Tag Archives: Jason Botterill

Jason Botterill Interview – The Instigators (1/28/20)

January 28, 2020

Jason Botterill
The Instigators (10 a.m.)
https://wgr550.radio.com/media/audio-channel/01-28-hr-1-the-instigators (16:30)

Andrew Peters: When you open a radio show, TV show, you got to talk about – set the table for everybody at 10 a.m. right out the gate. We’re going have General Manager Jason Botterill on and he joins us now. So, what’s up Botts, we’re talking James Bond.

Jason Botterill: Wow. You guys got the hot items right off the bat today, that’s good to hear.

AP: You know what’s funny, is we get you on now, I think about it. I was going to say well, are you a Bond fan, but you know what, Ralph Krueger would make one hell of a James Bond.

JB: I completely agree with you. He’s got that international flair to him and stuff, I agree with you on that one for sure.

AP: I think he would be a good James Bond candidate. You just see how he looks behind the bench, just dialed right in and dapper as can be.

Craig Rivet: He looks perfect in his suits. His tie — I don’t even know how he ties his tie so perfectly.

JB: [laughs] I need — in the offseason, he’ll have to sit down with me and help me out in that category, for sure.

AP: Hard hitting analysis here, Botts. That’s where we watch our games; we worry about the ties the coaches are wearing and everything. We don’t worry about the plays that were made. How are you? How was the All-Star break?

JB: It was good. I think it’s a great break, actually, for our players and everyone. You look at the Christmas break you get, it’s so short and the holidays are so chaotic. This allows players to get away, get refocused, re-energized for the last part of the season here. And what I’ve seen is just the development of the players, too. Now, back in your day, Petey or Craig, you take seven days off, guys would be terrible. But I think guys take care of themselves so much better nowadays and Ralph and myself have been very impressed with the effort in practice the last couple of days. I think our execution took a big jump from [day one to day two] and that will be the challenge here tonight against Ottawa. I think we’ll be, obviously, the fresher team than Ottawa, with Ottawa playing last night, but I think Ottawa’s execution will probably be a little better with getting that first game out of the way. It will be important for us to bring energy right off the bat, starting the game here tonight, but really trying to focus on our execution.

AP: Why us?! Why did you have center us out?

CR: I think he knows us pretty well, is what he’s trying say.

AP: How did you feel after a week off, Botts?

JB: Look, I’ll throw myself in that same boat. If I took seven days off in the middle of the year from skating, oh it would take…

CR: Three weeks it takes you. Three weeks it takes you to get back.

JB: For sure. Or hey, you get back the first day and you have a groin pull or a hip issue and you’re out for a month. But these guys, the way they take care of their bodies now, just the workouts. They came back in, I thought, great spirits and did a great job with the last couple days in practice. So looking forward to finally getting back into game situations here.

CR: Well, by no means, do I want to make this interview about me, but I will tell you that, looking back at what you just said, I can tell you that the reason why I felt so terribly when I came back — it wasn’t seven days off, it was what I did during the seven days. And that’s exactly where I feel the game has changed the most — before we get into some more in-depth stuff — is and are the athletes that these players have become just even in the last 15 years.

JB: 100 percent. They’re always looking for the edge. They’re always looking for something that can help them. They’re continually asking us, they’re continuing to ask other players in the league whenever someone has success. What are they doing? What training methods are there? They’re becoming extremely proactive in their development and I think our group, in general over the last couple of years, has taken a big step in that direction and you bring in someone like Michael Frolik; he’s just a conssumate pro. He’s played in Stanley Cup Finals, he’s played in World Championships; just how he handles himself day-in, day-out as a veteran player. I think those things are great sort of, learning experiences for our players and they’re bringing that into their own routine.

CR: Speaking of development, you know, we’ve got some young players on this team. A player like Casey Mittelstadt, making the decision to put him down in the minors for a little while to allow him to play more minutes, get into some different situations that he may not have gotten up here in the NHL. Guys like Rasmus Dahlin, [Henri] Jokiharju, where do you feel the development of some of these young guys are right now?

JB: Well, I think, especially you look at someone like Casey, we certainly talked a lot about what to do with his development. He can certainly play in the National Hockey League right now. But I think it’s more along the lines of just surviving in the league. We have high expectations for Casey and I know Casey has high expectations for his own career. I think just getting him in an environment where he has opportunities to make a few more plays, continue to work on his game and the thing that allowed us to have the confidence in making this move, too, was just the relationship that Chris Taylor developed with Ralph while being up here earlier in the year. Chris knows exactly what Ralph is looking for from Casey. I think Chris also saw Casey in some of his best games of the year, whether it was the first game of the season against Pittsburgh or another strong game against LA at the start of the season, and then he also saw him when he struggled and he knows the differences there. I think that knowledge has helped Chris interact with Casey very well in Rochester and we’ve been happy with his development over the last couple of weeks down there.

AP: What’s the mission — we’re joined right now on the line with Jason Botterill, general manager of the Buffalo Sabres, game night tonight, 7 p.m. at home. Ottawa in Buffalo, here — coming out of the break here, what is your mission between now and the end of the year?

JB: Well, our mission for our team is to win tonight against Ottawa. That has to be the focus. I think Ralph’s talked a lot about — ever since the disappointing loss to Tampa Bay on New Year’s Eve — just getting our group re-focused from a standpoint of trying to win two out of three games. You know, that’s not dictating whether you’re automatically going to be in the playoffs or what, but it’s going to at least give you a chance. And that’s what Ralph is focusing on the players from that element. The biggest thing is you try to look — we certainly have to look, from a management standpoint of a bigger picture, and so there will be decisions we’ll have to make by the end of the month from that standpoint. But from our team focus, and our individual day-to-day focus right now it’s, “Hey, what’s the next game up?” And we all know that we have, I believe it’s eight of the next nine games at home. We’ve also known that we’ve enjoyed — one of our challenges we set to our team at the start of the year was to have a home-ice presence and I think, overall, we’ve done a pretty good job with that and it’s important that we continue that over the next couple of weeks here. But I think when our team has played extremely well throughout the year, it’s because they’ve kept things small. They’ve looked at the small picture here. And Ralph has done a very good job with the group from that standpoint.

AP: You’ve said in a couple media scrums that you’re actively looking to make some moves. Does that ever stop? Is that ongoing? I guess, with the trade deadline coming up, how soon in advance do deals start to be made for the trade deadline, or how far in advance, may be another way to ask?

JB: Well, look, I think here’s always dialogue going on with different teams. It’s just, you’re talking with a team, you feel you’re close and they run into a couple strings of injuries during games. I think during the break, GMs get away from their teams a little bit, have opportunities to go through scouting meetings with their group and really see what they’re looking for the stretch run. And look, you just look at some GMs in the past, they’re certainly aggressive trying to get their deals done in January or the start of February. Others want to wait straight to the deadline, or close to the deadline. You also have to understand the GM you’re working with and what his background is from that standpoint. But we’re continuing to have dialogue from that standpoint. We did make the trade to bring in Frolik; we’ve been very happy with what he’s added to our penalty kill situation and we’re excited to see now, with Jeff Skinner coming back to our lineup tonight, just that line of Skinner-Johansson-Frolik, to see what kind of chemistry they can develop as a group there and we’ll see what materializes.

