Thursday, May 4, 2017

Keeping up with the Pegulas. Plus other Sabres stuff

Published by, 5-3-2017

Although they'll never keep up with the Kardashians as a (silly) reality show and social media dynasty, the Pegula's, Terry and Kim have their own dynasty centered around land development, sports, and music that's growing bigger by the day. Recently Pegula Sports and Entertainment just announced ventures with Labatt USA and Uber, however the areas of interest for us Buffalo sports fans is the ongoing saga with their two major sports frachises--the NHL's Buffalo Sabres and the NFL's Buffalo Bills--both of which are ships without a captain at this time.

After two very disappointing seasons from both the Sabres and the Bills, the Pegulas ended up firing both of their GM's within a matter of a week-and-a-half. One, hockey GM Tim Murray, was a surprise firing not long after the Sabres season ended while Bills GM Doug Whaley was fired 10 days later after the completion of he three-day NFL Draft. Oh to have a camera rolling as Terry and Kim, along with other insiders like PSE President Russ Brandon, discussed the futures of those two and the franchises in general.

Regardless of the lack of reality show appeal, the reality for the Pegulas centers around getting their franchises out of the dregs. And there's a ton of work to do.

What's been going on with the Pegula's and their sports teams?

--The Sabres are getting closer to finding their general manager and although there's not been an official count of who they've interviewed so far, piecing things together via twitter and media reports has the total at six or more. But the big development is the Sabres reportedly bringing in Pittsburgh Penguins AGM Jason Botterill for a second interview. From what I've been told, the Pegulas were very impressed with him, fellow Penguins front office-man Bill Guerin and Calgary Flames AGM Craig Conroy during their respective interviews.

--As for the Bills GM search, things are just getting started. The Pegulas, in conjunction with head coach Sean McDermott, are said to be very interested in Carolina Panthers AGM Brandon Beane, whom McDermott worked with while in Carolina, and it's also been reported that Houston Texans director of player personnel, Brian Gaine is slated for an interview tomorrow.

--Be it known that contrary to popular belief, Sabres franchise center Jack Eichel is not involved in the search for either GM. He's busy in Germany and France playing for Team USA in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships. Eichel was on the top line with wingers Anders Lee (NYI) and Johnny Gadreau (CGY) for USA as they had a tune-up game. Eichel scored with his a wicked-wrister 1:24 into the game. The real bullets fly beginning on Friday.

--Fellow Sabres Ryan O'Reilly is on Team Canada in the tournament. O'Reilly was playing right wing on the top line which is becoming the norm for him in international play.

--We all know the story of Evander Kane getting into some trouble last June while Buffalo was hosting the NHL Entry Draft. Kane and his attorney made a plea agreement with Buffalo City Court Judge Barbara Johnson-Lee who last fall, according to the Buffalo News, ordered an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal of the charges. Kane kept his nose clean and charges were dismissed. Now the big question. With one year left on his contract and a reported strong disliking of him by Kim Pegula (and presumably, Terry as well) where does the talented winger end up? Many (like myself) would like to see him extended at a reasonable rate and term while others can't wait for him to be moved.

--Speaking of things being moved, TBN's Mike Harrington wants the Sabres to move the eighth-overall pick in the NHL Draft. The reasoning, "Winning next year has to be an immediate priority and improving the blueline is paramount." Harrington wants the new GM to package the first-rounder to a "defense-rich" team to land an "NHL-level" defenseman. By NHL-level, I'm assuming he means at least a top-four.

--Harrington has a solid foundation for his beliefs, but perhaps it's a tad early to go for the immediacy of NHL-level help on the blueline. The Sabres have the eighth pick which should land them one of the top three defensemen in the draft. Although there aren't any marquis names in this draft, ala McDavid/Eichel, Matthews/Laine, it's a draft where an incubation period is to be expected for most prospects. Word from the draft pundits is that there are some talented  d-men in the draft that are pretty much equal but have different traits. I get the idea that patience sux for those of us in Sabreland, but perhaps we should let the new GM get a draft under his belt and get a feel for what he has before moving a first-rounder.

--UMASS commit Cale Makar, Tri-City (WHL) defenseman Juuso Valimaki and Swedish Super Elit d-man Timothy Liljegren are generally seen atop the group of d-prospects and dependent upon what those in front of the Sabres do, any or all could be there when the Sabres pick at No. 8.

--On Sunday Terry Pegula announced that not only did he fire his football GM, but also the entire Bills scouting department. With that in mind and the NHL Draft fast approaching, Sabres fans are worried about the team heading into this draft without a GM and a scouting department that might be on edge. The Buffalo News put fears to rest with an article saying that a massive overhaul of the scouting department isn't in the cards in Buffalo. As for the GM not being on board yet with the draft less than two months away, the scouting department has their lists and should be gathering soon to compare notes. And we should also not forget that Kevin Devine is still on board. Devine, a former Sabres AGM and Head Amateur Scout, has run drafts before so there shouldn't be that much to worry about in that department.

--Finally, amidst the positives coming out of PSE in the form of the Labatt and UBER joint ventures, the NHL announced that their Draft Combine will remain in Buffalo for 2019. The combine moved from Toronto to Buffalo in 2015 with the Sabres putting on quite the show downtown. HARBORCENTER with it's spaciousness and proximity to KeyBank Center plus two Marriotts right on the doorstep, makes an ideal setting for the combine, NHL reps, the media and attendees.

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