According to multiple reports, the Buffalo Sabres have hired Seth Appert as the Rochester Americans’ new head coach. Appert, 46, spent 11 seasons as the coach of R.P.I. before taking the reigns as the coach of the USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (NTDP) in 2017. The Sabres are expected to announce the move next week.
Appert fills the position that’s been vacant since newly-minted Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams axed Chris Taylor in June, just hours after taking over from Jason Botterill.
Taylor was hired by Botterill and led the Amerks to two playoff appearances, though they were swept in both series. The red, white and blue were on track for another taste of the postseason before the pandemic cancelled the season. In all, Taylor had piled up a more-than-decent 116-65-33 record across three years.
From 1992-96, Appert played goalie at Ferris State, appearing in a total of 20 games and recorded a scant three wins. He spent nine seasons as an assistant with the University of Denver.
In 2006, Appert became head coach at R.P.I. During his 11 seasons behind the bench, he had a winning percentage above .500 only four times. The Engineers were 152-221-48 (.418), including four seasons of 23 losses or more. They never advanced beyond the quarterfinals of the ECAC playoffs, although RPI made the 2011 NCAA Tournament as an at-large selection.
Appert was fired in 2017, and joined the NTDP as coach of the Under-17 and Under-18 teams. at the NHL Entry Draft last June. At the NHL Entry Draft last June, the NTDP produced an NHL-record 17 draft picks, including eight first-round selections.
Appert’s resume also includes some time as an assistant for USA Hockey at international events, including the world championship.
Taylor was said to have had a verbal agreement for a new contract before the Sabres slashed dozens of front office and scouting positions. A total of 22 people were fired on the cost-cutting bloody 16th of June, including the Sabres GM, assistant GMs Randy Sexton and Steve Greeley, two assistant coaches in Rochester (Gord Dineen and Toby Peterson), and the majority of the scouting department.
The dismissal blindsided Taylor, who was prepping for a stretch run before the COVID-19 virus showed up. He leaves behind a team on the rise, something many coaches in the franchise can’t say this past decade.
Rochester has been a glimmer of hope for a franchise mired in the worst stretch of its existence. After years of being an afterthought, the development of players has become a priority. Taylor had helped turn the Amerks into a consistent winner and playoff team in his two-plus years at the helm.
When play eventually resumes, the Sabres’ AHL affiliate will likely have a young lineup that includes prospects Arttu Ruotsalainen, Will Borgen, Jacob Bryson, Mattias Samuelsson, Matej Pekar, Jonas Johansson, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Oskari Laaksonen.
Another Questionable Move
This isn’t the first time the Sabres have dipped into the USNTDP. In 2013, the blue and gold grabbed garden glove-wearing Ron Rolston was hired as their head coach, replacing Lindy Ruff. Rolston lasted 51 games, coaching the team to a 19-26-6 record.
Rolston was often shown wearing garden gloves while running his team’s practice.
The hiring of Appert, a coach without any professional experience, is a leap of faith for Adams. It’s also another giant leap of faith for fans, who are desperate for success after enduring the franchise’s ninth straight season without seeing the playoffs. Next season is not expected to start until Dec. 4, at the earliest, so there’s plenty of time for conjecture.