CR: What is your main area of need? What in particular — what type of player are you looking for? Or is there one?

JB: Well, I think we’ve been very honest, continuing to try and look at our forward group to try and improve that group. We feel we have some young players, but when you lose [Valdimir] Sobotka, when you lose Tage Thompson for the year, you’re looking to try to add to that mix, for sure. The development — we talked earlier a little bit just about the development of some of our younger defensemen. When we were sitting here in the summer making the trade for Henri Jokiharju, we didn’t have him, “Oh, this guy’s going to be on our team for sure.” And he stepped up from that standpoint and that’s allowed us to have more depth from a defensive standpoint. And the same thing with a player like Lawrence Pilut. You know, it’s a situation where he’s accomplished what we wanted him to accomplish in the American Hockey League. He’s come up and played well; he deserves the opportunity to stay here right now. When these players come into the mix, it gives us more optionshere on defense. But what we’re looking for, from a forward standpoint, I continue to think finding more offensive skill, but also, too, just speed. The way Ralph wants our players to play on the forecheck and tracking back, if we continue to improve our speed. But that’s something that’s going to be ongoing, whether it’s before the deadline, the summer, that’s something we’re going to continue to work at.

AP: Jason Botterill joining us here on the line. Botts, feel free, I know you’re busy, I know you have a game day, so just tell us when you got to go. Otherwise, we’ll keep you on until noon. That’s up to you. But one player I want to ask you about, obviously, we’d like to ask you if there’s any kind of preliminary talks with Sam Reinhart. But another player I’d like to ask you about, and I kind of feel like he was a free acquisition in the offseason, is Curtis Lazar. I know he’s not like the saving grace, a lot of people might say, but I’ve really liked his game. I’ve really liked his style of play and I’m wondering if he’s a guy that might be around for a while.

JB: Well, your first question in regards to Sam is, look, obviously Sam is represented by Newport Sports. We have quite a few clients from Newport, and it keeps those dialogues going very well. But we’ve sort of believed, hey, let’s have things continue to go here. Sam’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year, he’s having a very strong year, let’s keep the focus on just his play and moving from that standpoint. In regards to Curtis, we were excited about signing him, I believe we signed on July 1 last year and brought him in the mix. What I like a lot about Curtis is just it shows what we’re trying to strive for from a development standpoint here. When you talk about development, everyone talks about your young players such as Rasmus Dahlin or a Casey Mittelstadt. But it’s also about a player like Curtis. Former first-round pick, who sort of bounced through the league a little bit. I thought he had a very strong training camp for us, and then came up for our western road trip, got some feedback on what he can really improve on his game and I thought he really worked on those elements in Rochester. So when he came back up, I thought his penalty killing was that much better. I thought his assertiveness around the net was that much better. I thought his work on faceoffs were that much better and that allowed him to get into the lineup and, more importantly, gain Ralph’s trust in those situations there. I think he took that feedback to heart and really worked on his game, and he’s certainly added an element to a specific need there.

CR: Going back to the cap situation, I’m certainly not a capologist by any stretch of the imagination and I’m sure there’s a lot of people that are very much like myself. I hear a lot about, you know, we’re over the cap kind of right now and how that effects us for next year, the cap recapture. Can you explain, how you’re going to try and work the cap to finish the end of the season or how that works?

JB: Well right now, obviously, with some of the players that we have on long-term injury, the Pegulas have given us the opportunity to go above the cap. It’s great that you have that ability to go above, through long-term injury, whether it was Matt Hunwick at the start of the season or Vladimir Sobotka. But you also have to have your ownership agree to take on extra salary from that standpoint. It allows you to go over the cap during the season and stay compliant from that standpoint. It’s just where could be an overage for next year is if performance bonuses are earned. So we have players such as Rasmus Dahlin and Henri Jokiharju and, before, Casey Mittelstadt, that could achieve performance bonuses. If they achieve those performance bonuses, then that will come out of our cap for next year. So that’s just something that we certainly have our eye on. We just want to have as much flexibility from year-to-year from a cap situation.

AP: Well, Botts, I think we’ve long overdone our time with you. So, appreciate your time. Did you do any scouting over the break?

JB: Did a little bit of scouting over the break. Also had — you always try to find the balance here with my family, too. So spent a couple days with my family, which I certainly enjoyed. What has excited me is just, you know, the energy of our coaches coming back after the break and just how re-energized our players have been. Now it’s for us to go out there and get results. Overall, I think we’ve played fairly well since the Christmas break, but there’s still the element of now getting results. And that’s what I’m excited about what this group could entail over the next couple of weeks here, starting here tonight against Ottawa.

Jason Botterill Interview – Schopp & Bulldog (1/14/20)

January 14, 2020


Jason Botterill

Schopp & Bulldog (5:30 p.m.)

https://wgr550.radio.com/media/audio-channel/1-14-jason-botterill-with-schopp-the-bulldog (16:56)


Mike Schopp: Jason Botterill with us now. Hi, Jason.

Jason Botterill: Hey, how’re you guys doing?

MS: This has been, like, we’ve been missing each other a couple times lately, but you made it.

JB: Yeah, I think I was supposed to be on and we were in the middle of the [Marco] Scandella and [Michael] Frolik trade at that time, so I do appreciate your understanding from that. Happy New Year to you guys.

MS: Happy New Year.


MS: That was interesting. So Chris Bandura, from the front office, called me early that day and used the term ‘league call’ and in retrospect that night I thought, ‘Maybe that should’ve been, should’ve been a term that I would associate with a trade.’ Now there was no news of a trade at noon that day, but I wonder if that was a tell.

JB: And that one took a little bit longer just because Frolik did have the no-trade clause and it was — there was a few different things in it. Because, obviously, Montreal had a trade going with Ottawa, then the trade with us. We then had the trade with Calgary going and it was one of those things where you knew everything was correlated from that. So it sometimes took a little bit to organize it all.


MS: So, you had to wait for Montreal to make its other move?

JB: Yeah, it’s one of those things where you knew everything was contingent on the other one working out, and obviously it was contingent on Frolik waiving his no-trade too. It wasn’t a situation until Calgary went to talk to Michael after their morning skate. So, it was one of those things, too, where Calgary was having a game, we were having a game that day. We had a few things to get through and stuff, but glad it worked all out for our group here.


Chris Parker: Very understandable. I think maybe a lot of our audience was kind of hoping you wouldn’t show up today because that would mean something was happening. I mean, I hope you take that in the spirit it’s intended, you know? With that in mind, how do you feel about where you team is right now? Like, what do you think can still be accomplished this year?

