Welcome to another edition of Sabres Scoop, The Hockey Writers’ weekly column discussing all things Buffalo Sabres. This week, ‘Sabres Scoop’ co-hosts Jordan Jacklin and Brandon Seltenrich sound off on some of the biggest storylines, news, and rumors about the organization.
With general manager (GM) Kevyn Adams making the call to hire Don Granato as the Sabres’ full-time head coach, one of the biggest offseason tasks is checked off and out of the way. But Adams’ work is far from over — the Sabres must shift their focus to the upcoming Seattle Expansion Draft and the 2021 Entry Draft, and some front office hires are being made in anticipation of a more-busy-than-usual offseason. Check out our thoughts on these topics below, and let us know what you think in the comments section.
Sabres Make Two Hires In Hockey Operations Department
The Sabres made two hires to their Hockey Operations department over the past week, starting with Sam Ventura, who comes from the Pittsburgh Penguins organization and will be the new Vice President of Hockey Strategy and Research, adding to the Sabres’ analytics department. They also hired Jason Nightingale, who has been with the Sabres organization in different capacities since 2013, to be the new Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting.
Jordan: Sabres’ Associate GM Jason Karmanos was the one who hired Ventura in Pittsburgh originally, so it shouldn’t be a surprise now that he’s in Buffalo, and it’s quite interesting. Nightingale has been with the team since 2013, and actually has a background in scouting and analytics, so he will hopefully be able to help the Sabres’ scouting department in this year’s draft and in the future.
Brandon: I think Ventura is a good hire, and not only because of his reputation working with an organization like the Penguins, especially in recent years, which shows you have a certain level of pedigree and success, but because he’s not the first person to come from Pittsburgh to Buffalo, maybe that’s a recipe for winning down the road. Most of all, it actually gives me hope that Adams sort of has a vision planned out for what kind of front office he wants to build — having a robust scouting and analytics department can pay dividends for your organization.
Should Sabres Fans Be Excited About the Upcoming Draft?
The hiring of two new additions to the Hockey Operations department in Ventura and Nightingale shows the Sabres are making a commitment to building out the scouting, analytics, and player development sides of the front office, and that could help with their draft strategy in this year’s draft, and moving forward. However, given their recent draft history and failure to develop good prospects, is this year’s first-overall pick something to be excited about?
Jordan: Outside of the Sabres’ first-overall pick, there are still six rounds the team has to draft in, and just looking at their recent draft history, it’s really not that great at all, not even their later first-round picks, let alone rounds two through seven. If they want to start winning here, that’s really going to have to change, which is what this whole “re-tool, re-build” thing is about. They need to get better at drafting, and it’s time to try and get some results on that side of things.
Brandon: Absolutely. The pressure is on with the first-overall pick, and what they do with the pick matters a lot. We should try not to base this year and moving forward on the mistakes of the past, especially when you’re hiring these types of people to build out a staff that can scout and draft well — there’s reason to be excited. They have three picks in the top-52 this year, so they need to make those count.
Can the Jack Eichel Trade Get Done Before the Expansion Draft?
On last week’s 31 Thoughts podcast, Sportsnet analyst Elliotte Friedman suggested that the asking price for Jack Eichel is apparently too high for interested teams, and it’s making a trade difficult. He also mentioned that the “resolution” for his impending neck surgery is coming soon, as the Sabres believe Eichel is running out of time for a surgery to be done for him to be ready for training camp. The draft is less than two weeks away now, and the pressure is on to get a deal done before then.
Jordan: The Vegas Golden Knights, who seem to be in on every player every offseason, are apparently interested in Eichel, and they do actually have a need for him at first-line center. There are other teams, too, like the Los Angeles Kings, who I don’t know if they are actually out or not. The New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets — if these teams really want Eichel before they start their offseason plans, they’re going to have to make their final push now by the looks of it.
Brandon: There’s not much time left. It’s nice to hear that Adams is not willing to budge and take what he thinks is a losing return, so it’s nice that he’s asking a lot for what we think is a top-10 center in the league, top-5 if he’s on the right team surrounded by the right pieces. But with less than two weeks to make this trade, it’s going to need to happen probably next week before they make their protection list for the expansion draft.
William Eklund, Protection List, & 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Outside of the Sabres’ news and rumors we discussed, we also touched on 2021 draft prospect William Eklund’s talent ceiling in the NHL, and discussed whether any other prospects should be drafted ahead of him, as the Sabres have reportedly shown great interest in him. We also talked about what the team’s protection list heading into the Seattle Expansion Draft could look like, and which players could be left exposed to the Kraken. We wrapped up with a nod to the Tampa Bay Lightning for winning their second consecutive Stanley Cup, and shared our favorite moments from the 2021 playoffs.
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Brandon is a Buffalo Sabres & San Jose Sharks Contributor for THW and Co-Host of THW’s ‘Sabres Scoop,’ who received his Master of Science in Sport Administration from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, and founded his website, Seltytending, in 2017. He is an avid hockey writer and podcaster with prior work experience in the OJHL, NWHL, and NCAA. Twitter: @BSalts15