Tag Archives: Jason Botterill

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.

Jason Botterill media availability (10/22/19)

October 22, 2019

Jason Botterill

Media availability (10:30 a.m.)

Jason Botterill: I think our players have been very open to receiving that message. They’ve certainly put the time in during the summer to be prepared. I think the things we challenged them on last spring, they took it to heart. What I liked about the western road trip was our response after a loss. It wasn’t the prettiest game against L.A., but I thought Carter [Hutton] played outstanding, and I thought we came back with a strong effort afterwards. Through the course of the next couple months here, we know we’re going to face adversity, it’s how we handle it. Right now we’re feeling very good about our game.

What’s the impact of coaching here? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: I think it’s a combination. I think certainly Ralph’s brought in, like I said, a clear message and has done a great job of communicating with our group at times one-on-one, at times in groups of three or five. But I also think our players, like I said, have been very open to it and they’ve been engaged with him since day one. You look at whether it’s our veteran players with our goaltender Carter Hutton or a player like Marcus Johansson coming into our group or young players such as [Rasmus] Dahlin or [Casey] Mittelstadt, they’re engaging with our coaching staff. It’s the start of the season. Although our record is our record, there’s a lot of mistakes all over the place out there. The fact that we had that dialogue, had that communication to rectify those I think is good. I think the focus right now continues to be, hey, how are we getting better each day as a team?

Do you think this group is better equipped to handle the adversity given an extra year of experience for a lot of guys even like Jack [Eichel] and the new faces, whether it be Marcus [Johansson] or Colin Miller? (Lance Lysowski – The Buffalo News)

JB: Look, over the course of 82 games you’re going to have adversity, 100 percent. I think our younger players are certainly more prepared for it because of going through it. A player like Rasmus Dahlin or Casey Mittelstadt, you can talk to them about the NHL grind and what it is and how the level of intensity increases in the second half of the season and what you have to do to have success. But until you go through that entire process, you truly don’t know. And I think our veteran players who’ve been around for four or five years saw last year certainly what equates to success but then how if you lose those things and you lose details in your game, how that success can go away. And then the players that we’ve tried to bring in I think have been a really calming influence so far. I think the players that have been through playoff series and have had success have a calmness to them and they’ve certainly shown that. What we’ve tried to do, we’ve brought it up before, is the course of over 82 games we’re going to need everyone. We’re going to need more depth. We’ve tried to add that to our group here, and hopefully that allows us to prepare and get through adverse situations. And I think you saw that on the road trip there that we had scoring from a lot of different lines. Carter Hutton obviously had the great game. We had good goaltending, but I thought our entire team contributed on the road trip.

Is there any fear that Zach Bogosian may not play this season? (John Wawrow – Associated Press)

JB: In my mind there’s zero fear from that standpoint. He’s back skating here right now. Very excited for where Zach is, and look, going over the type of procedure he had, it was a serious procedure. Zach is, he’s a powerful individual, so you want him to come back. It’s difficult for him right now because he wants to be back, especially once you get into games as a player, that energy, you want to get back out there, be a part of the group. But it’s also imperative for him, for not only for us this year, but for his career long term that we get this right. But from our standpoint, the fact that he’s back skating here right now is a good sign. I’m looking forward to it.

How good a problem do you have on defense and how difficult is it going to be when [Brandon] Montour is ready to play to decide what you’re going to do? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: It’s a great problem that hopefully we have. Because there was talk a lot, I think, during the summer, ‘We have too many defensemen.’ You saw before games even started we ran into injury issues. I think as an organization we’re ecstatic about going over to Sweden. I think with so many Europeans on our team, the opportunity to compete in front of family and friends over there. Just being in that sort of environment for the league, and we’re very excited about it, but it really condenses our schedule when we come back and that’s where we’re going to need all these defensemen. But we’re happy the step that some of our defensemen have taken and especially I think Henri [Jokiharju] on the back end has come in and played even beyond our expectations so far.