JB: Well, I think it’s a situation where we’ve, you know, coming out of the break at Christmas time, I thought we played very well against Boston and Tampa Bay. To get zero points out of those three games was disheartening, for sure. I liked how our group responded against Edmonton and Florida there. Going into St. Louis, that’s a level that we still have to get to: that upper echelon in the National Hockey League. The way I look at the league right now, I think there’s, you may debate it a little bit, but I think there’s seven or eight really, very top teams and then everyone else can beat anybody on any given night. And that’s what we’re trying to accomplish here right now. I thought it was important that we got the victory in Detroit after a game against Vancouver where, that’s a game that we have to find a way to win. 3-3 in our own building, we have to find a way to at least come away with points in that situation there. We’ve got three games here before the break, have our fathers trip starting tomorrow. I think, hopefully just in a little more added incentive for some of our players and then we’ll see where we go from there.


MS: In that calculation you revealed about seven or eight top teams, is there room for you — as you break that down — to make the playoffs? I mean you’re seven points out, I think, at the moment. We talked earlier about last night’s Philadelphia-Boston game and brought up [Brad] Marchand whiffing on that shootout attempt and Bulldog’s like, ‘Well, my first thought was that’s two more points for the Flyers.’ I’m like, ‘Good thing you’re here, because I was not really thinking of it that way.’ Like I wondered, if you’re watching that game thinking the same way.

JB: Trust me, there’s going to be a ton of three-point games that teams are going to go continue to work on, some teams are going to get hot, and you’ve seen it throughout the league and stuff from that standpoint. What our focus has to be is our own internal — how we play, how we’re doing against our own teams here. And, you know, I know Ralph [Krueger] has mentioned a lot about winning two out of three games, trying to minimize things. You can’t always look at the big picture. I think our group has excelled when it’s tried to stay in the small picture there. Our focus here now is on the next few games here, see where it goes from the break and then materialize from there. But if you’re scoreboard watching in January, look, teams around you are going to win, it’s just that, especially when they’re playing against each other all the time and there’s going to be a lot of three-point games with how close the league is.


MS: I think, if I may, this may sound like you think your team is at a level where someone else might think that more dramatic changes are necessary to see this team actually, you know, really compete. You’re on an 85-, 86-point pace. Would that be wrong? Do you see this as a team that’s close to really rising?

JB: Well we haven’t had the production yet. We haven’t had the results yet, so we still have to improve. 100 percent. There’s a situation where we’re not an elite team by any means and should we be in a conversation for playoffs? Yeah, I think we should, certainly should be in that conversation, but, hey, we can continue to talk about it, but we have to go out there and actually have the results. It’s one thing to play well against the Bostons and Tampa Bays, but when we have a 4-1 lead at home, we have to find a way to finish off that game. It’s good that we’re playing well against those teams, but now finding better results is certainly what we have to do.


CP: When you face a situation like that — the 4-1 lead against Tampa’s a great example — how do you feel like your coach is handling the team? Is that tough talk time? How do you think he proceeds in those situations?

JB: I think one of Ralph’s best things was the day afterwards from that standpoint. Look, it was a disheartening loss. It was a situation where we talked about it, Tampa Bay, you know, we knew coming into the season this year, they were going to be a top team to go 0-3 against them and then going into that game, we had certainly circled that game as an important challenge for our group. I liked how we came out, got the lead from that standpoint, got some secondary scoring, which I think was key in that game. Then to let it slip, to go from sort of a festive environment in the second period to, hey, losing the game at home, it was difficult. And then what I liked was Ralph did with our group to try to refocus them to get back on taking it small. The playoffs, hey we’ll worry about that another time, but what we have to work on right now is getting back in the swing of things. Then we start the next game against Edmonton, it’s not a great start, it’s down 2-0. Like, okay, everything could unravel here at this point, but our group found a way to get that win in that game and then went and had a strong game against Florida.


CP: So that’s New Year’s Eve, the Tampa game, right?

JB: Yep.

CP: New Year’s Day is the day that I — I don’t attend these practices or the news conferences, but the video that the team posted, (Ralph Krueger) just spoke for like 15 minutes and I watched every minute of it. And, I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t often do that. I hear highlights and I read what happened, but I sat watching that and I loved it, like how he communicated that day. Can you tell us, like is that basically the same message he gave to the team that day?

JB: The biggest message is, obviously it’s a cliché of keeping it simple, but (the message is) keeping it small. That’s what we have to do in a situation like this. And if you look at the small picture, we just came away from three games where we felt we played well. But we didn’t get the results. So, at the end of the day that’s not acceptable. So you pull the positives of what you’re trying to do as a team, but then, hey, what do we have to do now to change to make sure that that outcome changes in the future here? And that’s where I think Ralph’s done a very good job with our group in speaking to the group, but then also in smaller, you know, whether it’s this line or this power-play group, just that dynamics of not always being the group mentality, of individuals. I think as Donny Granato’s got back into the mix here, been healthy and been working with us, I think our system coaches have done a good job with the development of our individual players. So as a staff they continue to grow and hopefully have a strong second half here.


MS: Jason Botterill here with us. You are talking about the playoffs a little bit here. We’ll see what happens. There’s some work to do to make it. I think fans would like to think that there is, from a development standpoint, a lot coming into the equation here that would make people reinforce the idea that the Sabres are about to become a real contender. I don’t know where that is — where that stands — Jason. I’d like to hear you talk about this. Since you’ve gotten here, important players have been traded away and, I know you have the [Tage] Thompson injury too, he was on the team last year, [Casey] Mittelstadt is down [in Rochester]. What else, especially in terms of forwards, because it seems to me that the Sabres have had this same lack of scoring depth past Jack Eichel for several years.

JB: And I think Ralph’s done a great job of getting the most out of Jack and continuing to work with Jack to expand his game. Obviously, Victor Olofsson’s had a great season so far, the injury hurts him. Knowing Victor and his dedication, he’s certainly going to come back from that. But just the continued development of Jack and Sam Reinhart and their production I think is, I think Ralph has done an excellent job there. Tage [Thompson’s injury] is a disappointment; it’s a disappointing thing for our entire organization just because of what we challenged Tage in the offseason, he went through with it; there was things for him to work on specifically in Rochester, I thought he did that. I thought he had a great start to the season in Rochester, came up and obviously got the injury. It’s just something that we have to deal with; Tage has to deal with it. The good thing is he’s going to have the opportunity to have a strong summer and be ready to go next year. With a player like Casey Mittelstadt, Casey could be up here in the National Hockey League right now surviving, but we don’t view that as a situation long term with him. We view him as a player that can certainly help and add to our offensive punch. You’ve seen that in games: the first game of the season this year against Pittsburgh, out in L.A.. He has that ability, but now has to work from a consistent standpoint. Development, you wish it would just always be a linear approach, and you’re always, every day you’re seeing improvement in players, but sometimes there’s dips. In a situation with that, we felt very comfortable placing him in Rochester with a coach in Chris Taylor that worked very closely with Casey at the National Hockey League level, had seen Casey’s best games and also some of the games where he struggled and knew exactly what he had to work on for him to get back into the system here and what Ralph needs from him moving forward here. So, there’s that. I would also say, you look at the development of Rasmus Asplund we’ve been happy about. He stepped in earlier than what we anticipated from that standpoint. And then I think just what we can continue to try to add on our back end is players with that skill, that puck-moving ability that can create more offense from our back end there. We all would love our 19- and 20-year-old defensemen in [Henri] Jokiharju and [Rasmus] Dahlin to be Norris Trophy winners this year and everything like that, but there’s going to be a development process for those guys. That’s why we also wanted bring up Lawrence Pilut. He’s accomplished in the American Hockey League that we’ve been very happy with. We wanted to see how he’d fit in with our group here right now. It’s important for us, as an organization, to continue to develop these guys. And I think, as an organization, it’s finding ways to get more offense from our back end here to help out our forwards.


