Ever since the search for the new Buffalo Sabres general manager began some days ago, it’s been overshadowed by the ongoing NHL and NBA playoffs, this weekend’s NFL draft, and having to vote in our Sabres season GIF contest.
But over the past few days, some news has trickled out about who the Sabres have already interviewed, who they’re expected to interview, and who they can’t, or won’t, interview.
The Sabres have interviewed Pittsburgh Assistant GM Bill Guerin, and if that name sounds familiar it’s because he was still playing for the Penguins in 2010. Since then, he’s worked as the team’s player development coach and was promoted to AGM in 2014. Guerin has been a name on the rise thanks to his reputation as a hard worker and his keen eye for talent, and he has the name recognition that the Pegulas seem to like.
Buffalo has also been heavily linked to Pittsburgh’s Associate GM Jason Botterill, but he has not yet been interviewed.
Hearing that Bill Guerin has interviewed for the Sabres GM job. Obviously several other candidates have as well or will. It's a process.— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) April 26, 2017
UPDATE: Pierre LeBrun is now reporting that he believes Botterill has already been interviewed by Buffalo.
Aside from Guerin...we haven’t heard of anybody else the Sabres have officially interviewed. On Wednesday, Kim Pegula told WGR 550 that they were trying to keep the search “under wraps” but that plenty of work is happening behind the scenes. It’s smart to try and keep more of a lid on things consdidering how the last regime ended, but I’m sure we’ll hear more once the Pegulas, who also own the Buffalo Bills, finish their business with the NFL Draft this weekend.
Two interesting names linked to the Sabres GM search were Arizona GM John Chayka, the young, analytics-based thinker, and Chris Drury, a former Sabres favorite who is now the Assistant GM of the New York Rangers.
There are many names that have been linked to the vacant Buffalo GM position, with varying degrees of certainty.
One of the biggest names, Dean Lombardi, formerly of the Los Angeles Kings, has not yet interviewed with Buffalo, nor have the Sabres even requested an interview. Lombardi has plenty of experience and he did build a two-time Cup winner in LA, but also left them in cap jail after signing his (again, Cup-winning) players to big contracts that now look like anchors.
Hearing the interview process has begun in Buffalo for GM.— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) April 25, 2017
Just talked to the Kings. Still no request to talk to Lombardi.
UPDATE: It has been reported that the Sabres have asked LA to interview their Assistant GM Mike Futa, but not Lombardi.
There’s also the aforementioned Jason Botterill, who has risen the ranks through the Penguins organization since being hired in 2007 as director of hockey administration, where he dealt with salary cap and contract matters. He was promoted to Assistant GM in 2009, and also served as interim GM for a while in 2014. He’s been a hot general manager candidate for a few offseasons now, and at 40 years old, he brings a nice blend of youth and experience.
Other names we’ve heard more than once include Mike Futa (also from LA), Norm Maciver (AGM in Chicago), Bill Zito (AGM in Columbus), Paul Fenton (AGM in Nashville), and Kyle Dubas (AGM in Toronto).
Of those, my personal choices would either Zito or Dubas, as both are young, analytic-minded, forward-thinking AGMs who have lead their AHL teams to deep playoff success and helped build two promising young rosters in Columbus and Toronto, respectively. Fenton and Maciver also deserve serious consideration for how they’ve helped to build Chicago and Nashville up to be perennial playoff contenders. Could Fenton work the same magic with the Buffalo blue line that he has in Nashville, or would Maciver be the best choice to help navigate the salary cap with young stars?
So we still have plenty of candidates to froth over, and this list doesn’t include people who could potentially slide into a Director of Hockey Operations role, like former Sabres Rick Dudley and Kevyn Adams.
We’ll likely hear more concrete news starting next week, but of the names mentioned, who would be your choice as the new Sabres general manager?