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Adams: “You have to learn from the past, but you can’t live in the past.”

The Sabres GM has been talking in his first press conference after signing a multi-year extension

The Buffalo Sabres announced yesterday afternoon that they had extended the contract of General Manager Kevyn Adams. No numbers were mentioned in the official press release with the rookie GM entering his third year in the job.

Adams was just the latest to take on the poisoned chalice that is the Sabres GM role, but so far has done an admirable job in navigating what has been an extremely difficult task with an injured and disgruntled superstar, other key pieces that didn’t want to be here, an extremely young and inexperienced core, an ownership that has been loath at times to spend, an extremely engaged but ultimately frustrated fanbase that has been restless after eleven years without playoff hockey, and a number of other issues that have combined to create this perfect maelstrom.

The 47-year-old has been with the organization since 2009 now when he joined as a player development coach, before becoming an assistant coach between 2011-13. He then moved on to the Academy of Hockey program while also serving as president of the Buffalo Jr. Sabres, before becoming the general manager of LECOM Harborcenter in January 2019. He was then named vice president of business administration in 2019, before being named general manager ahead of the 2020-21 season.

In his comments about the extension, owner Terry Pegula said -

“Kevyn’s leadership and vision over the past two seasons has proven to be invaluable, and I am confident in his ability to continue to move us forward as an organization. He is respected by players, coaches, staff, and peers around the league alike due to the poise with which he carries himself and the respect he reciprocates to every individual he encounters. He has grown in different roles throughout the organization, providing him unique perspectives that help him perform at the highest level as general manager.

“I, along with the fans and community, am happy to see Kevyn continue to build a winning culture both on and off the ice. Additionally, I am appreciative of his communication skills and dedication to the entire organization. I am thrilled to extend Kevyn’s contract and have him lead the Buffalo Sabres for several years to come.”

This morning Adams addressed the media in his first press conference after the extension was announced. Here are a selection of quotes from the GM, I’ll leave you to watch the full video above.

“It’s an amazing feeling for me and my family. I’m very appreciative of the opportunity I have every day, and of the Pegulas for believing in me and giving me this opportunity, and for what they do, they want to see us have success.”

On the task that lies ahead for the team -

“We have a long way to go, we have to earn everything. This time last year we talked a lot about having to earn the respect throughout the locker room and the staff, the fans, the media, and our guys took that to heart and took big steps last year.

“We are nowhere near where we need to be and want to be, and we’re going to push every day to get there. We need to figure ways to get better, figure out ways to help the coaches, help the players.”

On the subject of injuries to the squad and if he had made any changes during the summer -

“This was the first offseason for me where I had a little more time. The first few years every day felt almost like surviving, but this [injuries] were a priority. What we did in the offseason was to sit down and really look at our injuries last season, the what, why and how.

“I talked to our doctors a lot, they’re the experts, what was their take on it? Then I had individual meetings with everyone in the sports performance department. What was going to be our process for getting players back and healthy?

“What we’ve worked on is being more process-oriented, and communicating better at all levels, everybody being part of that process. This isn’t finger-pointing, it’s my job to asky why and I feel very confident now.”

On the topic of who will be the Sabres captain this season -

“We’ll have a captain this year. We’ve talked a lot about it and it’s something we’ll still spend a little bit of time on over the next week or two. We’ll have our leadership group before the start of the regular season.

“It’s great to have a captain and an assistant captain, but it’s also great to have leaders in our locker room that don’t have an ‘A’. Aside from the veterans, I look at some of our younger players like a Samuelsson, Cozens, and Krebs, these guys have been captains growing up in different teams.

“We want to create an environment and a culture where guys can come in and be themselves every day. Whether it’s a rookie or a veteran, they get to be who they are. When you do that, you’re giving players the chance to be the best version of themselves.”

Vegas Golden Knights v Buffalo Sabres
Peyton Krebs #19 celebrates his goal with Jacob Bryson #78, Dylan Cozens #24, Mattias Samuelsson #23 and Vinnie Hinostroza #29
Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

On Tage Thompson’s big extension -

“As we build this roster, we’re working towards setting it up for sustainable success. We identified our core of players who truly want to be here and we didn’t want to make decisions that block us from doing that [in the future].