MS: I’m, just thinking though, with due respect, you talked about, we talked about the three players: Mittelstadt, Thompson and Asplund, and they might have — and I’m just guessing here — 200 games in the league at this point and how many goals is it? Like 20 goals? I don’t even know how many goals it is, right? Like you’ve got guys, less so — least so Asplund, who just doesn’t have as much NHL experience — but beyond guys who’ve played in the league, is there hope for someone else in the organization to become a real scorer for you? And yes, of course, you’re right to mention Olofsson who’s absolutely done that.

JB: He’s certainly helped our group a lot there. We’re excited about where Dylan Cozens is from his development. We think he had a very good World Juniors from a standpoint of being a player to rely on for Team Canada and gaining that experience at an elite level. And them, hey, look it’s our job to find ways to get more out of our players. I still think there’s more offense to come from a player like Conor Sheary or a player like Jimmy Vesey. It’s important to pull that out of them. You look at a player like Marcus Johansson is showing glimpses of it and has been a good leader for us, but I know Marcus also wants to contribute more offensively from that standpoint. So that’s the responsibility of our players and also, as an organization, to find more players to support some of our young players.


CP: So you mentioned here at the outset some of the results haven’t been there even though the performances were good, good games. And I have no problem with that; I would agree with it. The games against Boston, specifically, I think maybe have been some of your best games and you haven’t gotten any points out of those games. So the team has to perform, you need to get results. How much urgency do you feel to do something to supplement the group here? We started with trades, I guess maybe we’ll end with trades. Do you feel some urgency to do something for the group to try to help even when [Jeff] Skinner comes back and eventually Olofsson?

JB: Yeah, look, missing Skinner and Olofsson are big from our group from an offensive standpoint. But, come on, everybody in the league has injuries that they deal with and that’s something that, you know, we have to continue to improve our depth to handle these injuries better in the future. But yeah, we want to make trades; we’re looking to add to our group from that, I don’t think we’ve hid from that situation even all the way back to November. People ask, ‘Well, are you waiting until the trade deadline for these type of things?’ No, we’re open to trying to find something that can certainly add to our group, but it hasn’t materialized. We’ll continue to look at it. There’s no use — and I’ve mentioned this before — there’s no use in saying we’re close on a trade or this and that. Until it actually happens and we announce something, it’s just talk. We’re trying to proceed with some things; it hasn’t materialized, but we’ll continue to look.

MS: Yes, unless you tell us about every conversation you’re having with almost trades, maybe there are hundreds of those. If you could just acknowledge, if you just admit those things, divulge that information…

CP: Those might be more interesting than the actual trade.

MS: …the talk can be more interesting, yes. We would know what’s out there.

JB: The next time here I’ll bring my notebook so you guys can all have it and we can follow up with it.

MS: It would be great if you had, like, stacks of notebooks with these things in it.


MS: Real quick, Jason, one more thing. Goaltending. Carter Hutton is barely playing, lots of goals are going in his last couple of games. Who’s, can you at least say, who would be the guy? Is it [Andrew] Hammond? We’re not watching Rochester. Is he next? Or maybe this is more a question about younger guys, [Ukko-Pekka] Luukkonen or whoever in the organization. What are the options?

JB: We’ve been very happy with how Linus Ullmark has been from a consistency standpoint. He’s been able to handle more of a workload this year. I think he’s done a very good job from that standpoint. We’re disappointed in Carter’s performance. Carter’s disappointed in that performance. And that’s what we’re trying to find: What is the trigger to get him back on track here? The good thing is that’s where his whole career has been. He’s been someone who’s been against the odds, someone who’s been counted out and he’s always found a way to get back, and that’s where his work ethic in practice, we’re hoping that’s going to trigger something here to help him out and help our group out in the second half. You look at it, we’ve had solid goaltending in Rochester throughout the season here. It’s great to see Jonas Johansson make it to the American Hockey League All-Star Game. You talk about a longer-term process, him playing a lot of the games in the East Coast League the last couple of years, now getting the opportunity to step in there. Andrew Hammond’s a veteran player who we feel comfortable playing National Hockey League games. You talked about Luukkonen; we brought him into Rochester this week. That was part of the plan way in advance to get him some experience, practice at the American Hockey League. Going to get an opportunity to play games and then we’ll get him back to the ECHL and continue his development there.


MS: So Johansson is their No. 1 at this time?

JB: Johansson and Hammond are both, they both split the duties from that standpoint.

MS: Ok, and Johnasson is an All-Star?

JB: Yes.

MS: Very good. Thank you, Jason. Nice to see you.

JB: I appreciate it, guys. You have a good evening.

Jason Botterill Media Availability (1/2/20)

January 2, 2020

Jason Botterill
Media availability (7:50 p.m.)

https://sabresmedia.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/1.2-jason-botterill.mp3 (7:22)

Jason, what do you get in Michael Frolik? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)

Jason Botterill: Well, as we’ve talked about before, we were trying to add to our forward group here. and with Michael, we like his even-strength play. We think he’s a very strong 5-on-5 player. He’s also a player that has a championship pedigree. He’s been in been in the playoffs before, won a Stanley Cup. And you look at how we’ve played over the last few weeks: I think we’ve played pretty well at 5-on-5, but our special teams have to be better. We think Michael can come in and help us with our penalty kill. So we see him as a winger that can play up and down our lineup, and certainly excited to add him.

Can you confirm what’s out there, no salary retained in either trade? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: Yep, that’s correct.

Did you need to clear salary in one deal to make the other deal? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)

JB: Yep, and that what’s we’ve been talking a lot about trying to make a situation, a defenseman for a forward. Obviously, brought in another team to make it happen, but certainly excited to have Michael a part of our group here.

Do you expect him tomorrow, visa situations being as they are? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: No, it’s probably going to be a couple of days and stuff from that standpoint. So, I think it’d be a bit of a surprise if he’s here before Saturday. I think more realistic would be next week.

