Let the games begin. According to John Shannon of Sportsnet, the Buffalo Sabres have started interviewing potential candidates for their vacant general manager position.
Dean Lombardi, the former general manager of the Los Angeles Kings has been a name that has generated a lot of interest and speculation, but according to Shannon, the Sabres have not reached out for permission to talk with the Stanley Cup winning GM. That, of course, could change, but it appears the Sabres have other candidates in mind.
Hearing the interview process has begun in Buffalo for GM.
Just talked to the Kings. Still no request to talk to Lombardi.
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) April 25, 2017
So who might they be?
Rick Dudley, maybe his name rings a bell? The former Sabres player in the early 70's and coach in the late 80's/early 90's [I remember both like it was yesterday] is currently an executive with the Montreal Canadiens. Dudley has served as a general manager with the Senators, Lightning, Panthers and Thrashers.
Dudley is seasoned compared to some of the other names on this list, but Pegula has said he wants to hire an experienced candidate. Since Pegula made that hint last Friday, multiple reports have surfaced that the Sabres are looking to hire someone fresh and new.
Lots of questions about "New Blood" in Sabres' search... Look for names like Botterill,Futa,Conroy,Gilman,Fenton,Dubas...to be in the mix.
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) April 22, 2017
Undoubtedly someone 'younger' who has served as an assistant general manager or in some sort of secondary position can have experience, but only Pegula will know if the candidate meets his criteria. Dudley without a doubt does.
"Chris Druuuuuuury, who else? Who else? Chris Drury has tied it at one with 7.7 seconds to go! Oh brother," - Rick Jeanneret
Any Sabres fan older than 18 likely remembers that goal like it was yesterday. Since retiring Drury has climbed the ranks and is currently the New York Rangers Assistant General Manager.
The connections to Buffalo are obvious but is the 40-year-old willing to leave a stable Rangers organization to try and fix a Sabres team with a lot of issues? We'll see.
Jason Botterill like Drury and Dudley played for the Sabres [briefly in the early 2000's]. If you remember that kudos to you. He's currently the associate general manager for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Botterill briefly served as the interim GM of the Penguins but was passed up by Jim Rutherford for the full-time responsibilities in 2014. The 40-year old stayed on the staff as the associate GM and helped the Penguins win a Stanley Cup in 2016.
According to hockey writer Chuck Gormley, Norm Maciver, the Chicago Blackhawks assistant general manager is a strong candidate to fill the Sabres GM vacancy. Things didn't go according to plan for the Blackhawks this season but Maciver has a history of winning. Since joining the Blackhawks the team has won three Stanley Cup championships (two as an assistant General Manager).
Mark Hunter & Kyle Dubas are like many others on this list --they are both assistant general managers with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hiring Dubas would turn some heads, he's only 30-years-old, but has an impressive resume.
There are plenty of other options -- but these are just a few of the more notable names that have been thrown around.
The Pegula's first priority should and likely will be to hire a new general manager. Together they can make the decision on Dan Bylsma's successor.
It appears that the Vancouver Canucks have hired Travis Green, who has been coaching their AHL affiliate Utica Comets for the past four seasons, leaving only the Florida Panthers and Sabres with head coach openings. This process is incredibly important and shouldn't be rushed, but with the expansion draft, NHL draft and free agency all looming, it shouldn't be dragged out either.