Tag Archives: Jason Botterill

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.

Jason Botterill Media Availability (11/19/19)

November 19, 2019

Jason Botterill
Media availability (6:45 p.m.)

Jason, you’re in a bit of an injury pickle here, you’ve got eight forwards in the organization injured right now. Are you to a point now where you’re looking other places, or what are you doing now with so many guys hurt? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)

Jason Botterill: Well I think we obviously just had our GM meetings here today. It’s certainly a situation where we’re actively looking to see if we can make our team a little better and find a forward out there to help our group. But we also are very happy with how our players have come up from Rochester and played so far. I think the one that’s probably the most [disappointing] is someone like Tage Thompson. I thought he spent a lot of time this summer working on his game. I thought he had a good training camp. We asked him to go down to Rochester to work on certain elements of his game. He created a lot of scoring chances but then worked on his wall play, his battle in front of the net and then came up and unfortunately had the injury there. So disappointment for him and his development, but it’s a situation where we think we have some players coming back this weekend both at the National Hockey League level and American Hockey League level and helps us out.

Are you in a situation now where it’s basically money in, money out? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)

JB: Yeah, because eventually we have to — we want to be cap compliant. We understand that these players are going to be coming back, they’re not year-end injuries, and we don’t want to be given a situation where we have to make a move. It’s how we set up our team throughout the entire year, we certainly want to be in a situation where we’re adding the best players possible, but we never wanted to be in a cap situation where we had to make a move.

Will [Zach] Bogosian be eligible, you think, to play on this road trip? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: He’s seeing our doctors again this evening and, you know, you’ve seen him out in practice. Mike, I’d say that’s, you know, we’re optimistic that sometime on the road trip that he’s going to be able to play. For all of us, that will be a great moment. I think Zach has worked extremely hard coming back from this injury. I think he’ll be a big boost to our team.

What’s the concern level for Kyle [Okposo], the latest concussion? How serious do the discussions need to get with him at this point? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: Well, there’s a lot of concern. And it’s just simply because it’s Kyle. You appreciate, you respect what he brings to our team, the leader that he is within our locker room, the man that he is. You don’t want to see anyone have a concussion. Right now the focus, is just making sure that Kyle is alright and to get him back to normal health. But I think with any one of our players who has a concussion, there’s certainly a lot of concern.

From a rules standpoint, what came out of the GMs meeting? (Paul Hamilton, WGR 550)

JB: I think you’re looking at a lot of different things and a lot of things that maybe some people think, such as offsides, that are fairly simple, but there’s always loopholes or things that maybe we don’t think about that quite often. Things were presented that I think that we’ll look at a lot more seriously in March and then throughout the rest of the meetings, a lot of conversations, a lot of updates across a lot of different departments.

Is there a plan for Ukko-Pekka [Luukkonen]? Is he going to move up from Cincinnati soon or do you want to keep him down there a little bit more? (Bill Hoppe – Olean Times Herald)

JB: Well, seeing as he didn’t have a training camp really, it’s important for us right now just for him to play. Obviously, he had an outstanding week. His interaction with Seamus Kotyk, our goalie development coach, has been excellent. For us right now the biggest thing is a young player just making [the] adjustment to pro is to get him in as many games as possible down there.

Jason, what’s your reaction to people who say this is last year all over again? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: Well, I would just say that’s something that we have to prove that it’s not. I think the vibe that we have in our locker room, the confidence that we have in the locker room — I think especially at this start of this month, you look at the four games we had in a row, I believe against Washington, Islanders, Tampa Bay, those are teams that have been top in the league the last couple years. That’s where we want to get to. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. But I like the steps we’ve gone through. I think, as it was mentioned today at the GM meetings, the amount of one-goal games there are out there, the amount of games that go into overtime, that’s what you have to do. We have to find more of an opportunity to be more consistent throughout the year but also find a way to win these one-goal games.

Everybody knows you have to make a deal. How difficult a spot does that put you in and how tough is it to do it in the middle of November when teams don’t really know who they are yet to some degree?

JB: Well I think it’s always difficult. Certainly, we’re active talking to different teams out there. You look in the salary-cap world, other teams are having injuries. Just look within our division. So it is difficult. The other element of it, is yeah, we’re finally getting healthy on defense, but it’s imperative for us to keep our depth on defense. We’ve utilized it already this year and we’re in game 20, so we know over the course of 82 games, we’re going to need it again here.