Did you feel that there was a necessity to make a move at this point given that this team has been slumping for a little bit? (John Wawrow – Associated Press)

JB: Well I think that we haven’t been very happy with the results at all. I would say, since coming back from the break, I think our team’s performed fairly well, but we haven’t gotten the results. So you’re always looking to try to find the mix and I think, like I just said before, I think at 5-on-5 we’ve done pretty well, but we do have to improve our special teams. I think that Tampa Bay is a good example. I think we’re coming on the PK but later on in the penalty kills giving up a late goal, that certainly has been very hurtful for our team. On the flip side, we’ve tried some things on the power play. This time of the year you’re looking for a spark from some of your top players, and that’s what we need.

One of the big focuses over the past month or so has been players publicly or privately or whatever asking for trades. What do you make of that and how do you deal with that given that you’re trying to build something here and you’ve got players who seem to want out? (John Wawrow – Associated Press)

JB: Well look, we have a lot of conversations with our players throughout the year and, as I’ve said before, I’m going to keep those conversations private. I can’t control what a player or his agent ends up saying to the media, but it also doesn’t impact or dictate what we’re going to do with our team here. The bottom line is, I think you look around that room, there’s always going to be some exceptions, there’s always going to be some players who are disappointed with their role or want more ice time or opportunity, but it’s also our belief what we’re trying to do is create more competition within our team. We have to build up our depth. We have to build more internal competition for roles. There’s always going to be players that are a little disgruntled, but I think for the majority of people, our players, are very excited to be working with Ralph and excited [about] where our team’s going.

How much was the Dalton Smith move a message to Tampa and how much of it was a message to your own room? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: It was a situation where I think it’s a great story. I think here’s a young man who came to our organization and developed. Chris Taylor is in charge of developing our young players at age 20, but he’s also in charge of developing players of all age. And here’s a 25-year-old that came into our organization and worked his way up to earn a National Hockey League contract. And, yeah, he brought grit, it was great to see him out there and it’s great to see him earn that contract and I also thought Jake McCabe stepping up in that situation, our guys played with team toughness and that’s what we have to do in the second half.

Lazar has showed a lot of grit since he’s been up here and it’s resulted in a couple of goals. And I saw that in training camp too, could it have been a situation where maybe he should have been here? Because he brings an element that maybe some of the other forwards don’t bring. (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)

JB: Well, I think what’s been great with working with Curtis is he had a fairly strong training camp. When he was sent to Rochester, he asked a lot of questions on what he had to work on. And you look at it right now, we’re a team that’s struggling with faceoffs, he’s adding an element to the faceoff. He’s getting in on the forecheck and maybe not his goals aren’t the prettiest but he’s going hard to the net from that standpoint. He brings elements that maybe we’re lacking a little bit and he’s certainly taking advantage of it. I think that’s what — for us to have success here in the second half — that’s what we going to have to continue to have: players stepping up. And with a player like Jeff Skinner going down, is an opportunity for, you know, extra ice time for other players to step up and hopefully have a big role in our team.

You needed to make one move, I know, to get to the other, but was there any pause given to Scandella to the team you’re chasing and you still have to play three more times? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: Look, I think Marco’s played very well this year. I think he came into the organization and the first year had a strong year. Last year, even in his own beliefs, maybe didn’t play up to his potential, but he’s done a very good job and I think that’s why there was more of a demand for him up there. We’re in a situation right now that we have to improve our own team and we felt this is a trade we wanted to make to improve our group here in Buffalo.

Do you still want to add to the forward depth? (Joe Yerdon – The Athletic)

JB: It’s a situation we’ll continue — we don’t have anything else to announce today — but we will certainly continue to look at it.

Did Montreal call you first or did you call them? How did this come about? (Jim Fink – Buffalo Business First)

JB: We’ve been talking to some different teams about scenarios. Originally, look, I’ve checked in with (Montreal GM Marc) Bergevin on some couple things and I think I reached out to him and that sort of probably started it.

Can you confirm that [Vladimir] Sobotka’s season is done? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: It’s something that we’ll probably re-evaluate later on, but it’s more likely that’s probably the case. But we’re still hopeful that there could be something later on.

Ralph said yesterday he’ll play players who want to be here. Is that his decision or is that organizational decision? (John Vogl – The Athletic)

JB: Look, anything that goes on the ice, and from our standpoint of bringing players in and who to call up, look, I’m in constant conversations with Ralph on that. You want players who want to be a part of things here. We’ve talked a lot about it, about players waiving no-trades to come to Buffalo, players signing with Buffalo; that’s how we’re going to have success eventually. I think players show more energy, more determination out there that want to be a part of it, want to be a part of the solution this year.

I don’t think I’ve ever asked you this: Do you strongly suggest what you would like the lineup to be or is that up to the coaching staff? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)

JB: That’s up the coaching staff from that standpoint. And look, I think you’ve seen a lot of different creative lineups this year with Ralph. He’s been willing to make adjustments to our group. He’s willing to go 11-and-7 or 12-and-6. But I know they have a lot of internal discussions there on things and feel very comfortable with it.

You’ve had 41 games to evaluate now. What’s it [inaudible]? (Bill Hoppe – Olean Times Herald)

JB: Well, look, I think Ralph understands the chemistry with our players and relationship with our players and has been willing to have the hard conversations with them. He also understands where we’re at right now, and understands that there’s positive steps we’re taking, but we have to continue to work hard to get better results here right now.

Jason Botterill Media Availability (12/16/19)

December 16, 2019

Jason Botterill
Media Availability (11:45 a.m.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4BzSsW_H_k (9:14)

Jason, the decision to send Casey Mittelstadt [to Rochester]: We’ve seen the way he’s struggled in recent weeks, what was the tipping point in your mind to make the decision yesterday? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

Jason Botterill: I think just with the holiday break coming up here, it’s something with the new coaching staff in here, we wanted to continue to work on Casey and his development. It’s one thing that we’ve loved interacting with Casey, is that he’s been all in and his attitude in practice and after practice with our coaching staff has certainly been really good. But after sitting out a few games, we wanted to make sure that leading into the break that he was playing games and continuing his development from that standpoint. What we’ve tried to create in our organization is development at every level, whether a player’s in Buffalo, Rochester or Cincinnati, they’re getting better and sometimes there needs to be interaction between those two organizations, or different parts of the organization. That’s what we’re doing with Casey right now.

Is some of it Chris Taylor too? I mean, when Tage [Thompson] went down, Chris Taylor sat with him and you could see an immediate improvement, you know, dealing with Chris and the way Chris handled him and the way he has developed players, [Victor] Olofsson and [Rasmus] Asplund and others. Does that have a little bit to do with it too? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)

JB: Well we have 100 percent confidence in Chris and his staff in Rochester. You think, certainly it was a difficult situation at the start of the year with [Don [Granato’s] illness, but to have Chris come up here, work beside Ralph, understand exactly what Ralph’s looking for in players and also too, Chris has now seen some of Casey’s best games — you look at the West Coast trip earlier on in the year — and he’s also seen when Casey’s struggled. I think just having the knowledge is certainly going to help him out in getting Casey back up to the National Hockey League.

