Kevyn Adams oversaw the overhaul of Buffalo Sabers hockey operations, installed Don Granato as coach, guided the franchise through its dispute with former star player Jack Eichel, and overhauled the organization’s roster from top to bottom.
Although the Sabers are still in the early stages of Adams’ plan to build a winner in Buffalo, his work as general manager for more than two calendar years has officially earned him a multi-year contract extension, the Sabers announced Wednesday. at the official start of training camp. .
“Kevyn’s leadership and vision over the past two seasons has proven invaluable, and I’m confident in his ability to continue to move us forward as an organization,” Sabers owner Terry Pegula said in a statement. a statement. “He is respected by players, coaches, staff and his league peers because of the assertiveness with which he carries himself and the respect he gives to every individual he meets. He has evolved in different roles within the organization, providing him with unique perspectives that help him perform at the highest level as a CEO.
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“Along with the fans and the community, I am pleased to see Kevyn continue to build a winning culture on and off the ice. Additionally, I appreciate his communication skills and dedication to the entire organization. I am thrilled to extend Kevyn’s contract and have him lead the Buffalo Sabers for several years to come.”
Adams, 47, a Clarence native and Stanley Cup champion during his NHL playing career, has proven his worth since his promotion to general manager in June 2020.
“Not to get too sentimental, but it’s a dream job,” Adams said. “Not just because it’s a general manager position in the National Hockey League. But because that’s the job of the general manager of the Buffalo Sabers. »
His first coaching recruit, Granato, transformed the Sabers on the ice by implementing a fast-paced style of play that suits the club’s young talent. Adams successfully pivoted after a 2020-21 season in which Buffalo endured an 18-game winless streak that cost Ralph Krueger his coaching job and led to the departure of veterans, rental forwards Taylor Hall and Eric Staal, who were both traded for draft picks.
Adams then shipped former franchise cornerstones Rasmus Ristolainen and Sam Reinhart in the summer of 2021 while continuing a standoff with Eichel over the captain’s preference to undergo artificial disc replacement surgery to repair his injured neck. The six-month saga ended in November 2021 with Eichel’s trade to the Vegas Golden Knights, which brought a batch of NHL-ready players and prospects to Buffalo.
For Eichel, the Sabers acquired Alex Tuch, a childhood fan of the club while growing up in Baldwinsville; center Peyton Krebs; and two draft picks, including a first-round selection Buffalo used in July against Swedish center Noah Ostlund.
With Tuch and Krebs, and a healthy roster around them, the Sabers had a breakthrough late last season with a point percentage that ranked 13e in the NHL from the beginning of March to the end of April, a period of 26 games.
Praised for his patience and leadership by others in the organization, Adams opted to hire Granato instead of a big-name, veteran NHL bench chief in the summer of 2021. Granato, who had a extensive head coaching experience at all other levels, including the American Hockey League, immediately injected confidence into the Sabers’ key young players by eliminating the fear that one mistake could lead to a quick benching .
“He includes everyone,” said Jerry Forton, director of amateur scouting for the Sabers. “Let everyone do their job. And he’s done an incredible job of bringing this whole organization together. I’ve seen it firsthand. Obviously we’ve been through a lot, not just the last month but the whole organization has been through a a lot since I’ve been here. To see the coaches and the development staff and the Rochester staff and all of our support staff, how everyone works together, for me, it all starts with the Pegulas and Kevyn. … But he was great on He was always professional and he’s inclusive of everyone He’s respectful And he has a lot to do managing so many people And he does it with dignity and professionalism.
The memories and experiences of all that happened behind the scenes during the Carolina Hurricanes’ championship run have shaped how Adams tries to build a winner in his hometown.
Rasmus Dahlin became one of the league’s top defensemen as a first-time all-star in 2021-22, Tage Thompson scored a remarkable 38 after switching to center in training camp, Jeff Skinner returned in-form with a 33-goal season and almost every other important young player on the list has shown significant progress under Granato.
The Sabers’ arrival in 2021-22 has garnered more fan excitement than at any other time in the second half of the current league-record 11-year playoff drought. Adams’ progress in building the prospect pipeline was on display at development camp in July and at the Prospect Challenge last week, when Buffalo got to show off its embarrassment of riches that have yet to reach the NHL, including Matt Savoie, Noah Ostlund, Jiri Kulich, Isak Rosen, Devon Levi, and Aleksandr Kisakov, among others.
Although the Sabers have yet to push for a playoff spot with Adams as general manager, public opinion of him has changed significantly since his first day on the job when he was tasked with laying off 22 employees in hockey operations, including the former general manager. Jason Botteril.
Gradually, Adams rebuilt the staff. He brought in associate general manager Jason Karmanos, hired Sam Ventura to run a larger analytics department, and ultimately replenished the scouting staff to include Russia coverage. And with the success on the ice, Adams brushed off questions from the fan base and elsewhere about his willingness to take the job after spending his post-playing career in leadership roles at LECOM Harborcenter and business operations. Sabers.
Adams had no experience in an NHL front office, but joined the organization as a development coach in 2009 and joined the coaching staff for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. . Prior to September 2019, when Adams was officially hired as the Sabers’ senior vice president of business operations, he spent more than five years as director of the Hockey Academy at LECOM Harborcenter and several months as as general manager of the complex.
Adams brought a different perspective and plan. One of his most controversial decisions early in the job went well for the Sabres. He chose to fire Chris Taylor as coach of the Rochester Americans despite a successful regular-season record and a key development success from Victor Olofsson. Adams replaced Taylor with Seth Appert, who was head coach of USA Hockey’s national team development program.
Appert led the Amerks to the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs this spring, Rochester’s most advanced since 2005, and, along with his assistant coaches Michael Peca and Mike Weber, developed the organization’s two top prospects in the NHL Ready Difference – Makers: Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka.
The Sabers have reached another phase of Adams’ plan. Equipped with ample cap space, he signed Thompson to a seven-year contract extension worth $50 million. On the ice, the club have an impressive defensive lineup, led by Dahlin, but which also includes first draft pick Owen Power, Mattias Samuelsson, Henri Jokiharju and recent signing Ilya Lubushkin. On the forward side, the Sabers have several talented forwards who have yet to reach their potential and plan to produce more offensively over time.