The pandemic struck and the world was put on hold. Businesses across the US shut down or slowed down. This also affected sports. NBA and NHL shutdown their seasons months early. Many pro sports teams had to furlough or terminate long time employees, especially in the NHL.
One of those NHL teams were the Buffalo Sabres, whom released many of their long-time scouts and management, and when the dust settled, the Sabres were left with a new General Manager in Kevyn Adams, and only 9 of their 21 scouts they had listed on the team directory. The NHL average for scouting departments is 14. With the sight of the end of the pandemic in view, the Sabres are starting to rebuild, from the very top.
First, Head Coach Ralph Krueger, along with assistant coach Steve Smith, were relieved of their duties after an unexpected dismal start to this season. GM Adams stated in his press conference after the terminations that he will begin an exhaustive coaching search immediately. Adams also said he will be adding an Assistant GM. One name that seems to have risen to the top of the list is former Hurricanes and Penguins exec Jason Karmanos. Karmanos comes with an impressive resume, and could be the perfect senior advisor to Kevyn Adams, the position of right-hand man that has become a necessity because of the increasing burdens of a big-league operation.
Next on the list will be hiring a coach. “It is about getting it right,” when Adams was asked what he was looking for in a coach. A few names have come up, include Gerard Gallant and Bruce Boudreau, along with college coach Nate Leaman. Could be closer to the draft or just after before the Sabres hire a Head Coach.
Some huge concerns for Sabres fans include Pegula “meddling”, which while many had the opinion that might be the case, came more to light when Kevin Weekes of the NHL Network spoke on WGR Radio about how the owners of the Sabres are too involved and need to back off like they have with the Bills. It is well known that Kevyn Adams has been being groomed for this role for many years. He held the role of Senior Vice President of Business Administration for 2 years before being named the GM of the team. People with knowledge of the situation have said that the Pegulas trust Kevyn Adams and, like the Bills staff, has been given the keys to the Ferrari and a “green light”. This is Adams team now.
Another concern, amid the firings and furloughs that came about last year due to the pandemic and the Pegulas stating they must get leaner during the financial crisis, the owners would not spend the money needed to right the ship. History is NOT on the fans side on this one. Many reported last summer the organization would be working with an “internal salary cap”, while no one from inside the Sabres’ organization confirmed any of that to be true. As it turned out, it was not, and Adams spent to the cap, including landing the big fish, Taylor Hall.
Spending money has never been an issue for the Pegulas. Look at the downtown area of Buffalo and the money spent over the years on the teams, Bills and Sabres.
While the pandemic affected them as it did most businesses, they are businesspeople. They could not keep staff on a payroll when there was no work to be done.
As the world returns to normalcy, and fans will be allowed in the stands, lost revenue from the last 12 months will be recouped:
- Expansion fee for the Seattle Kraken is $650 million, which will be spread equally across 30 NHL teams, giving the Pegulas $21.67 million dollars this September.
- New TV deal with ESPN/Disney will equate to over $13 million per team each of the next 7 seasons.
- An additional $6.25 million per team each of the next 7 seasons from the remaining broadcast rights, which will go to either NBC, FOX or CBS.
So, with the expansion fee and new TV deals, the Pegulas are about to net over $40 million dollars this September, and $20 million each the following 6 seasons. This will allow the them to open back up their purse strings and put money into building the Buffalo Sabres into what Terry Pegula has dreamed since he bought the franchise, with the goal in mind to win the Stanley Cup.
The dust is settling, and the promise of a new era for Buffalo hockey looks promising.