What does Casey need to do to be more engaged in the games? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: Well, look, we see his hockey sense, we see his skill level, it’s just there needs to be — and we’ve seen glimpses of it — we just have to see it on a more consistent basis. He’s a very motivated young player who has a lot of aspirations. As an organization, we know he’s going to be a big part of our future and hopefully a part of our second half here and stuff too. To me, it’s just there needs to be more of a consistent level with him. We need to get away from the discussion of whether he should be in the lineup or [getting more] minutes. We want him to be an impact player and that’s where we think developing a few elements of his game in Rochester right now is going to be beneficial for him and our organization.

Is the plan, do you want to send him down for two weeks? Is it TBA? What is the plan? (Bill Hoppe – Olean Times Herald)

JB: My belief in that, is — I’m not saying it’s right or wrong — is just there’s never a set time. In our discussions with Casey, it’s always an emotional conversation when you’re talking to somebody with this, but what I liked was his initial respect for the American Hockey League level and excitement of going and playing. There’s no set time frame on, ‘Hey, this is when you’re going to come back.’ You have to be all in with the team that you’re playing with and that’s what he’s going to be a part of and we’ll see how things progress from there.

How much was this facilitated by the way Asplund came up here and kind of, you know, grabbed the NHL level in his first shot at it? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: It’s certainly helped out in the fact that we’ve gotten healthy. You look in the last couple of weeks, the fact that Kyle Okposo’s come back into the lineup and to me that line has been outstanding over the last couple of weeks. And then what you see with Asplund is just his versatility, helping out on our PK, being able to play center, being able to play wing and then you see the development of Victor Olofsson. It’s an amazing story where he’s at right now. There was question marks whether he was going to make our team at the start of the year to now continuing to be sort of a staple on our top line. Just having these different players step up, it’s great to see and certainly allowed us to have success over the last week or two.

What is it with Asplund? He was learning pro hockey last year and now he’s ready for the NHL, you know, we’ve seen in his play. What have you seen in him that is made that step for him? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)

JB: Well I think he’s still a player that’s developing every day at the National Hockey League level too. You’re seeing that, so let’s go to a player like Victor Olofsson, you look at the stats, you look at the shots, but I also look at his play, like his down-low play right now and just his strength; I think he’s putting players on his back and doing a lot better job of puck protection and he’s probably learned a lot from Jack [Eichel] from that element. With a guy like Rasmus Aslpund, we’ve always really respected his hockey sense. I think the fact that he’s been getting, you know, there’s that initial adrenaline rush when you come up to the National Hockey League, but he’s been able to sustain the speed and the pace of the game and just his versatility and his smarts, being able to make plays offensively but also be very strong defensively has allowed him to earn extra ice time.

Did you get the sense that when you called — did you talk to Casey face-to-face or did you call? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

No, we brought in Casey yesterday and Ralph and myself sat down and talked with him.

Did you get the sense that there was a certain inevitability, he knew that it was coming? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: No, I couldn’t answer that one with Casey, but I will say what I really enjoyed about the conversation is just that it was immediately get over the frustration and disappointment and instantly, ‘What do I have to do to get back on track? To get back to the National Hockey League? To help achieve things?’ You look at even the past week here; the game against St. Louis, he maybe had one or two shifts in the third period, but he was vocal on the bench, he was very supportive of the teammates and that’s where little elements like that I think are showing a lot of maturity in a young player. The fact that he can sort of get his mind wrapped around ‘What do I have to do to improve in my own game, individual game?’ shows a lot of maturity on his part.

Obviously the goal the last few years is to build the competition; how do you keep it a healthy competition especially on the back end? (John Vogl – The Athletic)

Well, look, it’s something that I think you look at this past week here we’ve had some, what I’ve liked of our development of our team here is one, I think we’ve managed the puck a lot better and then two, when we’ve got the lead in the third period we’ve been able to hang on to it. And I think it’s partially because we’ve had, even though you look at the schedule from Sweden on here, it’s been very difficult, we’ve had players coming in and out of the lineup in the back end and it’s challenging guys there. What I like right now with our mix back there is, hey, if we have the lead, certain players are getting extra ice time. If we’re behind, other players are getting the extra ice time. So there’s certainly, we know we have competitive players back there that all want to be in the lineup, but we also think having this depth has helped us over the last couple of weeks and is certainly going to help us moving forward here.

Is it a coincidence that this decision with Casey happens around, about the same number of NHL games played as it did with Tage? It’s right around that 100 or so area. Is it just a total coincidence?

JB: That one is a total coincidence.

What is Tage’s timetable at this point? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: It’s from a standpoint, he’s still working with our medical staff and continuing from the rehab perspective. Once we have something sort of more set in stone, and we know that’s going to be sort of a solid timeline, we’ll certainly get back to you on that.

You mention guys stepping up, what have you thought of Jack in the last month here? (John Vogl – The Athletic)

JB: It’s certainly been fun to watch, you know. You look at the last couple of weeks, just — it’s all aspects of his game. It’s puck management offensively, it’s obviously the relationship with Sam [Reinhart], chemistry there, but then just elevating Victor Olofsson’s game and then developing [a] relationship there. You’ve seen it now him shooting the puck. We’ve always known about his passing ability and as much as the points and production’s great, you’ve seen him — going back to the St. Louis game — protecting a one-goal lead, he’s taking the faceoff at the end of the game trying to protect that one-goal lead and help us win a game. So in all aspects of the game, he’s playing outstanding and it’s fun to watch.

What’s your concern level about Carter [Hutton]? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: Look, we know — especially from goaltending aspects — players are going to go through different streaks from that element. I love that Linus [Ullmark] has stepped up his game and really taken hold of it. I also look a player like Carter, you look at it a couple weeks ago in Toronto. Certainly it was a very good game. He got us to overtime, he helped us from that standpoint. What I like about Carter is his work ethic, interacting with Mike Bales, working with our staff. I know that he’s going to come out of it and I also know that our players, when he gets back in there, are going to play hard in front of him.

Henri Jokiharju is playing in the last minute of games now. You know, he’s 20 years old. I know you thought he was good when you traded for him, but has he been better than you even thought? Being as trusted in those situations now? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)

JB: Yeah, his development has been probably more rapid that what we first anticipated when we made the trade, and it’s in different elements. I think what I’ve really been impressed with is just his compete down low and his, just his smarts in crucial situations like that. You always think you can make the projection on it, the fact that he played World Juniors, the fact that he played World Championships and had success there, but you don’t know how it’s going to transition, especially as a young player to the National Hockey League. For him to do that so quickly, it’s fun to watch.

Have you sat down with Zach Bogosian and talked about his future? And did he request a trade? (Bill Hoppe – Olean Times Herald)

JB: Look, I’ve been consistent with this: My conversations with the players is going to stay between the players and myself. All that I’ll say is that we’re ecstatic that Zach is back within our lineup here now. He worked extremely hard coming off the surgery. He’s added another dynamic to our back end there. You look at when he’s out there on our PK and just his physical presence, it’s another point of helping out our group here.

