Yesterday was a new experience for Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill. He’s become used to having postseason press conferences and reviews in the middle of June, not the middle of April.
He’s become accustomed to watching his hockey team make a long playoff run, not finish last in the league and miss the playoffs by 36 points.
“Going through exit interviews on April 9th and 10th, flat out sucked,” said Botterill.
It was evident the Sabres GM wasn’t pleased with the result of the season. He was straightforward and showed his frustration when he met with the media at KeyBank Center today.
Coming from a successful organization like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Botterill talked about how he picked up on the Sabres losing mentality very early in the season. “I did notice it right off the bat in tight games,” he said. Pointing out that it became evident during the team’s first road trip this season, “I thought we had some good in efforts in San Jose, some good efforts in LA and even the Vegas game. Yet we found ways to lose.”
After Ryan O’Reilly’s comments on locker clean out day on Monday, how fragile this team was mentally has come to the forefront. Once something bad happened in a game it always seemed they couldn’t get control of what was happening to them until it was way too late.
The leadership group failed this season to try to calm things down on the bench during adversity or take control of the room. Jack Eichel becoming the captain of the Sabres is one of the worst-kept secrets with the team. However, it can’t all be on his shoulders.
“It’s imperative that we have more players in the locker room step up from that standpoint. This game cannot have one player lead the entire team. It’s imperative that we have stronger voices in that room,” said Botterill.
Change is Coming
All of this adds up to some shakeups to the roster coming over the summer. The Sabres GM doesn’t believe a few minor tweaks will be enough to turn thing around, saying, “if we think that we just work a little bit harder in the summer or have a couple conversations, all the results will come next year, then we’re kidding ourselves.”
The only players who are realistically safe are Eichel and Casey Mittelstadt. After two years of this kind of failure, it’s apparent drastic changes to the foundation of the roster are needed. Not only will moving one of the big names result in a good return, but it’ll change the dynamic of the roster.
The management team recognizes that a lot of personnel moves are needed to get this franchise back to a respectable position in the league. Yesterday was the beginning of that process.
Botterill let it be known that this type of season was unacceptable and now is the time for him to make his mark on the roster.