Is there a sign, I know we’re only nine games in, of something that Ralph’s done where you can say, ‘You know what, last year that would’ve been different,’ or, ‘This guy’s playing somewhat differently,’ or, ‘He’s reacting differently’? Have you seen any kind of signs so far? (Michael Traikos – National Post)

JB: I think it’s just, look, when we do face adversity, you look at a game such as the L.A. game that wasn’t going the way we wanted it to, but we found a way to win the game. You look at in San Jose, the excitement of grabbing the 3-2 lead, they come back right away to score and make it 3-3. But then there’s not panic within our team. There’s a calmness about, ‘Hey, this is what we have to do to have success here.’ I even look back the previous game to, or a couple games last week, against Florida. I thought in the third period our game was all over the place, but then yeah they did score the goal in the last minute that we have to work on in a 6-on-5 situation, but I thought from about the eight-minute mark to right up to the last minute there, we did get back to our game and started playing with some structure in the defensive zone, playing the way we have to to protect a lead from that standpoint. Those types of things, I think, one, it’s a clear message, like I said, from Ralph, and it’s also our players understanding they have to play as a unit to have success.

And they trust whatever system they’re playing? Like you said, no panic? (Michael Traikos – National Post)

JB: Right now I think that there’s certainly trust from our player standpoint with their coaches. I think there’s dialogue on what works up there and that’s what’s been good. And it’s not only just Ralph. We’ve faced some adversity on our coaching staff with what’s happened with Donny Granato and with Chris Taylor coming back up there. The interacting with our assistant coaches with our players right now is something that we’re excited about from a development standpoint.

How much of a factor is having a positive attitude around the room? Because Ralph, no matter what, is always playing it forward in a positive way. How much of a factor is that for these guys because it has been very negative over the years? (Joe Yerdon – The Athletic)

JB: I think he’s certainly, and I think Ralph will tell you too, he brings a positive attitude and excitement. I think you can see he certainly loves his job right now and he loves being back behind the bench. But he’s also very truthful with these guys. And when things aren’t going the right way or when he sees something in practice or in the game that’s not being done to our standards, he’s going to correct it. And I think that, just that way he’s communicating with the players has gone over very well with the players and it’s been a good relationship for them. But, as a whole, yeah, it’s been a positive start. We were very excited about our home opener, just having the captains back, having the excitement in the building and now it’s up to us to keep that going.

You were furious two years ago when you only won 11 games [at home]. You could go 5-0 tonight. How significant is it to this team and Ralph is taking to having this as a tough building to play in? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

JB: Well look, it’s something that Ralph has talked a lot about, about look, the results aren’t always going to be there, but the effort has to be there. I must say, I enjoyed our Kids Game against Dallas a little bit more last Monday and I thought that was a great game of just our entire team playing well. But this league is so difficult and especially, as we talked about, their schedule what’s going to happen when we come back from Europe there, we have to have an opportunity to capitalize and win our games at home. And I know our players feed off the energy from our fans and hopefully we’ll continue to give them that same effort.

Jason Botterill Prospects Challenge Media Availability (9/9/19)

Sept. 9, 2019

Jason Botterill
Prospects Challenge
Jason Botterill Media Availability (10:37)

Just to start off with, I’ll give you a couple of injury updates on guys who would’ve been a part of the Prospects Challenge here. Lawrence Pilut is still recovering from shoulder surgery. He won’t be in main camp, but everything seems to be going very smoothly from that standpoint. We hope that he’ll look to be playing games somewhere around the middle of October. (Ukko-Pekka) Luukkonen, coming off of a hip surgery, again, things have been very positive from his rehab. He won’t be in main camp, we’re looking at a time frame of the start of November for him to be playing in games. All other injury updates we’ll give you a little more once main camp starts.


Q: What did you think of the last three days? What was your general impression of what you saw out there on the ice? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)

A: I think it was a great tournament. I thought (it was) very balanced among all four teams. I thought, especially, Friday and Saturday, great atmosphere in the building for our players. I just think, young players especially, they work so hard in the offseason, getting ready for main camp, but there’s always an adjustment from summer scrimmages to main camp and I think our guys went out there, got in a game environment, and it’s going to help them a lot when they make the transformation into main camp now.


