tokarski, defenseman Joseph Cecconi and Jeremy Davies and forwards Brandon Biro, Brett Murray, Justin Richards and Linus Weissbach all have expiring two-way NHL contracts and can become unrestricted free agents. Captain Michael Mersch, leading scorer Mason Jobst and defenseman Ethan Prow all have expiring AHL deals.

“Are we going to bring back every single individual?” Karmanos asked. “Probably not. That’s not how the business works. But are we happy with our veteran leadership and what they’ve brought to the table? Absolutely. They’re a key part of what has gone on in Rochester that’s been positive.

“When we talked about the balance between winning and development, I think that layer of experience and leadership is critical. They’ve done a great job, so I think in general keeping a good portion of that at least makes a lot of sense to me.”

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