When you have a cap crunch, as you said, there’s a lot of defensemen, but at the moment you’re scratching guys who are making four million towards the cap. Can they move down or is that tough? (John Vogl – The Athletic)

JB: It’s a situation right now but that we don’t want to be — we have, obviously, we have next week, we have five games in seven nights. We want to make sure we understand that we’re going to face some adversity on defense on here. We want to make sure we have that capability. But those are the things we continue to look at, to see if there’s a mix with another team that we can maybe add to our group at forward. We also really like the way we’ve tried to build up our defense over the last couple of years here. It’s something that if we are going to remove anyone from there, we’ve got to make sure it’s helping our team out.

You have nine NHL defensemen when Bogosian comes back. Down on the farm, you’ve got [Casey] Nelson, you’ve got [Lawrence] Pilut, you’ve got [Will] Borgen. If you were to trade one of your nine defensemen, don’t you feel one of those guys could come in if you would need it in [an] injury situation? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)

JB: Well we had a lot of those defensemen there too at the start of the year, and injuries, we weren’t planning on Brandon Montour to be injured at the start of training camp. I wasn’t planning on this many amount of forwards getting injured in the last week or two. It happens. So you can always have predictions that — the bottom line is we’re going to have more injuries on defense and it’s important that we have that depth.

With all these injuries at forward, was there any consideration to Dylan Cozens, No. 1? And No. 2, was [Jason] Pominville a thought or does the cap preclude you? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: I think certainly from a free agent standpoint, we’ve certainly looked at different options from there. Right now, we feel very comfortable still with the players that we have and the players we still have in Rochester that can come up and play for us. From Dylan’s standpoint we’re ecstatic about him as a player and his development, but he is not on the radar for this situation. His goal right now is to help Lethbridge out and find a way onto the World Junior team.

Jason Botterill Interview – Schopp & Bulldog (11/14/19)

November 14, 2019


Jason Botterill

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

https://wgr550.radio.com/media/audio-channel/11-14-jason-botterill-schopp-bulldog (15:32)


Mike Schopp: Last week was quiet with the two games then in Sweden and then this week has been quiet since. Tonight that changes. Buffalo and Carolina. Mike Schopp and the Bulldog from (716) joined now by Sabres GM Jason Botterill. Hi, Jason.

Jason Botterill: Hi.

MS: How was Sweden? Was there a lot of ceremony during the week? I remember one player after Friday’s game talking about, like, somebody asked one of the players if it was more physical because the guys have been together like a lot this week? Was there a lot of that? What kind of an experience was this?

JB: Well overall you’re certainly disappointed you couldn’t come away with at least one win over there, but I thought the experience was amazing. I think our players took the responsibility of representing the National Hockey League very serious. So many of them have sacrificed so much to get to the National Hockey League and if you’re a kid from Western Canada, later on next month we go out there, you get to play in Vancouver, you get to play in front of family and friends. You make a trip to Toronto, so many kids from the Ontario area. But for them to be over there, to be tour guides for everyone, to show off Stockholm — the first couple of days we had amazing weather over in Sweden there too, so it was great to see the city. But, you know, like a kid like Rasmus Dahlin, you know, I think the two experiences I think that Ras will probably bring out, you’ll have to talk to him specifically, but like the opportunity to meet Nick Lidstrom — you forget 19-year-old Swedish kid being able to meet Nick Lidstrom, what an honor. And then to stand on the blue line and you’re playing a National Hockey League game, you dream of being a National Hockey League player, then you get to hear the Swedish National Anthem? I got goose bumps listening to the National Anthems there, especially the Friday evening. So, I think just in general, everything went, from a logistics standpoint, went extremely smoothly and overall it was a great opportunity for our players to stay, to get together and understand so many of the North Americans where these, where the Swedish kids came from and how, why they are so proud about their country.


MS: I did hear Linus Ullmark make a point about the anthem on Friday. When he played Friday and he said, “That was pretty good.”

JB: And it’s not just listening to [it]. The entire building is singing the Swedish national anthem, and that’s where it just gives another element to the whole thing.

MS: Do you feel like you know it now? How many times did you hear that?

JB: I’ve heard it quite a few times in international competitions, but there’s no way that I’m going to be able to sing that one.


Chris Parker: I did, I heard that Dahlin was maybe visibly nervous, shaking to meet Lidstrom and, you know, the thought I had was, like, Dahlin, yes he is so young still, but he was so highly touted, I might have wrongly assumed that he would’ve met Nicklas Lidstrom at some point coming up through Swedish hockey.

