Kevyn Adams was hired as the general manager (GM) of the Buffalo Sabres in June 2020. This came after the failed tenure of Jason Botterill and Tim Murray prior to him. Both were external candidates chosen by owner Terry Pegula after intensive search processes, while Adams worked within the Pegula Sports and Entertainment company for years and was a choice likely made because he trusted him.
At the time, the Sabres desperately needed a calming voice to stabilize the franchise while also putting a plan in place to return the team to relevancy. During his tenure, Adams has delivered on both, all while creating a cohesive atmosphere around the organization that hasn’t existed in a decade. Last week, the team and Adams announced they had reached a deal on a multi-year extension to keep him as their GM for the foreseeable future. His impact thus far and the trajectory he has them on made it an easy choice, and having him at the helm moving forward is tremendous for the club.
Evaluating Adams’ Track Record Thus Far
The Sabres have yet to make the playoffs under Adams, but they haven’t seen the postseason in 11 seasons, so this is not necessarily anything new. To analyze his performance thus far, it’s important to consider the mess he inherited. Previous GMs failed to properly surround their star players like Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart with a supporting cast strong enough to win, leaving him to pick up the pieces. In an attempt to build a playoff contender, he brought in Taylor Hall and Eric Staal during the 2020 offseason.
While those moves ultimately were not the right fit, he was able to move them at the trade deadline to pick up some extra assets, signaling the beginning of another rebuild for the team. Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen were moved during the offseason, and Eichel, their franchise player, was traded in November. These were not easy decisions and surely were difficult to make, but the returns they received in those trades have worked out in the short term and should in the long term as well.
Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs were acquired in the Eichel trade, and both made immediate impacts last season. One of the points of emphasis for Adams has been adding players who want to play in Buffalo, and Tuch fits that model perfectly. He grew up as a Sabres fan and lived next to former Sabre Tim Connolly as a child. The pride he takes in wearing a Sabres uniform is genuine, and his acquisition has been a major key to the overall improvement of the team.
Those trades also brought numerous draft picks and prospects the Sabres’ way, and while it takes time for these players to reach the NHL, there have been some promising returns already, as well as reasons for future optimism.
Adams Following His Long-Term Plan
The first draft pick Adams made as GM will likely be a full-time Sabre this season. Jack Quinn was a first-round pick in the 2020 draft, and shortly after, the Sabres selected JJ Peterka in the second round. Both flashed their potential in the American Hockey League (AHL) last season and are pushing for an opportunity in the NHL this season.
Luck fell in his favor during the 2021 offseason when the Sabres won the NHL Draft Lottery and were awarded the first overall selection. They selected Owen Power, who looks to be another franchise defenseman the team can deploy with Rasmus Dahlin. They also drafted Isak Rosen, Prokhor Poltapov and Aleksandr Kisakov in 2021, all of which add to the overall prospect depth Adams has built. At the 2022 draft, they had three first-round selections to play with as a result of the Reinhart and Eichel trades. With those selections, they added Matthew Savoie, Noah Ostlund and Jiri Kulich to the mix, giving the Sabres tremendous center depth throughout the organization.
The acquisition of assets has been nothing short of impressive, from both trades and through the draft. While Krebs was ready for the NHL when acquired, they also received goaltending prospect Devon Levi, who, along with Erik Portillo, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Topias Leinonen, gives them a great chance at having a future starting goaltender to develop. They also have three second-round selections in the 2023 draft, all residuals from the major offseason overhaul in 2021. They are taking a long-term approach to how they build the team, and trusting the long-term plan has been a refreshing change under Adams.
Sabres Building Impressive Front Office
Any move the organization makes appears to be calculated, efficient, and with the full support of everyone involved in the process. Adams deserves a lot of credit, but it would be foolish not to mention some of the strong hockey minds he has surrounded himself with to create their vision. Assistant GM Jason Karmanos, vice president of hockey strategy and research Sam Ventura, and director of amateur scouting Jerry Forton have all played important roles alongside him, and having the GM surrounded by talented people bodes well for the future.
Lastly, Adams made the correct hire when selecting their head coach, as Don Granato has been an excellent fit for the players in the room. Even last season, with a limited-talent group, he was able to connect with the players and produce some results. Having Adams and Granato on the same page about where the team is heading emphasizes the culture of unity and cohesion that Adams has created.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Adams’ tenure is the patience level he has held throughout. He has taken the slow and methodical approach to rebuilding, opting to use a surplus of draft picks to build from the ground up. He is also patient in his trade approach, choosing to wait until he was offered a fair return for players like Eichel and Reinhart to make those moves. He conducts business on his own terms, and the patient approach has proven successful thus far in their pursuit to rebuild their prospect pool. It will likely be a year or two until we see the ultimate vision for the franchise come to fruition, but in the meantime, it is hard not to get excited about where the Sabres are heading under his leadership.
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Zach Rohde is a Buffalo Sabres Contributor for THW. Growing up in the Buffalo area during the late 2000s, the Sabres success fueled his passion for hockey. He has written about the Sabres for another site in Buffalo previously, and covered Buffalo Sports for a brief time as a freelance sports assistant for Spectrum News Buffalo before moving to a full time position in general news. Twitter: @ZachRohde