Terry Pegula has hinted that the Buffalo Sabres are nearing a decision as to who will be named the team’s next General Manager. Several names have been leaked. A handful of interviews have been confirmed on twitter. Let’s take a look at the confirmed candidates, and those whom we would like to see get an interview.
Fenton has spent the past 10 seasons as the assistant GM in Nashville after spending time as a their Director of Pro Personnel. The 57-year-old former NHL’er was one of the last few candidates the last time the Sabres were in the market for a new general manager, but ultimately lost out to Tim Murray. Fenton interviewed last week in Buffalo. Many fans speculate that Fenton would bring current Predators’ assistant coach Phil Housley along with him to be the head man in Buffalo. Housley played for the Sabres from 1982-1990.
I know people in Pittsburgh are surprised Jason Botterill hasn't been hired. He's ready. Paul Fenton can run a team now. Brisebois too.
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) April 20, 2017
As the assistant general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Zito has spent the past four seasons mainly in charge of the team’s AHL affiliate, Lake Erie. After spending twenty years at ACME World Sports (a company which he co-founded) as a player representative, Zito joined the Blue Jackets front office in 2013, bringing insider knowledge on contract negotiation. His name is intriguing because of his time spent on both sides of the negotiating table. Surely Zito would have an excellent perception on player value, which could prove extremely helpful for a Sabres team in some cap trouble. The 50-year-old Milwaukee native also spent time on the USA Hockey advisory board in 2015.
Blue Jackets AGM Bill Zito interviewed with the Sabres on Saturday. The Sabres are interviewing a lot of quality people. Zito a smart dude
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) April 30, 2017
Sabres fans may recognize his name from his brief stint as a fourth-liner on the team form 2002-2004. Despite a rather forgettable career in the NHL (scoring just 10 points in 88 games at the NHL level), at just 40 years old, Botterill has made his mark as a front office salary cap guru as the assistant general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins. After retiring from professional hockey as a Rochester Amerk in 2005, Botterill pursued his MBA at the University of Michigan. Known for being a big proponent of analytics in asset management, Botterill was a huge piece of the transition team after the Penguins fired Dan Bylsma in 2014. Sound familiar?
Dreger – I believe the #Sabres have interviewed Bill Guerin and Jason Botterill. Could also look to guys like Paul Fenton and Norm MacIver
— WGR 550 (@WGR550) April 28, 2017
Also an associate general manager for the Penguins, Guerin certainly had a more illustrious playing career, however with just three years of front office experience, his interview came as a surprise to many fans. There is no question that Guerin had been a part of many winning organizations over his 18 year career (not to mention an Olympic silver medalist in 2002), but he doesn’t really match the description that Pegula mentioned in his presser. Given his relative lack of experience, there is not a whole lot out there regarding his managerial style, however it is rumored that his eye for talent and work ethic is in a class of its own.
When Terry Pegula spoke at his press conference following the firings of Tim Murray and Dan Bylsma, he made a point to emphasize his focus on experience as it pertains to the club’s next GM. Futa has spent the past decade as the assistant general manager under recently demoted Dean Lombardi. Futa’s official title with the team is Vice President of Hockey Operations and Player Personnel. The 49-year-old is widely considered the architect of the homegrown talent that made up the core of the Kings’ Stanley Cup rosters in 2012 and 2014. Futa appears to be more of a Tim Murray type with a brash attitude and a scouting background.
The 48-year-old assistant general manager of the New Jersey Devils has spent the past two seasons in the Devils’ front office. Before bolting for Toronto, former Devils GM Lou Lamoriello brought Fitzgerald aboard, having been his athletic director at Providence college in 1987. New general manager Ray Shro kept Fitzgerald aboard when he took over for Lamoriello last season. Fitzgerald’s current responsibilities with the Devils are more geared toward scouting than management, which brings his into questions whether or not he is truly ready or qualified to be a general manager. An interesting but likely inconsequential wrinkle to this particular candidate is the fact that his son Casey was drafted by the Sabres in the third round last season.
There is a wide spectrum of opinion on Lombardi from his time as general manager in Los Angeles. Though he was the architect for the both or Kings’ recent Stanley Cup rosters, he has left the organization in salary cap hell. The Kings organization confirmed last week that the Sabres have yet to request an interview with Lombadri which is strange given his experience and clout in league circles.
The assistant general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning checks almost every box for what Pegula is looking for in a GM. He has spent the past seven seasons in Tampa Bay as the AGM, where he reports directly to Steve Yzerman. At just 40 years old, Brisebois is widely regarded for his ability to use analytics as a tool in assembling a competitive NHL roster. In 2010, Yzerman described him as “one of the best young minds in the game”. Time will tell if he eventually gets an interview. He certainly deserves one
Dubas is considered to be on the cutting edge of hockey analytics. As the general manager of the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, Dubas has been in professional hockey since the age of 24, when he was hired as the youngest GM in history for Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL. As recently as last offseason, Dubas expressed that he felt he was not yet ready to become a full time NHL general manager, citing that he still has a lot to learn, according to Luke Fox of sportsnet.ca.