JB: Yeah, and it’s just one of those things that never materialized and you sometimes forget, most of the time in big opportunities on the ice, Ras has such calmness. He has, nothing seems to really bother him, he handles it extremely well. But, again, that’s one of your idols, that’s one of the reasons you develop your game like. When our coaches are talking to Rasmus Dahlin right now, no matter how many points let’s say he gets on the power play, he still wants the opportunity to play against other team’s top players. He still wants, working on his defensive game and a big part of that is because he watched Nick Lidstrom growing up. That’s who he wants to mimic his game around. It was a great experience for him to see that stuff and have that interaction.


CP: How would you say that’s going here early in year two for Dahlin?

JB: Well I think it’s what we like so much about him is that running the power play as a 19-year-old and making the right decisions out there is a difficult job and he makes it look so easy. He’s worked extremely hard on his game in the offseason. He’s worked on his strength and he wants to take on the opportunity about playing against other team’s top lines. I still think that’s another step in his development there. He has to continue to work on, to earn those opportunities and not only just be in them but excel in those situations there. You have to understand, you look at Nick Lidstrom when he won all those Norrises, you look at other defenseman throughout the league, just a gradual process with it. What we love about Ras is he’s just not looking at, “Hey, oh I got some points on the power play. My game’s good.” He understands that there’s still more to his game, especially from a defensive standpoint, that he can work on.


MS: What do you think he’s struggling with though? I mean, I think you would probably agree his game is not quite at the level it was most of last year, or no?

JB: I think he’s having tougher matchups from that standpoint, I think it’s just, you know, earlier in the year I think he mimicked our entire team. We did an excellent job of moving out of our zone and getting the puck to our forwards to have more offensive zone opportunity time. I think you looked at the last three or four weeks, that’s where we’ve slipped a little bit. We’ve spent too much time in our defensive zone. Look, he’s changed a lot of different defensive partners over the last couple of weeks here. We think it’s a good fit here with [Brandon] Montour. We’re excited about bringing more guys back in the equation, like we have with [Marco] Scandella here tonight. I think that’s, not only just for Ras, but I think for our entire team, making that quick adjustment with the puck and getting out of our own zone.


CP: You are starting to have extra bodies back there. We talked a couple weeks ago, Scandella maybe had just been hurt. [Zach] Bogosian wasn’t practicing yet, but that’s changed. [Lawrence] Pilut was with you in Sweden, he’s back in Rochester. It feels like you might be getting to like a maximum density standpoint with healthy defenders who can play in the NHL. Does that make your job easy? Does it make your job hard? What changes for you, if anything?

JB: Well I think it’s great because we’re having options now, at least. You know, and it’s the same thing, just the development of [Henri] Jokiharju has given us more opportunities to say, “Hey, he’s not down in Rochester right now, he’s up with our team.” So it gives us more opportunity and more, sort of options, that our coaching staff can utilize during the game. But you look at it, like, it’s great that Scandella can come back. I think that he, especially with Henri, had some good chemistry before he got hurt there. It’s great to have Montour finally back into the mix and playing. There’s no, sort of, we have to wait and watch his minutes now. We can play him at full strength here. It’s great to see Zach Bogosian, and I think if you saw some of the quotes, he was pretty emotional yesterday. It’s been a long road for him to get back and it was a great step in his development and his road back to actually playing, being with the practice. But it’s still going to take him some time until he’s 100 percent game-ready there. But from my standpoint, it just gives us more opportunity, more options. Plus, you look at, I think we have, I know at the end of the month we got five [games] in seven [days], and I think we have starting tonight 10 games in the next 17 days. We know we’re going to utilize these players.


MS: One issue seems to be scoring and scoring depth. What’s the problem? Are you thinking that you have the personnel to get more out of your forward group than you’re getting? What particularly can you say is causing this drop off?

