With NHL Draft Lottery Win, Sabers Have Chance To Take Franchise From Trash Can To Respectability
When NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly handed the card to the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery to show the Sabers would hold the No. 1 pick in the July Draft, Buffalo general manager Kevyn Adams said sounded like a happy guy – for a second. Then he looked like a guy who just put the weight of the world on his shoulders.
“It’s been a tough season, a lot of adversity,” said Adams. “We were in the position we were in, and you sure don’t want to be there, but that’s the reality… The things we’ve been through this year feel a little better about it. It’s a huge one. opportunity for our franchise to improve. I think this is a really big step, something that we needed and [are] enthusiasm.”
“Difficult season” is an understatement. Things haven’t been going well in western New York for a while.
Sure, the Sabers have had good teams and Hall of Famers in the past, but recent memory erases that. Since the Stanley Cup Final in 1999, they have made the playoffs only six times. The last time the Sabers made the playoffs was in 2011, when Buffalo lost in seven games to Philadelphia in the first round. Since then, the club have finished last in their division in five of the past 10 seasons.
This is the fifth time that Taylor Hall’s most recent eligible team have won the draft lottery. He was also drafted with a winning lottery pick. He was also once traded for a player who was drafted with a winning lottery pick.
– Down Goes Brown (@DownGoesBrown) June 2, 2021
The Sabers found themselves at the bottom of the division again in 2021 despite the addition of Taylor Hall (who, by the way, may have once again done his lottery magic in the draft) during the offseason. Hall scored just two goals and had 19 points in 37 games before being dispatched on the trade deadline to the Bruins, who are heading into the playoffs. Ralph Krueger was fired from the head coach after 28 games and then, during his last media availability of the season, Jack Eichel expressed his displeasure.
“There was a bit of a disconnect between the organization and myself. It was difficult at times,” said Eichel, who missed the last 34 games of the regular season with a neck injury. “Right now I think the most important thing for me is to try to be healthy and find a way to be available to play hockey next year, wherever it is.
The 24-year-old captain was also upset with the team’s handling of his neck injury, saying he preferred the surgery, but not the team.
“It doesn’t work that way. I wish… I’m under contract with this team, and they definitely have a lot of cards on what I can and can’t do,” he said.
Now Adams, entering his second season as general manager, will have to make the right choice to satisfy not only his captain – who, if you read between the lines on ‘anywhere’, is potentially considering asking for a trade – but also the fans who lost their rights with a club that was a trash fire.
And this year’s draft is not easy. Last year the Rangers picked first and had the easy task of taking Alexis Lafrenière as the Canadian was known to be the better guy for months, if not years.
But that is no longer the case now. There is no consensus on guy # 1. Defenseman Owen Power seems like the more likely choice, but there are also University of Michigan teammates Matthew Beniers and Kent Johnson. Other big names include Dylan Guenther, Brandt Clark, and Hughes’ third brother, Luke.
“It can change the course of your franchise,” Adams said of pick # 1. “Sure, it’s energizing for the players in the room. I’m sure if you’ve asked our players, they are excited right now. It’s energizing for our fans. It’s energizing just for the people who work in this organization who love this place so much. It’s all of the above, and it’s a big one, I would say , a step in the right direction where we are heading.
“We are delighted to add the next great Buffalo Saber player to our franchise.”