Q: Your objective has all along has been to build organizational depth. As you watch these three games, how far along do you think you are with that objective? (John Wawrow – Associated Press)

A: I think we continue to improve on it every year. I think just the fact that I was very happy with some of our veteran players, that have been in our system before — (Rasmus) Asplund, (Victor) Olofsson — how they came in, but also very excited about some of our younger defensemen, a guy like (Jacob) Bryson and (Casey) Fitzgerald, coming in for their first camp, I thought they handled themselves well, too. So we’re excited now to move into NHL preseason games, having some of our young players challenge our veteran players for roster spots, but also, too, excited about what’s developing in Rochester and that next wave of players.


Q: (Rasmus) Ristolainen certainly is expected in town with the guys tomorrow, where do you think his head is at this point? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

A: In our conversations with him, it’s been positive and I think [Ristolainen] has always been someone who comes to camp in extremely good shape. I think there is going to be an adjustment for all our players with a new head coach. Trying to bring together exactly what coaches are going to want from a system standpoint, where they fit in with the group and I’m sure those conversations will go well with [Ristolainen] and our entire team.


Q: Do you have any NHL players coming in on tryouts? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)

A: Right now, we don’t have any tryout guys. We’ll continue to sort of re-evaluate we’re we are from an injury standpoint; have discussions in the next couple days. But right now, no.


Q: Is part of that decision to bring anybody in at this point so you can give younger guys like (Tage) Thompson, (Victor) Olofsson a lot of time in training camp? (Lance Lysowski – The Buffalo News)

A: No, it’s something I think we’ve added to our young guys we have coming in there. I thought some of our signings — J-S Dea, Curtis Lazar — players we want to give an opportunity to. With playing only six preseason games, we set it that way, we want to have a lot of practice time, but it’s always sort of that balance of finding enough games for your veteran players but giving enough for your young guys. We’re excited to see how they’ll materialize here and how they’re going to push some of our veteran players.


Q: Are you still having a dialogue with Jason Pominville and is he a possibility at some point? (Bill Hoppe – Olean Times Herald)

A: Obviously, Jason’s still in town, we’ve obviously continued to communicate with him. We’ll continue to communicate with him in the next couple days here and make a decision on that.


Q: You’ve mentioned the competition a few times. Where in particular are you really looking forward to seeing some competition take place? (John Vogl – The Athletic)

A: I think you certainly see it on the wings and then also at the defense corps. I think those are the two main spots. I say wing, but I also think we have a lot of players that can play both center and wing. That gives Ralph (Krueger) different options with his lineup and one of the big parts of the six preseason games is going to see where players have chemistry with each other and which position fits best for them.


Q: You haven’t ruled Pominville out then, based on your previous answer at some point. Is that correct? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

A: I haven’t ruled it out, but I’ve also, like I said, we’re very excited about where we are from the depth standpoint and the competitions we’re going to have and we want to make sure we give our young players enough of an opportunity.


Q: I know you didn’t want to rush him, but was it big that you were able to get [Dylan] Cozens into this tournament? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)

A: I think it helps him out a lot more in preparation for going out on the ice for the first time on Friday, just the speed of the game. He worked extremely hard over the last couple of months, staying in Buffalo, working with our staff. I know he really wanted to play in these games. I thought, just from a conditioning standpoint and time standpoint, getting these games will certainly help him out.

Q: Ralph has done a lot of camps in his career for different events. He’s never done a full NHL camp as a head coach before. What’s it been like last few weeks prepare for this and what do you want see from your coach here in the next week or so? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

A: Well, I think everything’s been extremely well organized and I think you see Ralph’s communication with myself and his assistants. I think it’s great having guys that have been on the staff before. Bringing in guys, like Mike Bales from Carolina, also Don Granato from Chicago, you get the best of all worlds. I think you’ll come to realize with Ralph, some of his connections throughout the league, over the last few years, he’s sort of picking best practices from all these guys. So, what I’m looking for is just, from the entire group, there’s a lot of enthusiasm come Friday. Understanding that, yeah, we’re going to be implementing a new system, there needs to be teaching and learning from that, but also we want to see pace, we want to see work ethic from day one.


