It wasn’t long ago that Pittsburgh Penguins analytics guru Sam Ventura was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University working on statistical models to track hockey games and players. He even appeared on this writer’s radio show while a CMU student to discuss the growing trend of hockey analytics in 2014.
Corsi, high-danger-scoring-chances (HDSC), and stats like x60 have come a long way. So has Ventura.
After CMU, the Pittsburgh Penguins added him to their new advanced statistics department. Before long, Ventura was running the department under former Penguins, GM Jim Rutherford.
However, on Monday, the Buffalo Sabres announced they hired Ventura to be their new VP of Hockey Strategy and Research.
Rutherford has been rumored to be a candidate to join or lead the Buffalo front office, but those whispers and expectations are yet to materialize. Instead, Buffalo plucked another Penguins front office assistant to lead a department.
Former Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Jason Botterill was the Buffalo GM From 2017-2020. Botterill is now the Seattle Kraken assistant GM under Ron Francis–himself a former Jim Rutherford protege.
This season, the Buffalo organization nearly imploded and may yet with the pending trade of star center Jack Eichel and the publicly expressed unhappiness by leaders Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen.
The Sabres underwent a mid-season coaching change after firing Ralph Krueger and putting an interim-head coach tag on coach Don Granato. They made Granato the official head coach last week.
Buffalo finished last in the East Division and have languished at or near the bottom of the NHL standings for nearly a decade. The team has not qualified for the NHL playoffs, including the expanded 24-team format in 2020, since the 2010-11 season.
They have had numerous top-10 selections, including Eichel (2015, second overall). They selected Rasmus Dahlin first overall in 2018 and have not selected higher than eighth since 2012.