Jason Botterill Interview – Schopp & Bulldog (11/27/19)

November 27, 2019

Jason Botterill
Schopp & Bulldog (5:30 p.m.)
https://wgr550.radio.com/media/audio-channel/11-27-jason-botterill-with-schopp-the-bulldog (16:37)

Mike Schopp: You’re home. I think last year maybe was the same? I don’t know. But you’re home so maybe you’ll get to enjoy tomorrow with family and stuff.

Jason Botterill: Little bit of family, watch a little Bills action. Should be a good day.

MS: What do you think about [the Bills] right now? They’re interesting right now, Bills. I don’t mean your family. They might be too.

JB: Well, you look at over the next four games, it’s certainly going to be a challenge for them and I think, especially coming off such a short week, traveling down to Dallas will be very interesting for them. Obviously, a little drama in Dallas too after their tough loss against the Pats. But to me, it’s been great. It’s been fun watching. They continue to improve, especially on offense. I think they’re going to have a great effort tomorrow.

MS: What was playing hockey in Dallas like? Pretty anonymous?

JB: It was anonymous, but there was an excitement around there. They were passionate. And it was at that time, when I played, it was at the old Reunion Arena. Played on some excellent teams, obviously, there that were battling for Stanley Cups and they were exciting. Players like Mike Modano, [Sergei] Zubov, who just went into the Hall of Fame. They had a great crowd, great atmosphere. They weren’t exactly the most knowledgeable hockey fans at that time, but they were passionate. They wanted to cheer on their team. I think you take a step back, players are now coming out of Dallas and stuff, like what the Stars did a great job [of] when they moved from Minnesota there is they built up youth hockey. They did a great job with their high school program, their youth program and they really developed hockey families.

Chris Parker: There’s a lot going on with your team. There’s a lot going on in the league. There’s a lot going on with your opponent tonight, so there’s a lot to unpack here. I’d like to start here if we could with you on the play [Rasmus] Dahlin is injured on. You’ve spent your life in the sport, you came up in the sport when it was a very different game; physically, retribution, things like that. I wonder how you see how it’s changed and as a manager watching your team and seeing no one really take charge of the situation when Dahlin got hit with a cheap shot. How do you balance that? Because I know the game has changed, right? And I like the changes for the most part. But at the same time there’s a frustration when your 19-year-old superstar’s laying in the ice bleeding and you sort of want a little, you want a little payback. How do you deal with that?

JB: Well I think, first of all, you’re extremely disappointed about the actual action and the fact that one of our top players is down with an injury. I think what Ralph [Krueger] alluded to in his press conference this morning, you look at both at what happened to [Vladimir] Sobotka and also with what happened to Dahlin, it’s a situation where there is a little bit of uncertainty right off the bat. I’ve liked our response when people know what’s going on, when people truly understand. You look at the game in Anaheim earlier this year, Victor Olofsson got hit from behind [and] went into the boards, there was five of our guys in there for the scrum right away and I think that’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for a team toughness element and you want to make sure that when there’s something everyone sees and everything’s on the ice, they’re there and they’re battling.

CP: So was it conspicuous that that didn’t happen either in the moment when the hit was made and you got a competitive game, 3-2 and then you’re on the power play, I think anyone can understand not wanting to sacrifice that. You might have been expecting another penalty because Dahlin is on his knees bleeding. It didn’t come. Later in the game, nothing happened. Is that disappointing at all to you?

JB: No, I think it’s the game. I guess my question to you is, so what do you want from the response?

CP: I suppose someone going and challenging [Erik] Cernak and letting him know that that’s not okay that you just elbowed Rasmus Dahlin in the face.

JB: I like where our team’s at from a camaraderie standpoint about respecting each other, about protecting each other. I can’t tell you sitting here right now why something didn’t happen, but I know that there was certain concern for Rasmus. There’s certainly a lot of respect for Rasmus and I appreciate where our toughness on our team has been. I think our guys have protected each other from that standpoint. It’s something that we’ll continue to look at and work out.

MS: Just as a P.S. I guess, I’m thinking of [Brandon] Montour’s comment after [Jack] Eichel’s fight. How he was surprised or disappointed, did he say disappointed? Maybe he didn’t. He noted that there was little or no reaction to that on his team. Is that mean anything to you that comment?

JB: In what regards to the comment?

MS: That he felt that the bench didn’t react to Eichel’s fight, which game was that?

JB: That was against Minnesota.

CP: A week ago Tuesday.

JB: And that’s where there should’ve been, we should have gotten more of a jump off of that without a doubt. When guys are stepping up and doing things sort of outside their realm, trying to ignite the team, there needs to be a bigger reaction.

MS: It’s kind of the point, right?

JB: Yeah, it’s kind of the point that it’s something Jack’s not usually comfortable. You saw when Jimmy [Vesey] scored in the Tampa Bay game, the excitement from the bench, the reaction, that’s great to see. You’ve seen it when we’ve done well early in the year on the penalty kill with a blocked shot type of thing. There’s that challenge, they’re bringing something. That’s where we have to do a better job. I don’t have an answer for on what happened in the Minnesota game. Overall it wasn’t a very good game from our part. If you look back on the last month or so, it was certainly one of the more disappointing games. Our captain tried to lead us in that result. We should’ve had a better response following that.

MS: Okay, we’ve talked about a particular area here for a few minutes. What do you think your team is missing or needs right now, you know? Like you’re in the middle of the standings, it’s not like anything’s over yet. What does it need that it doesn’t have, more than anything else, would you say?

JB: Well right now our special teams is certainly hurting us at times. You look at the game against Tampa Bay — overall I really like the way we played. Even go back to the game against Boston, I thought we played extremely well there too. But special teams is hurting us. I think at the start of the year, especially our power play, gave us a lift and when your power-play guys aren’t clicking, they take that frustration over to even strength and don’t have that same confidence in and around the net. You look at the game against Tampa Bay, second period, we have an opportunity, we actually had a good power play, went 2-1 that could’ve made it 3-1. We don’t score. They go back on the power play and score a goal to make it 2-2, bit momentum change in the game. So I think our power play and our penalty kill has to improve on. I think having Zach Bogosian back in the lineup, he’s one of our better penalty killers, I think that’ll certainly help us out. I think having Marcus Johansson come back to help out either the second (power play) unit or first unit just with his zone entries will certainly help our group, and that’s what we have to find a better chemistry up there.

CP: How many things schematically can, like, there’s only so much room on the ice and so many people, just how creative can you get about trying to change that up? Because we’ve all seen the triangle of Dahlin and Jack on his off wing and Victor on his off wing and that was really clicking when the season began and you guys were cruising at like a 45 percent conversion rate, which is, of course, unrealistic to maintain, but still it was great. It seems like teams like when, “Oh, yeah, this Olofsson guy can shoot the lights out. Let’s try to take that away.” So you’ve got to find another way in.