Q: Is there a challenge, maybe, not that Ralph is an unknown — he’s just a different entity in the sense that he’s not a retread. Is there a different challenge that he faces, unlike say (Joel) Quenneville going to Florida, where players know him, that he needs to get across to players to earn their respect? (John Wawrow – Associated Press)

A: I think he earns his respect by how he communicates with guys and I think he’s done that already. I think our players are going to realize very quickly his knowledge of the game. Where my communication’s gone really well is look, it’s about winning, but it’s also about our continuing, especially with the young team that we have, about developing every day. I think once players buy in that this guy is going to help them and their careesr and help them win games that’s where respect comes.


Q: Did the injury maybe put Dylan a little it behind schedule to the point where it really hurt his chances of making the team or does he still have a really legit shot here to push for a roster spot in camp? (Lance Lysowski – The Buffalo News)

A: Look, Lance, I think it’s always difficult for an 18-year-old to make it in the National Hockey League right off the bat. I think the good thing with this type of injury, yeah, it’s certainly disappointing that he couldn’t work on some of his skills, but from the standpoint of working with our strength staff, improving his leg strength, I think he did a great job with that over the last couple of months. I don’t think that will hurt his ability, I just think it’s a big jump for an 18-year-old to step in to the National Hockey League and really contribute. But we’ll certainly give him an opportunity over the next couple weeks here and see what materializes.


Q: You get nine games if you want to give him a chance. Do you believe in that or is that something you don’t really believe in for a young player? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)

A: I think the bigger thing is the accrued season versus the nine games on the contract. We’ll continue to have dialogue with Dylan and see what’s best for not only our team but also for his development over the next week, or, if that continues to go well, the next couple months.


Q: Do you expect that the Werenski thing today with Columbus may be the start of opening the log jam and the for phones to really start heating up around the league this week? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

A: Tough for me to predict that one. I’m just glad that right now, we don’t have restricted free agents that we have to sign. I think I mentioned it to you before, I think salary arbitration is a tough process, but it gets all the guys signed up and there’s no distractions. Our team’s all signed up, they’re all going to be here on Thursday and we’ll get going from that standpoint. It won’t surprise me, these players are going to eventually get signed here, and I think it will start to come. What that time frame, whether it’s this week or the next month, I couldn’t tell you.


Q: Would you categorize your phone as being busy at all in the last few days? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

A: I think it’s always busy, It’s been good with just interacting with our staff here because they’re all here, and I think there’s excitement around the league just because you’re back in arenas, you’re back watching games, so it’s not all these fictitious conversations, you’re actually seeing players and you’re starting to evaluate players again.


Q: From Ralph’s perspective, as he said, it’s open competition, players will decide things. But as you help with that roster building, how much does past experiences, how much do contracts come in to who stays and who goes once this season gets underway? (John Vogl – The Athletic)

A: Well I think we’ve shown in the past, it hasn’t been lip service, it’s been with our actions, that if players knock out veteran players, they’re going to have the opportunity to be here and that’s what we’re going to be looking for. We talked a lot to that about players coming into our organization, giving them an opportunity. We’ve talked a lot about our returning players, challenging them to be ready to go right away, because we want to bring more players in to have more success as an organization. I think the competition is going to be great in the next couple weeks and I think you probably hear it in Ralph’s voice, he’s excited about getting things going. I think a lot of our players, whether you saw in Chicago with Jack and Rasmus, they want to get things going. They’ve worked hard in the offseason, now it’s getting ready to go out there and start performing.


 Q: Your vision for this team has been to have it be more speed, better on the attack, better on the pressure. It’s only three games with prospects, but do you get more of an idea that you’re going to see more of that from this team going ahead? (Joe Yerdon – The Athletic)

A: Well I thought  a lot of guys competed hard, guys played with pace, and I especially really like it in our back end. I thought our defense did a really good job. Whether it was Jokiharju, Bryson, Fitzgerald, getting up with the play. You can see the development from a year’s time for a player like Will Borgen., I thought he played very physical in his two games and that’s sort of probably what most of the crowd is drawn to. What I really liked was his gap. he was up in the play a lot, didn’t give the opponents very much space at all. That’s just a small sample size, but hopefully that carries over to our group and it’s simple. It’s a speed game. We’re trying to get faster, we’re trying to obviously get players that can skate faster, but also move the puck faster and play a faster game.