Buffalo Sabres: Is Russ Brandon the Right Choice?


Buffalo Sabres: Is Russ Brandon the Right Choice?

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Monday was a busy day for the Buffalo Sabres, as they parted ways with Ted Black, leading to Russ Brandon taking over as president and alternate governor. Brandon will continue in his role as president and managing partner of the Buffalo Bills, overseeing all aspects of business operations for both teams.

The question is, does this represent the right decision by the Sabres? If nothing else, it appears this was the preferred choice for Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula, who Brandon will report directly to.

The official line is that the split between Black and the Sabres was mutual. However, I have a feeling that his hand was forced.

This makes more sense, when you consider a report by Steven J. Gaither of sportingnews.com. The Pegulas were apparently becoming increasingly frustrated by Black’s management style and lack of communication with co-workers.

This set the wheels in motion to try and find the right man for the job. In the end, the search didn’t taken too long.

Nov 24, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres president Russ Brandon on the field before the game against the New York Jets at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Pegulas compared the Bills and Sabres and realised the former was operating in a much smoother fashion. This resulted in their wondering why the latter had so many problems, and they quickly came to the conclusion that the difference was down to the respective presidents.

Once the Pegulas realised they had found their man, there was still the obstacle of what to do about Black. One theory is that he was offered reduced control, something which they knew he wouldn’t be prepared to accept, thus prompting his decision to leave.

In reality, the writing was probably on the wall for Black for quite a while, as Brandon had become increasingly involved with the business operations of the Sabres. As Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News reported, the Newport News, Virginia native accompanied Kim Pegula to the NHL Awards last June, in Las Vegas.

In fact, with several sponsors making the trip, who also sponsored the Bills, this may have been the genesis for the Pegulas realizing there was enough business crossover to eliminate the need for two presidents. (Other members of the Bills organization have already been doing business-related work for the Sabres.)

The Pegulas also took note of the former Florida Marlins front office member’s talent and ability to combine and leverage assets more effectively and create a consistent message. Ultimately, there was more than enough evidence of his capabilities to take on the duel-president role for both the Sabres and Bills.

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This much was clear in the Pegulas statement, announcing the hiring of Brandon as Sabres president: “Since we purchased the Buffalo Bills last October, we have been highly impressed with the business acumen that Russ has shown with the Bills.

“Now is an appropriate time to give him additional responsibilities with the Sabres…With Russ’ strong ties to the area business community and sponsorship partners, he will effectively position both organizations for future growth.”

Brandon has been with the Bills since 1997, when he came in as Executive Director of Business Development and Marketing. He took over the role of Bills president in January 2013, due to Ralph Wilson’s declining health – at this point, he was pretty much already handling most of the day-to-day operations.

For the sake of clarity, the graduate of St. John Fisher College is only in charge of the business side of operations for both the Sabres and the Bills. In fact, as reported by Paul Hamilton of WGR 550, he confirmed this when asked about the hockey department.

Brandon said: “I couldn’t be more hands off…the focus is business. When it comes to hockey its Tim Murray and coach as well as the football side is.”

In reference to Murray, the Sabres general manager will continue to report directly to Terry and Kim Pegula. Along similar lines, Bills GM Doug Whaley and head coach Rex Ryan also report directly to the Pegulas.

In closing, Brandon appeared emotional when asked about being in charge of both the Sabres and Bills: “I’m from very humble beginnings and I’m the definition of regionalization, because I went to school in Rochester and then lived here for 18 years.

“There’s been a lot of reflection going through my mind and people, I would not be here if it wasn’t for my staffs, I’m overwhelmed.”

Next: Jerry D'Amigo still has a lot to prove with the Sabres