Jason Botterill talked the talk, now let's see if he can walk the walk. On Thursday the eighth general manager in Buffalo Sabres history was formally introduced and said all the right things -- but what really stood out?
Five observations from Botterill's introductory press conference:
Just develop, baby
"We want to build two teams," Botterill said in his opening remarks. "One in Buffalo, one in Rochester."
Botterill may have talked about the Rochester Americans as much as he talked about the Buffalo Sabres. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but he made it very clear the Sabres need to build from within the organization and that's how you ultimately become successful.
While with the Penguins, Botterill achieved consistent success with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, Pittsburgh's AHL affiliate. The new Sabres GM used players like Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust as examples of how to develop within an organization. If you've watched Pittsburgh recently you know what Botterill is talking about.
Sean McDermott buzzword:
Jason Botterill buzzword: Development
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) May 11, 2017
As a player, Botterill spent several years with the Amerks as his career was coming to an end. While there he was teammates with guys like Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy and Paul Gaustad. The aforementioned four went on to have successful NHL careers and played on competitive Sabres teams, and that's a trend Botterill wants to see happen in the coming years.
Finishing the puzzle
Botterill knows the Sabres have some impressive pieces in place. It's like having the outer layer of a puzzle done and needing those few pieces in the middle that are super hard to find. Luckily for Botterill, he has those middle pieces in a literal sense.
"People are craving for centermen like Eichel and O'Reilly," Botterill said when asked about the talent on the roster. He made it a point to mention the skill down the middle of the ice and said that's important for any team to have success.
Without naming any names, he also alluded to some of the impressive young defensemen.
*cough, cough, Jake McCabe and Rasmus Ristolainen*
"I think there are a lot of great young pieces here and that is why I am excited about taking on this opportunity," Botterill said. "It is not just our young prospects or the players that we will select in June here, it is our young players in the National Hockey League that will continue to do their development as players."
Botterill admitted there's still a lot of work to be done, but says the Sabres are fortunate to have a good, young core.
"We will be better" pic.twitter.com/HphjFR4XCp
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) May 11, 2017
High tempo, puck possession game
That's the kind of play the new GM wants to see out of the Sabres.
Haven't we heard this before? Oh yeah, we heard something similar just a month ago when Tim Murray had his season-ending press conference!
This is basically what every GM says, but it's how you win in the NHL and Botterill knows that. When asked about his preferred style of play and roster Botterill said that while in Pittsburgh the team has success when they played simple, North-South hockey.
Obviously, the roster with the Penguins allowed that, but Botterill said he sees players already in the Sabres organization who can thrive under these circumstances.
*cue the John Cena entrance music*
Botterill's time in Pittsburgh is up, his time in Buffalo is now!
"I'm excited about leading this organization to the next level," Botterill added just minutes into Thursday's press conference. "One of the main reasons why I accepted this role and wanted to take on this job was because I truly understand from my time as a player here in WNY and in Rochester and in Buffalo just how passionate and loyal the fans in this region are towards the game of hockey."
But why after all the success and being viewed as the heir-apparent in Pittsburgh did Botterill want this job?
"As I look back at my time in Pittsburgh and the success we had preparing me to take on this job, I think going through some of the failures was also going to allow me to be better equipped for anything that comes in this job here."
Sure, the Penguins have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but to borrow a phrase from Tim Murray, it wasn't always rainbows and ju-jus. While with the team the Penguins fired a head multiple head coaches, a general manager and were often viewed to be well past their time as a contender. Those hardships helped Botterill realize what can be accomplished with the right pieces in place on and off the ice.
The Sabres still remain without a head coach but right now Botterill has bigger fish to fry.
"We have other things to do right away in regards to amateur scouting and the pro meetings next week," Botterill answered when asked about his to-do list moving forward. "But I will certainly begin those discussions with different coaches and candidates, but I would certainly like to have something in place by the draft."
That's a good timeline, but it will require us to be patient. You can do it, I believe in you.