October 22, 2019
Media availability (10:30 a.m.)
Jason Botterill: I think our players have been very open to receiving that message. They’ve certainly put the time in during the summer to be prepared. I think the things we challenged them on last spring, they took it to heart. What I liked about the western road trip was our response after a loss. It wasn’t the prettiest game against L.A., but I thought Carter [Hutton] played outstanding, and I thought we came back with a strong effort afterwards. Through the course of the next couple months here, we know we’re going to face adversity, it’s how we handle it. Right now we’re feeling very good about our game.
What’s the impact of coaching here? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)
JB: I think it’s a combination. I think certainly Ralph’s brought in, like I said, a clear message and has done a great job of communicating with our group at times one-on-one, at times in groups of three or five. But I also think our players, like I said, have been very open to it and they’ve been engaged with him since day one. You look at whether it’s our veteran players with our goaltender Carter Hutton or a player like Marcus Johansson coming into our group or young players such as [Rasmus] Dahlin or [Casey] Mittelstadt, they’re engaging with our coaching staff. It’s the start of the season. Although our record is our record, there’s a lot of mistakes all over the place out there. The fact that we had that dialogue, had that communication to rectify those I think is good. I think the focus right now continues to be, hey, how are we getting better each day as a team?
Do you think this group is better equipped to handle the adversity given an extra year of experience for a lot of guys even like Jack [Eichel] and the new faces, whether it be Marcus [Johansson] or Colin Miller? (Lance Lysowski – The Buffalo News)
JB: Look, over the course of 82 games you’re going to have adversity, 100 percent. I think our younger players are certainly more prepared for it because of going through it. A player like Rasmus Dahlin or Casey Mittelstadt, you can talk to them about the NHL grind and what it is and how the level of intensity increases in the second half of the season and what you have to do to have success. But until you go through that entire process, you truly don’t know. And I think our veteran players who’ve been around for four or five years saw last year certainly what equates to success but then how if you lose those things and you lose details in your game, how that success can go away. And then the players that we’ve tried to bring in I think have been a really calming influence so far. I think the players that have been through playoff series and have had success have a calmness to them and they’ve certainly shown that. What we’ve tried to do, we’ve brought it up before, is the course of over 82 games we’re going to need everyone. We’re going to need more depth. We’ve tried to add that to our group here, and hopefully that allows us to prepare and get through adverse situations. And I think you saw that on the road trip there that we had scoring from a lot of different lines. Carter Hutton obviously had the great game. We had good goaltending, but I thought our entire team contributed on the road trip.
Is there any fear that Zach Bogosian may not play this season? (John Wawrow – Associated Press)
JB: In my mind there’s zero fear from that standpoint. He’s back skating here right now. Very excited for where Zach is, and look, going over the type of procedure he had, it was a serious procedure. Zach is, he’s a powerful individual, so you want him to come back. It’s difficult for him right now because he wants to be back, especially once you get into games as a player, that energy, you want to get back out there, be a part of the group. But it’s also imperative for him, for not only for us this year, but for his career long term that we get this right. But from our standpoint, the fact that he’s back skating here right now is a good sign. I’m looking forward to it.
How good a problem do you have on defense and how difficult is it going to be when [Brandon] Montour is ready to play to decide what you’re going to do? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)
JB: It’s a great problem that hopefully we have. Because there was talk a lot, I think, during the summer, ‘We have too many defensemen.’ You saw before games even started we ran into injury issues. I think as an organization we’re ecstatic about going over to Sweden. I think with so many Europeans on our team, the opportunity to compete in front of family and friends over there. Just being in that sort of environment for the league, and we’re very excited about it, but it really condenses our schedule when we come back and that’s where we’re going to need all these defensemen. But we’re happy the step that some of our defensemen have taken and especially I think Henri [Jokiharju] on the back end has come in and played even beyond our expectations so far.
Is there a sign, I know we’re only nine games in, of something that Ralph’s done where you can say, ‘You know what, last year that would’ve been different,’ or, ‘This guy’s playing somewhat differently,’ or, ‘He’s reacting differently’? Have you seen any kind of signs so far? (Michael Traikos – National Post)
JB: I think it’s just, look, when we do face adversity, you look at a game such as the L.A. game that wasn’t going the way we wanted it to, but we found a way to win the game. You look at in San Jose, the excitement of grabbing the 3-2 lead, they come back right away to score and make it 3-3. But then there’s not panic within our team. There’s a calmness about, ‘Hey, this is what we have to do to have success here.’ I even look back the previous game to, or a couple games last week, against Florida. I thought in the third period our game was all over the place, but then yeah they did score the goal in the last minute that we have to work on in a 6-on-5 situation, but I thought from about the eight-minute mark to right up to the last minute there, we did get back to our game and started playing with some structure in the defensive zone, playing the way we have to to protect a lead from that standpoint. Those types of things, I think, one, it’s a clear message, like I said, from Ralph, and it’s also our players understanding they have to play as a unit to have success.
And they trust whatever system they’re playing? Like you said, no panic? (Michael Traikos – National Post)
JB: Right now I think that there’s certainly trust from our player standpoint with their coaches. I think there’s dialogue on what works up there and that’s what’s been good. And it’s not only just Ralph. We’ve faced some adversity on our coaching staff with what’s happened with Donny Granato and with Chris Taylor coming back up there. The interacting with our assistant coaches with our players right now is something that we’re excited about from a development standpoint.
How much of a factor is having a positive attitude around the room? Because Ralph, no matter what, is always playing it forward in a positive way. How much of a factor is that for these guys because it has been very negative over the years? (Joe Yerdon – The Athletic)
JB: I think he’s certainly, and I think Ralph will tell you too, he brings a positive attitude and excitement. I think you can see he certainly loves his job right now and he loves being back behind the bench. But he’s also very truthful with these guys. And when things aren’t going the right way or when he sees something in practice or in the game that’s not being done to our standards, he’s going to correct it. And I think that, just that way he’s communicating with the players has gone over very well with the players and it’s been a good relationship for them. But, as a whole, yeah, it’s been a positive start. We were very excited about our home opener, just having the captains back, having the excitement in the building and now it’s up to us to keep that going.
You were furious two years ago when you only won 11 games [at home]. You could go 5-0 tonight. How significant is it to this team and Ralph is taking to having this as a tough building to play in? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)
JB: Well look, it’s something that Ralph has talked a lot about, about look, the results aren’t always going to be there, but the effort has to be there. I must say, I enjoyed our Kids Game against Dallas a little bit more last Monday and I thought that was a great game of just our entire team playing well. But this league is so difficult and especially, as we talked about, their schedule what’s going to happen when we come back from Europe there, we have to have an opportunity to capitalize and win our games at home. And I know our players feed off the energy from our fans and hopefully we’ll continue to give them that same effort.