Botterill won his first press conference

The Sabres' new general manager seems sure of what it will take to win

Paul Hamilton
May 11, 2017 - 9:25 pm

Photo: Buffalo Sabres / Bill Wippert (@BuffaloSabres)

Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - There were things I liked from Jason Botterill during his introduction as Sabres general manager. I was very curious to hear what his vision was for the team on the ice. The new general manager said, “When you look at the group right now is this is a league that thrives on centermen and the fortunate thing here is we’ve got amazing, high end centermen. I also like the fact that we have some young defensemen that can handle some big minutes.”

“The type of team that I’d like to create here is a team that plays a high tempo, puck possession game. Some of the success in Pittsburgh is simplicity, a north-south game.”

Now they have to find a head coach that can teach that. I was under the impression that the Pegulas would lead the search for a coach with Botterill, but that isn’t the case. Botterill said it’s on him, “I will certainly take the lead on it. I do want to talk to a lot of different coaches out there and get a good feel. So I will go through those candidates and once we get down to the finalists, two or three or four different candidates, I certainly will be bringing Terry and Kim in to be involved.”

As far as the coaching candidates Botterill said, “I’m not going to put any limits on what his experience is, I look forward to talking to a lot of people, there’s some great candidates out there.”

“The things I look at with so many young players out there are a developer, an educator, a communicator, it’s going to be very important. In today’s game they have to have that strong communication with the players. They need to have that presence in the locker room, making sure that the players understand that the head coach is in control and certainly leading that charge.”

It doesn’t sound like a coach is on the front burner, “From a timeframe standpoint, we have other things to do right away in regard to amateur scouting and pro meetings next week, but I’ll certainly be getting into discussion with coaching candidates and I’d like to have something in place by the draft.”  

By the time the players left for the summer, there was a lot of tension in the room that needs to be addressed. It won’t be easy for Botterill to get to know his players, but he said he and the new coach must reach out, “It’s going to be important once you name a head coach that he goes out and interacts with the players, especially some of the core players to make sure that they know what the expectations will be come September. From my standpoint, I certainly look forward to interacting with a lot of players and get their thoughts. I have some opinions on what happened here from afar, but it will be imperative that I talk to a lot of the players and ask what are we doing well here and continue with that aspect and what do we have to improve on?"

Botterill isn’t one for predictions. He said the goal next year will to be competitive. He said they will be better, but he’s not going to put a timeline on when they’ll go for the Stanley Cup. He obviously would be held to any date he would say so I think he was smart not to.

Botterill believes deeply in proper development. That includes a separate general manager for the Rochester Americans and it also includes him being down there watching. Development has worked in Pittsburgh with players like Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl, Carter Rowney, Olli Maatta, and of course goalie Matt Murray.

First impressions went very well for Jason Botterill on Thursday, but there’s a lot of work ahead of him. In inherits a salary cap mess. In my mind, there’s no excuse for it. Buffalo should not have been pushing up against the cap last year with how bad the team was. He may have to make unpopular trades that shed some of the bad contracts that Tim Murray signed.

Zach Bogosian, Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis eat up almost $15 million of the salary cap. That means three unproductive players own 20-percent of the Sabres cap space. That has to be addressed if this team is ever going to win.

I’m only adding this to the article because I know many of you have had a lot of concern about Kyle Okposo. I ran into him and his family today and he looked great. I just briefly asked him how he felt and he said MUCH better. Forget about player/media, it was very good to see him out and about and looking so good.

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