JB: Well I think it is — I think we have the personnel to do it. I think they’ve proven it at the start of the year to be able to create opportunities. I think a big step was how our top line played over in Sweden. I think their 5-on-5 scoring, they hadn’t been producing a lot and they really stepped up from that standpoint. You look at a trip, we’re talking earlier about the Swedes, for Victor Olofsson. I don’t know if the weekend could’ve gone any better other than getting a couple wins. Him creating opportunities out there, capitalizing on some situations there, I thought it was great from that standpoint. Do we think that there’s still players that are, some of our forward guys, that can certainly produce more? Yeah. And I think that’s where Ralph [Krueger] has changed up the lines a little bit, trying to find a mix that can work. But overall, I’ve liked our game in transition. I think we’ve done a pretty good job there. I’ve certainly liked how our power play has moved the puck around and the process that it’s had. And also, too, the sheer numbers that it’s producing. So I think whenever that power play can continue to produce, it just allows and gives our guys that much more confidence at even strength.


CP: How much temptation, if at all, is there — it probably is alleviated with how that, the line and Olofsson played in Sweden, but [Jeff] Skinner was very productive up there last year, of course. You can understand why you want to leave him where he is, but, like, I don’t know, as you’re watching, do you ever find yourself thinking, “We’ve got to put Skinner up there with Jack [Eichel]”? Or no?

JB: I think that’s where Ralph has a great feel and then what my job is, and what our job is, is to try and give him as many options as possible. I think we’re trying to do that on the defensive standpoint and we’re trying to create more opportunities for him to figure out the lines on the forward group and stuff there. I think it’s, what I’ve loved is that, you know, earlier in the season I thought [Marcus] Johansson and Skinner had really good chemistry. They cooled off a little bit from that standpoint, but there still is that dialogue going on. We’re just trying, I think Ralph is trying to find what the mix is going to be from our lines, two, three, four lines type of things there. I think you see Ralph too how he changes it up in certain situations. Sometimes he does, especially at the end of periods type of thing, throw Jeff up there with Jack and Sam [Reinhart]. We certainly understand that there is chemistry there, but you’re trying to find not just the one line, you’re trying to produce the others. And I also would say, it’s also a reflection and it’s a great sort of statement for Victor Olofsson of how much our, not just Jack but anyone who plays with him, how much they enjoy playing with Victor and just his hockey sense. You heard that through Marcus Johansson in training camp, he played a little bit with Victor. You certainly hear that from Jack and Sam right now. He’s done a lot up there that our players want to interact with him and want to be on the ice with him.


MS: So you have all these — you mentioned how many games you have coming up and there’s been a lot of time off here in the last two weeks. You started 8-2 and since 1-6. You feel like you know, like, what you are at this point? Or do you want to, are you looking at these 10 in 17 maybe to do that? Are you still sort of wondering what your overall quality is?

JB: I think you’re always looking to see, trying to figure out exactly what your group is and how is it going to — we believe there’s still opportunity for our younger players to grow and have bigger significant roles. But it’s going to be the evaluation, can they handle it? I think the NHL does a great job in setting us up. You look at our schedule before going over to Europe and coming back, they made it very easy for us from that standpoint. But the bottom line is, is you’re going to condense things differently once you come back and that’s what we’ve got right now. We’re going to be in a condensed schedule. It’s going to be challenging for our group, but on the other hand you’re going to get in the mix [of] just playing. And I think that’s what our players are looking for right now. You look, especially the last four games that we’ve lost in regulation, it’s against teams that, you know, we’re hopefully getting to that standard eventually. You’re looking at Washington, Islanders, Tampa Bay, over the last two or three years, those teams have been top teams. It’s where we want to eventually get to. I certainly, I don’t think anyone’s going to sit here and say our performance against Washington was very good, but beyond that, there was opportunities to win the games now it’s a challenge of our group to make sure that we find ways to ways to get those results moving forward here.


MS: [Curtis] Lazar coming up, why him and what does he give you?

JB: Well I think he did an excellent job in training camp coming in here. It’s a player that maybe Ralph and our coaching staff didn’t know that well but was impressed with just his ability to get to the net, his ability to finish checks. Did a nice job in PK too, certainly through training camp. Had an opportunity to come out with us on the West Coast trip when we were out in California, he fit really well with our group there.

MS: Oh, he was on that trip?

JB: Yep. He didn’t play but he was out there and stuff with our group there. And then, you know, obviously we’ve been staying in touch and it’s been great how Rochester’s been playing over the last couple of weeks here. We feel we have different options down there who we can call up, but he certainly deserved the opportunity to come up. He’s going to be in the lineup tonight and we’re excited to hopefully give a little bit of energy to our group.

MS: Yeah, he’s got almost 250 NHL games, so he’s not like debuting or anything like that. His Sabres debut tonight.

