In a statement released by owners Terry and Kim Pegula on Tuesday last week, the Buffalo Sabres announced that they would be replacing Jason Botterill with Kevyn Adams at the general manager position. Adams comes into the role with no former NHL management experience after being promoted from the team’s senior vice-president of business administration. There has been a lot of skepticism around the situation that saw Buffalo immediately replace Botterill with Adams, who is completely new to the position, rather than taking time to search for experienced and qualified candidates.
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Let’s take a look through Adams’ history with the Pegulas and his experience in the NHL as a former coach and player to see why ownership believes he is the right guy to save the Sabres organization and lead them to long-term success.
Former Sabres Assistant Coach
Adams was originally hired by the Sabres organization on Aug. 3, 2011 as an assistant coach. The hiring came just months after Terry Pegula purchased the franchise from Tom Golisano on Feb. 18, 2011.
He served as an assistant coach for nearly two years, before getting fired on May 9, 2013, two days after Ron Rolston was named as the team’s new head coach. In his two seasons of coaching, the Sabres posted records of 39-32-11 in the 2011-12 season and 21-21-6 in the shortened 2012-13 season. These were the first two seasons of the Sabres’ current nine-season playoff drought, the longest active drought in the NHL.
Pegulas Re-Hire Adams Under a New Role
Only five months after his firing from the Sabres, the Pegulas hired Adams as the vice-president and director of the Academy of Hockey program at the LECOM Harborcenter, a mixed-use complex owned and operated by the Pegulas’ holding company, Pegula Sports and Entertainment. Three months later, he was promoted to general manager of the complex. He also served as president of the Buffalo Jr. Sabres, the only American club competing in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, Ontario’s highest level of Junior A hockey.
The leadership Adams exemplified through his coaching stint and work with LECOM Harborcenter was enough for the Pegulas to bring him back to the Sabres organization on Sept. 23, 2019 as the team’s senior vice-president of business administration.
“Kevyn has been a valuable member of our leadership team since 2013 and is the perfect person to oversee the Buffalo Sabres’ day-to-day business operations,” Kim Pegula said in a statement from 2019. “Kevyn brings unsurpassed experience, perspective and vision to this position. He exemplifies our company values of teamwork, respect, accountability, integrity, trust and success; and will further our company mission in this role.”
Stanley Cup Champion, First NHL Player from DC
Selected 25th overall by the Boston Bruins in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, Adams is a Stanley Cup champion with 540 games played in the NHL, tallying 59 goals, 77 assists, and 317 penalty minutes. He is also the first player in NHL history to be born in the District of Columbia.
In 2006, he helped lead the Carolina Hurricanes to their first-ever Stanley Cup championship as the team’s alternate captain. Throughout his career, Adams also played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, Phoenix Coyotes, and Chicago Blackhawks. His best season was in 2000-01 when he recorded 29 points with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Florida Panthers in 78 games played. He eventually retired from professional hockey on Jan. 6, 2009, to become a player-agent.
After the firings of 22 Sabres employees, including Botterill and nearly 70 percent of their scouting staff, all eyes are on Adams to rebuild the organization from the ground up. He may have proven himself worthy to the Pegulas, but he has a long road ahead if he plans on proving himself to the Sabres faithful with nearly no relative work experience to show. With Buffalo fans at the breaking point, the fate of the downward-spiraling Sabres lies in his hands.
Tom Pepper is an NHL columnist at The Hockey Writers.