General manager Kevyn Adams built the Buffalo Sabres from the ground up, trading away established talent, and stacking the organization’s prospects pool.
When Kevyn Adams took over as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres, he inherited nothing short of a product that was no quick fix. To Adams’ credit, he realized this, and he didn’t panic, instead establishing a plan to fill the organization’s prospect pool with young talent through the draft, and shedding the team of its star players who were fed up with the constant turnover.
After enjoying a solid NHL Draft in 2020 that landed Jack Quinn and J.J. Peterka, Adams really got to work in the Summer of 2021, trading away Rasmus Ristolainen and Sam Reinhart. From those trades, the Sabres got Isak Rosen (14th overall, 2021), Devon Levi, and Jiri Kulich (28th overall, 2022). And in case you haven’t noticed, they’re among the most exciting young players to watch in the Blue and Gold’s system.
Also to Adams’ credit, he also held on to several players from the Jason Botterill era instead of moving them. Players like Dylan Cozens, Lukas Rousek, Rasmus Dahlin, Mattias Samuelsson, Casey Mittelstadt, Jacob Bryson, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen have either become household names, or have at least played well enough to see time in the NHL.
The common denominator? The Buffalo Sabres drafted all of the above, sans Levi, who went in the seventh round to the Florida Panthers.
Buffalo Sabres general manager could be laying a blueprint
While it’s common to see NHL general managers attempt to stockpile their respective prospects pools, it’s also common to see them try to wheel and deal their way into immediate success. Sometimes, it works, but the cost is that a general manager is increasing the odds of shortening their window of success. And if the plan fails, chances are, they’re looking for another job sooner than later.
Look at Steve Yzerman in Detroit, for example. What I just mentioned is exactly how Yzerman tried to build the Detroit Red Wings, and things didn’t go according to plan. While Yzerman still has a job, his seat is undoubtedly growing hotter. We also saw the Ottawa Senators front office do something similar, but to a lesser extent.
Meanwhile, Adams stuck to his plan, didn’t pull off any major trades for marquee talent, or even attempt to sign them to the roster. Instead, he made the Buffalo Sabres younger, relying on primarily homegrown talent to field the lineup this past season, or if that talent was acquired in a trade, like Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch, for example, they were young, and not established as top scorers in the NHL.
Sure, his free agent signings were rather uninspiring since taking over, with Ilya Lyubshkin and Eric Comrie joining the team this past season. Yeah, they had a lot of cap space, so Adams could have made those blockbusters, but he resisted the temptation, despite the criticism that followed.
But after improving the Buffalo Sabres to a 75-point season in 2021-22 and 91 points last year, those critics have since been hushed up. Adams clearly knew what he was doing, and these days, just about everyone is talking playoffs in Buffalo for 2023-24.
No guarantees that will happen, but if it does, don’t be surprised if other NHL franchises latch on to Adams’ method of building an NHL contender for long-term success. It’s a method that’s becoming more tried and true by the season, and it’s revolutionary in today’s NHL landscape.
(Historical data provided by Hockey-Reference)