JB: Yep, Sabres debut, but a former first-round pick who’s played in big environments in World Juniors. His attitude, he’s looking for an opportunity, that’s why he signed with our organization. I think it’s been a good fit so far. I think we’re looking for him to give a little spark here this evening.


MS: Your Sabres debut, that would’ve been your first NHL game, right? Did you come up, or no?

JB: My first NHL game was with Dallas. My first NHL goal was with Atlanta.

MS: Against [Martin] Biron.

JB: In Buffalo here, yes.

MS: Sorry Marty, by the way. Like, he listens to the show. Why do I just need to say that? I don’t know. He’s so easy to sort of pick on, Marty. But eventually you get tired of it, right, Bulldog? You do. You get tired of it.

CP: Oh yeah, you can only have it for so long.


CP: How is Tage Thompson doing down in Rochester?

JB: He’s doing well. And look, it’s exciting for us. You look at the offensive opportunities that he’s creating down there. He certainly creating a lot of chances, and that’s great to see. I think there was an article on the AHL website this past week on just him understanding what the process is and working on staying in front of the net, some of the details of protecting the pucks in the offensive zone, being stronger along the D-zone walls and understanding what he has to do to get to the National Hockey League and not being comfortable and enjoying life too much in the American Hockey League, but understanding what he has to do. That’s where it’s been great to see from him. The biggest thing that we’ve loved with Tage is his engagement, whether it’s in Rochester or with Buffalo on what are the little things he can certainly work on. We’re excited about him coming up to our group here eventually and we think his size, his shot, those are elements that can certainly give us a different look.


CP: I know Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen got in an ECHL game. Is there a timeline on him getting to Rochester at this point?

JB: No, it’s not a situation right now. Right now we just want him to — he’s going through the process of pretty much a training camp and getting through the mix there. Got into a game then got his first win this past weekend in Cincinnati. As a young player like him we just want him to play. And we feel we have two good, solid goalies in Rochester right now. We’ll continue to evaluate the situation and when it’s right for UPL to get up to Roch, but right now we just want him playing games as much as possible in Cincinnati there.

Jason Botterill Interview – Schopp & Bulldog (10/28/19)

October 28, 2019


Jason Botterill

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

https://wgr550.radio.com/media/audio-channel/10-28-jason-botterill-schopp-bulldog (14:55)


Mike Schopp: Welcome to (716). Aa relatively rare Monday night home game for the Sabres who were off Saturday [and] Sunday but winners on Friday night in Detroit. Tonight at KeyBank Center, they’ll host Arizona and general manager Jason Botterill joins us now from (716). Hi Jason.

Jason Botterill: Hi.

MS: You and Bulldog have been meeting on the side. You and I have not seen each other in many months.

JB: I’m not going to say how smoothly went last time.

MS: I can only assume it went great.


MS: Well, you know, just to get to it: It’s funny that the Bills and the Sabres both this year have presented us with a lot of, ‘are they actually this good’ conversations. I think you can sort of appreciate that, you know, the record is really good. And so as a GM, maybe you can take the Bills side of this if you want, but just for the Sabres especially of course, how do you figure out that answer? You see your team is winning, what are you doing to be able to sort of look within and evaluate that?

JB: I think you’re looking at different things that you think that are going to have success. Can it be repetitive over time? How many scoring chances are you creating, not only just what the goals are, but how many scoring chances are you creating? How are you defending in your own zone? How are you moving the puck up in a transition standpoint? Looking at our individual players, we have still so many young players; do you see their game improving in certain areas? So what we’ve talked a lot about is finding a way to win — having success out there — but also looking at, from a short-term perspective, improving each day. We understand over 82 games, you’re going to face adversity and what we’ve liked so far is whenever we’ve had a loss we’ve responded in the proper manner.


Chris Parker: Have you looked at — alot of fans are, I think, reluctant to really get all the way on board because of last year’s 10-game winning streak. I don’t think, while it was happening, you said you were concerned about it, but I think afterwards you admitted that there were signs there. It was a lot of overtime and shootout, maybe lucky, wins along the way. How about these 12 games?