“Tage is an example of a player we made a decision on, and we also know we have more of those coming, which is a great thing, because it means our own players are developing and becoming better. For Tage specifically, you don’t make these decisions in a vacuum, you look at every possible thing - the intangibles and what you can quantify from a numbers standpoint.

“I’ve been asked if he deserved this kind of deal with one year of high-end production, but I look at it differently. I love that he went through a lot of adversity to get to where he has in his career - a lot of challenges, high-profile trade, time in the minors, a tough injury, scratched, on the taxi squad, and none of this kept him down. He was never like ‘woe is me’, and that body of work he put together gives me comfort that he’s the type of player we want here for a long time.”

On the Sabres health status going into training camp -

“We had a couple [injuries] from rookie camp — Josh Bloom and Zach Berzolla missed the end of camp — overall the guys came in and are in good shape, healthy and ready to go. There are some guys we’ll monitor a little bit during camp to make sure we don’t overdo it, 40-year-olds and all that stuff!”

On expectations for Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka -

“What they did last year at their age in the AHL was pretty extraordinary. We’re evaluating them on their body of work, they’ve certainly put themselves in a good position to show they’re ready to make this next step, but they have to earn it.

“Were going to watch them closely in training camp, but you also don’t want them feeling like something they’re not, like ‘it’s all in this shift’. They’re both driven to be great, and mentally they are ready to take on this challenge - no pressure, no expectation, just be themselves.”

On goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and where he lands up this season -

“I’ve had this conversation multiple times with him, it’s more about starts for him. It’s less about where he gets his minutes and more about him getting his minutes. I truly believe that.

“He’s had some challenges with injuries and getting into that rhythm and having that foundation to build on. We believe in him 100% that he is going to be an NHL goalie, what we want is that when he’s here [Buffalo], he’s ready. Not just here to be here, but ready. We’re open, we’ll see how it shakes out but we want him playing.”

San Jose Sharks v Buffalo Sabres
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen #1
Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

On what Adams would consider a good season for the Sabres -

“I’m not going to give you a point total. What I can tell you is that at the end of last season our players started going into games believing we can win. There was a different energy, mindset, confidence, trust, than we had previously.

“As I think about our division and playing those teams and how good they are, I’m excited to see if we can go beat those teams. We’re going to beat those teams today and here’s why. How that translates into the standings, we’ll let it shake out.

“What I’ll come back to is are we winning the day, are we pushing each other, are we helping each other get better even though we’re going to have ups and downs, that’s what I’m looking for. I can’t wait, we’re all in this together, and that’s what I’ve told the players.”

On the growth of Rasmus Dahlin -

“Rasmus is a really impressive person, he cares so much. He loves being a Sabre, he wants to be here. He loves his teammates, but he is ultra-competitive and is driven to be the best, period.

“What I saw last year was a maturity even when things weren’t going perfectly for him, there was a calmness. I give the coaching staff a lot of credit for that because he had that confidence from them. If he made a mistake, it was ‘you’re going right back out there and you’re going to fix it’, and he did, he self-corrected really well, he wants to learn.

“There’s a confidence and a quiet swagger about him where he just believes in himself and he believes in his team, so I’m excited for Rasmus. He’s handling himself well off the ice too [on the Vegas media tour last weekend] which is all part of this. He’s a pretty good golfer too, I played with him a couple of weeks ago and just spent some time talking, and he’s a really special person. We’re lucky to have him.”

On whether he had been fielding calls from other GMs about player trades -

“A lot of conversations. Teams look at our situation and might want to add a player, they think maybe we can help them, but we’re not in the business of doing anyone favors, I can promise you that.

“We would do something if we think it makes sense. I get calls every day asking about our young players — ‘hey would you be interested in this, but it’s going to cost you this’ — the answer has been no because it hasn’t made sense for us.

“My job is to be in every single conversation, be open to doing anything that I can do to help our team, but what we won’t do is something in the short-term or short-sighted that is going to hurt us down the road. We have to stay disciplined and trust that what we are doing is going to get us where we want to be.”