The Buffalo Sabres are apparently still struggling to woo a capable general manager, according to Elliotte Friedman. The New York Rangers Assistant GM – and former Sabre co-captain – Chris Drury, rejected the franchise’s attempts to interview him for the position. Drury had been in charge of player development prior to promotion to AGM, and continuing acting as a liaison for prospects and younger players. His efforts have been widely praised league-wide, as the Rangers acquired and developed wonderful college players over the years, such as Jimmy Vesey and Kevin Hayes. Bill Guerin has already been interviewed by the Sabres, and other candidates will certainly be willing to sit down with Buffalo ownership, considering that only 31 head management positions exist in the league. But this rejection cannot be perceived as a positive sign for an organization that has struggled to find strong, capable leadership. After the Jack Eichel end-of-season presser, rumors surfaced that the phenom did not want to play next season for head coach Dan Bylsma (an allegation which was adamantly denied by his agent). The rumor was lent some credibility when both the coaching and general manager were quickly dismissed thereafter.
Owner Terry Pegula will now be hunting for his 5th different coach since taking ownership of the franchise in 2011 – coincidentally, the same year that Buffalo last made the playoffs. Buffalo has struggled to attract high end talent, whether it be players or staff. The organization had been rejected by Mike Babcock in favor of Toronto when they offered the legendary coach an opportunity. Bylsma was in essence a consolation prize, and his poor overall record in Bufffalo did nothing to alleviate the memory of the faulty hiring process in the minds of fans. With regards to the GM search, we’ve heard very little chatter around the recently fired Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi in connection to Buffalo, which might be cause for concern. Especially in light of Pegula’s re-assurances that any hires would bring a wealth of experience, it seems as though Pegula is content looking to recently retired NHLers to guide the ship. Although Guerin and Drury have both undoubtedly helped their franchises in different respects (both the Penguins and Rangers are consistent playoff contenders), it seems possible that again Pegula is having to settle for second and third choices.
Whichever GM takes over for the Sabres, they will have their work cut out for them. Although the forward corps is stocked with Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo, Sam Reinhart, and Evander Kane, they still have a need for depth that plays up to capability. Goaltending was no longer at fault this season, and coaches have been swapped out like air filters. If success doesn’t come soon, scrutiny will start to fall more heavily upon ownership. Fans can only endure a rebuild for so long before they expect results.