JB: Well I think still whenever we can have — I think our goaltending has been exceptional during this run. What I really liked is when we’ve come off a loss our goaltending, you know, Carter Hutton in L.A, Linus Ullmark in Detroit, they were outstanding. I think, as I mentioned before, I think our shot share when the games are tight has been exceptional. I think the fact that we are getting to the net more, we’re creating more from there, but also we’re not giving up nearly as much in our own zone. I think a lot of that has to do with just, you look at the way we are moving the puck. Our transition game is a lot better than last year. We’re getting pucks out of our zone, we’re getting pucks into the neutral zone and obviously into the offensive zone to create a little bit more opportunity out there. So we like where we’re at, but I think what I’ve really appreciated from the team’s aspect is there’s been an excitement about our wins, but also understanding that we have to keep going. It’s where our players have learned, they’ve learned from experience last year, and I think that’s what intrigued me about Ralph [Krueger] as a coach. I talked to you last time that every project he’s been on he’s learned something and pulled something from it, and I think our players have done the same thing from last year and the previous years. They’ve learned from experience there. As much you can talk about the NHL to Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt, until they go through the entire season, it’s difficult for them to truly understand how you have to take care of your body, how you have to prepare for things for the second half. They’ve done that and I think it’s going to be something that they learn from and hopefully have the results as we go through here.


MS: At the risk of asking a dated question, your personal connection with Krueger: it goes back to Winnipeg and school?

JB: No, that’s overinflated a little bit. There is a connection. My father was, I believe, Ralph’s fifth-grade math teacher at a private school, St John’s Ravenscourt in Winnipeg. But I had never met him, sort of interacted with him and then the connection really came from Jim Rutherford, who I worked for in Pittsburgh. And when I got the opportunity here in Buffalo, Jim had a relationship with Ralph; when Ralph was the Swiss National Team coach, he also was a part-time scout, consultant scout for Carolina. So they developed a relationship there and Jim just felt that knowing myself, what I was trying to accomplish here in Buffalo, knowing Ralph as a person that we should at least have a dialogue. We did have a dialogue. Obviously at that time he had his commitments to Southampton, but stayed in touch and as we discussed the situation last spring and felt it was definitely a fit.


MS: I know I like listening to him. And I don’t always like listening to coaches because I feel like it might not even be being honest with me or they’re obviously usually being very careful. Do you hear him and think he is being those things but also divulging information that really is a win-win? The press probably likes him, because you’re getting something, but hopefully from your side of it, he’s not giving away too much.

JB: Well, my main focus, my main concern is our players, and I know that he’s impacting our players here right now. And that’s the main thing and the most important thing from my perspective. I think he does a great job in utilizing his staff, knowing when to give responsibility to the assistant coaches. I also think he’s done a great job in understanding what type of setting they should be in. Should it be a group setting? Should it be a group of five? Should it be three? Should it be a one-on-one situation? I think he’s done a really good job of having a feel for what the team needs. Ralph is a very positive individual. He comes off very positive, but what I’ve really enjoyed is that he is very direct and very honest with our players — and myself. And when there has to be a hard conversation, he’s not afraid to have that hard conversation. I think that’s very important when you go through an 82-game season, it can’t always be positive.


CP: Right, I’m kind of curious it’s, you know, 9-2-1. Wonderful. You wouldn’t give any of it back. But it’ll be interesting to see how that goes when adversity does come. A couple of losses in a row, whenever, that inevitably will happen.

JB: And I think instead of waiting for like, the question, ‘Is it going to come?’ It will come. 82 games, it’s certainly going to come. You just look at our schedule, we’re excited about going over to Sweden and the opportunity about playing over there, but even the three games we have this week leading up to it, we’re playing very strong teams. So it’s going to be difficult, but it’s, ‘How are we going to respond to that situation?’ And that’s what we tried to do with the roster is add more depth to our group. So our players had it and, you know, especially when we come back from Sweden, the amount of games that we have in a condensed time, It’s going to be a challenge to our group here.


MS: I’m really excited about Jokiharju. A trade gets made, especially when we’re not in touch like it’s in the summer as this one was, and I go right to the stats. The stats on him were really nice. And, you know, you’re talking about young players, he had a little bit of experience, but I was excited about that. The thing I just kept wondering is there going to be room for him? I’ve been glad to see so far you’ve had room for him and made room for him. And I don’t know — are you, will you say, would you say that he’s met or even exceeded your expectations or hopes?