JB: I think you look at the players that we have on the unit, they have hockey sticks, they have creativity and they have to just continue to utilize that more. Teams are taking away Olofsson a little bit more, that should leave other guys open for the opportunity. You look at whether Jack’s on it, we all know where Jack likes to be, but he has that versatility. Sam [Reinhart’s] versatility, to me he’s the new-age sort of net-front guy. The guy who has the size to be the screen but also the hands to make plays in and around the net. We have to utilize those guys more.

MS: Jason, fans, are just sort of waiting for a trade here, I think a lot of fans are. Bulldog and I, if I may, are both kind of shocked, maybe, that there wasn’t something else to come in the summer with all the defensemen you had and this idea of a defenseman for a forward — that if, I’m sure, is easier said than done. What would it take — I recognize, too, there are not trade in the league, you know? What would it take? I mean, would you need to see a certain number of games without moving up the standings or a losing streak or just like what? I think I speak for many, many Sabres fans just wondering what the thing would need to have — what would need to be to get something like that to occur?

JB: Well, I think we always look at, we’re always looking to improve our team. And people always ask me that question and look: I have to have an answer. I have to talk to him about, hey, what discussions we have going on. Bottom line is, I don’t feel really comfortable about it until we get a deal done and there’s something there. I’ve been asked: ‘Do you feel close on something?’ Doesn’t matter if you’re close on something. You get a deal done and you move on. Look, we knew that we were having some injuries, even right now, we have a player coming back in Zach Bogosian. I think he has done an excellent job through two games. But coming off major hip surgery, you don’t know how he’s going to respond. We wanted to — we’ve had so many questions on our defense over the last couple years, we wanted to make sure we added some depth there. We’ve been, I’ve been open to it. We’re looking to help our forward group right now with injuries that we’ve sustained, we’re trying to find help there. And if something materializes there, we’ll certainly jump on it.

MS: Yeah, I don’t want to ask you if you’re close because I agree, I sort of feel that way, I understand. And you know, Bulldog and I and everybody out here, never gets to know what is being talked about. Sometimes we’ll see these little stories on Twitter, like, ‘so and so is rumored to be available in a trade,’ any sport. Like, well, I think, why is that even news? Why wouldn’t every team be open to trading anybody? You want to be open to ideas.

JB: Yep, you want to be open to ideas. And that’s certainly where there’s general managers in the league that you trust and communicate with and you’re open to different ideas. Hey, you may think you’re close on something, then a game happens and that team loses two forwards or that team loses two defensemen, and it doesn’t materialize. Second part of it, right now you’re dealing with, is on any given day you look at it, you have 12 — anywhere from 10 to 12 teams — in LTI, long-term injury. So there’s just not the cap space to make that as flexible. And we made a trade, I won’t tell you which one, but we made a trade in the past year, that literally took 14 months to consummate. So, we’ve been talking to the team for over 14 months to get something done and it wasn’t a fit until it finally materialized. So, look, we’re trying to, we see adding more depth at our forward group, add more to our mix there, to either help our offense or help our PK would certainly help out our group and we’re continuing to try and find a solution.

CP: Not to get hung up on one word you just said there, but trust, you mentioned ‘trust other GMs.’ I wonder, if, do you worry that if you are talking too many people about too many guys that stuff will get out? That like, all of the sudden the big-name reporters are going to be saying, ‘Jason Botterill is shopping so-and-so?’

JB: Well, look, there’s always that worry. You always wish that all of your conversations become, are confidential. To me, that’s how you get a deal done eventually. You’re throwing out different ideas out that you may not be comfortable with, but you’re at least seeing if there’s a fit from that standpoint. And I think there’s just some general managers, you feel a little bit more of a trust from that standpoint, and that’s where as a younger general manager in the league, I’m trying to build those relationships with different guys who have been here longer than myself.

MS: Yeah, I think that’s a thing, like, right? You don’t, nobody, everybody is sort of in the same place there, I would think, as a GM. We don’t want —  I’m going to tell you I have a guy that I’m looking to move, but we’re never going to speak about this again, and like we don’t want anybody knowing it, that kind of thing. There’s certainly a lot to talk about here and there’d be more, but I want to ask about the thing with [Calgary head coach] Bill Peters. And I think the question being asked in hockey right now is, is this the beginning of something, where people who know, and have had experiences over the years, are going to feel empowered to speak, I think is the essence of this maybe, or where we might be headed. What do you see coming?

JB: Well, I can’t predict that, all I can know right now is talking within people in the Calgary Flames organization, they’re certainly taking it very serious. I think you’re seeing it how with their actions over the last 48 hours and as Ralph [Krueger] talked about, we don’t have the information to know exactly what materialized, but you have to look internally in your own situation and making sure that we’re trying to have an environment where players, there is respect and players feel open to communicate with myself, with Ralph and with our staff. And, hey, we’re not going to sit on that pedestal saying, ‘Oh, we’re perfect’ by any means. But that’s what you’re trying to accomplish. You’re trying to make sure that your environment where people understand that as a coach you’re going to challenge players at certain times and try to get the most out of players. But also, in an environment where the players feel very comfortable talking to the management staff and the coaching staff.

MS: I think if I asked you, or maybe anybody who has been in the game for as long, ‘Jason, is it a lot different now coaching than it used to be, or playing for a coach than it used to be?’ I would think they would almost all laugh, like of course it’s different. Things that might have seemed just like, this is motivation, now might border on abuse. And you’ve had that life.

JB: And look, the stakes are so much higher now. You look at the salaries, what’s happened in the last decade to two decades, there’s a lot riding on players becoming National Hockey League players and having successful careers. You’re also looking at every player that seems to come in, they have their own group, they have their own team. They have skill coaches, development coaches, each individual player has a mental skills coach, an agent, family members talking to them. So there’s a lot going on with these different players and, you know, it’s just a situation where coaches sit down, talk to players and go there. They want to know why. They want to know how it fits into the whole group of things. So, I think you see players in the summer, you know, 20-30 years ago, guys just are working out. They’re now working on their game every day. They’re looking for information and knowledge to improve themselves and that’s what they’re looking for from the coaching staff, too.

CP: The story is still relatively young, I mean, we’ll see what sorts of twists and turns it takes. I’m wondering, as you’re talking and replying to Mike’s question there, if it’s the sort of thing that has the potential to have you go through your organization and ask all the people that are working for you, like ‘Is there anything I need to know that might have happened in Peoria,’ or in wherever that could pop up so you could be ready for something, if it should come?

JB: Well, look, we feel we do a very good job of that before, before we bring people into our organization. We hope that — it’s not as if we sit down, talk with them and hey, we’re offering you a job and bringing you in. We feel we do a lot from a background check and making sure that the people that we’re bringing in to interact with our players, to interact with our employees, certainly have a high standard. Now, hey, can we continue to improve on that? Without a doubt. And how I interact with my coaches, my training staff, how I interact with people within my office, you always have to look and re-evaluate the situation.