A Little Background
I’m a fan of Kevyn Adams. When the Carolina Hurricanes acquired him way back in January of 2002, I didn’t think much of it. Honestly, I was more preoccupied with the failed Sandis Ozolinsh experiment. Little did I know what lie ahead for the Hurricanes in the 2002 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Carolina didn’t win the Championship that year and Adams really took it to heart.
They would, however, bring the Stanley Cup home just 4 years later. In the retrospective DVD chronicling the Hurricanes’ 2005-06 season, Adams recalled coming up short in 2002 and the pain of losing in the Finals and not knowing if you’ll ever get back there.
Now, a decade and a half after hoisting the Cup, Adams is in a new role—GM of the Buffalo Sabres. The underlying question (will we ever get back?) is every bit as valid for the one-time Canes’ forward, but the target of the question has changed:
In their 50-plus year history, the Buffalo Sabres have had plenty of ups and downs, highlighted by a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999. Led by the incomparable Dominik Hasek, the Sabres ultimately lost in six games on a goal that—to this day—continues to court controversy.
The team had middling success in the subsequent years but failed at making another deep postseason run. That changed coming out of the 2004-05 NHL lockout as the Sabres made consecutive appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals. While they failed to return to the championship round, there was promise, there was talent, and there was the hope of making a return.
That seemed destined when, in early 2011, billionaire Terry Pegula took over as the team’s owner. Armed with deep pockets, Pegula pledged to bring the Stanley Cup to the fans of Buffalo.
I won’t dwell on this other than to point out the following:
- Since Pegula bought the Sabres, they have employed 6 different head coaches, 5 of whom were hired with Pegula as owner. Don Granato, functioning as the interim coach since March 17, 2021, is the 7th bench boss of the team during the Pegula Era
- During this time, the franchise is on its 4th General Manager
- The Sabres have failed to qualify for the postseason since a first-round loss following the 2010-11 season
Needless to say, things have not gone according to plan.
Set Up To Fail
When Kevyn Adams was hired as the Sabres’ General Manager in June of 2020, he inherited a team in disarray. Worse than that, he inherited a team with no clear direction or identity. To be fair, this wasn’t a hidden fact, especially considering the comments made by then-Buffalo center Ryan O’Reilly two years earlier regarding the team’s mindset of losing being acceptable, if not expected:
O’Reilly was moved to the St. Louis Blues and went on to be a key piece in bringing the Gateway City its first Stanley Cup. The Sabres, meanwhile, remain mired in irrelevance. Franchise face Jack Eichel has shown growing displeasure with the state of the team.
Jeff Skinner was acquired and, following a 40-goal effort, secured a lucrative, long-term contract and promptly fell off the map. In the 92 games since his breakthrough effort (as of writing) Skinner has posted 17 goals and 28 points.
Taylor Hall was a huge free agent signing, inking a one-year, $8 million contract with Buffalo. In 36 games with the Sabres, Hall has netted 2 goals and 18 points.
Rasmus Dahlin, the 1st overall pick in the 2018 Draft, has shown severe regression as it becomes increasingly clear that, if he ever comes close to reaching his potential, it won’t be with the Sabres.
The losing culture that O’Reilly lamented is alive and well and, while he didn’t create it, it falls on Kevyn Adams to fix it. It’s a less than ideal situation for a first-time GM.
Without question, giving the fans the team they deserve will take tenacity.
Thankfully, that’s something that Adams possesses in abundance.