JB: Yeah, I would say that he’s exceeded our expectations at the start of the season. As a young player, as a 20-year-old, you just don’t know how he’s going to react to being traded, for one, and coming to a new environment and how long it’s going to take him to make that step to become a real part of the team. What I’ve loved about him is just, he’s had a great attitude every day in practice. He’s moved his feet in the games, he’s always taking away space. Even when he has the puck it’s never at a standstill, he’s always moving up there. I think he’s done a great job in our transition game moving the puck up to our forwards. He’s shown when he’s been on the PK, when he’s been around the front of the net, he’s shown a lot more, sort of, one-on-one grit battle than I anticipated from him. We look at him last year, you look at as a 19-year-old, played some games in the National Hockey League, won a gold medal at the World Juniors, won a gold medal at the World Championship; very impressive young man at such a young age. Those experiences, those pressure situations that he played in, I think is what we tried to bring into our organization. Players who had that winning dynamic that winning experience. And, you know, he’s done a great job so far.


CP: How about Rasmus Dahlin? It feels to me like watching the games, the neutral zone has been kind of treacherous for him. There was the big giveaway in New York on Thursday night. I’m wondering how you view him and how he’s being handled and what you can do to, sort of, I don’t know if he’s tense at all about the mistakes he’s making, how you can kind of ease that.

JB: Well I think just like there maybe the expectations weren’t as high for Joikiharju, they’re always sky-high for Rasmus Dahlin based off of last year. Then it comes into this year and I think he’s done a great job of managing our — QBing our power play. It’s, on one hand, a fun spot to play, but there’s also a high-pressure situation there and he’s done a great job distributing the pucks from that position. I think with Rasmus you’re always wanting a little bit more on the defensive zone and he’s, his expectations are extremely high, too. And what I like about our staff is, it begins with Ralph and Steve Smith, there’s engagement with him when he’s making mistakes but what we’re trying to make sure is just like our team, we don’t want to lose two games in a row, we’re trying to make sure that Rasmus doesn’t have the same mistakes over and over again. The great thing with Rasmus is he understands when it does happen, you do forget that he’s 19 years old and expectations for a young defenseman in the league from that and he’s playing heavy minutes for us. But, again, you look at having Jokiharju, having Dahlin, adding [Colin] Miller, it’s just I think improved our capability of getting out of our own zone, which has allowed us to spend more time in the offensive zone.


MS: You also have Lawrence Pilut, who I saw something, he had a good night recently, or maybe he’s had a few?

JB: Yeah on Saturday, obviously he’s back playing now with Rochester, which is great to see. He worked extremely hard in the offseason coming off his shoulder surgery. Rochester had a fun weekend, 7-6 on Saturday in Syracuse. They came back, they were down 6-4 in the third period, came back and Lawrence got the OT winner, which is great to see there.

MS: Alright, were you there for that?

JB: I wasn’t there for that, but we had other people on our staff there and then they obviously jumped on the bus right away, get to Springfield and had to, you know – you’ve got to love the American Hockey League, play five o’clock the next day in Springfield, lost in overtime in that game. We’ve certainly been very happy with what’s going on in Rochester. You look at Lawrence coming back into it, we have some young defensemen in Casey Fitzgerald and Jacob Bryson and [Brandon] Hickey that I think are getting are contributing to our group there and stuff for sure. So, look, we like our group there a lot and then up front we feel Tage [Thompson] has gone down there and created a lot of chances at even strength and certainly worked on his game down there. So we’re excited about their start in Rochester.


MS: Pilut, I mean to me, just, if I may say something here, Pilut to me is an NHL player, and you’ve got the Jokiharju point, you’re getting Montour back soon. Can you do, like, can you do this without making a trade? Is there enough flexibility with your extra spots and Rochester to allow for you to keep everybody? Assuming you don’t have another injury; you might be ready to tell me about how guys could still get hurt.

CP: [Marco] Scandella already got hurt. 

MS: Yeah like if you don’t have that are you going to be able to balance that without having to move somebody out?

JB: I think it’s a great problem to have. Our young players are stepping in and creating an opportunity here for it. And like I said before, you’re always going to run into injuries and it was a dilemma throughout the summer, ‘What are we going to do with all these defensemen?’ Then before we even play a National Hockey League game this season, we already have a couple guys go down. So, we understand the importance of depth, and I think over 82 games you have to have this, so that’s why we tried to accomplish that throughout the summer.


CP: How is Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen?

JB: He’s doing very well. He’s been practicing in Rochester and we’re hopeful, whether it’s later on this week or next week, for him to start his pro career. He’ll start in Cincinnati, playing games, just getting things going from that. But he’s worked extremely hard with his rehab, and we’re very excited to finally get him in a pro uniform.