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Botterill has brains, bloodline to successfully lead NHL team

Jason Botterill has long aspired to become an NHL general manager. His college coach had even bigger plans.

“I would love to see him as the next commissioner of the NHL,” Michigan legend Red Berenson told in 2009. “I think that much of him. He would be perfect.

“He knows hockey. He knows business. He has a great education. He's the kind of smart, young guy that you want to see running things.”

The Sabres could very well agree.

Buffalo has held a second interview with Botterill for its GM job, according to multiple reports Wednesday. It’s not known how many of the seven candidates are getting second looks, but The Buffalo News has learned that one has not been contacted for another talk.

That would point to Botterill as a favorite.

(Update: The Sabres hired Botterill on May 11.)

The 40-year-old entered the first round of interviews with an impressive résumé. He has been in the Penguins’ front office for more than a decade, including the last three seasons as associate GM. He was also Pittsburgh’s assistant GM for five years and the director of hockey administration for two.

With a degree in economics and a master’s in business administration from Michigan, the former Sabres forward has combined hockey and numbers to become a salary cap expert. The Penguins have remained perennial contenders while adding pieces at the trade deadline despite five players with salaries of $5.75 million or more.

"Jason is a very smart and talented guy, and he was always more than just hockey," Berenson told the university website. “Jason knew he could use his intelligence in many ways, and I knew he'd be great because he was such a good student here.”

Mike Harrington's Hot Read: Botterill a solid choice but his seat starts hot as critical coach decision looms

Working alongside Penguins GM Jim Rutherford and former GM Ray Shero, Botterill has assisted in scouting, player development, contract negotiations and cap management. The Edmonton native is also the general manager of the Penguins’ minor-league team.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has made the American Hockey League playoffs in all seven of Botterill’s seasons, compiling a 325-173-38 record. The team led the AHL this year with a 51-20-5 record.

The Sabres’ minor-league team has missed the playoffs the past three years. Buffalo is in a six-year drought.

Among Botterill’s coaching hires for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was Mike Sullivan. The Penguins promoted him to the NHL late last year, and Sullivan guided the Pens to the Stanley Cup. Botterill is also credited with being an architect of Pittsburgh’s championship team in 2009.

Botterill has success in his blood. His mother, Doreen, was a Canadian Olympian in speed skating in 1964 and 1968. His aunt, Donna McCannell, represented Canada in speed skating at the 1972 Games. Botterill’s father, Cal, is a pioneer in sport psychology and was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.

Botterill’s sister, Jennifer, has trumped them all. She played hockey for Canada in four Olympics, winning golds in 2002, 2006 and 2010, plus a silver medal in 1998.

Jason Botterill with the Sabres in 2003. (Getty Images)

Jason Botterill helped Michigan win the 1996 NCAA title and was part of three Canadian gold-medal teams in the world juniors. Selected by Dallas in the first round of the 1994 NHL Draft, Botterill played for the Stars and Calgary Flames before joining the Sabres’ organization in 2002.

He recorded 37 goals and 59 points in 64 games for Rochester in 2002-03, earning 17 games with the Sabres. He shuffled between Buffalo and Rochester the following season, but his career ended early in 2004-05.

Botterill had six goals in the Amerks’ opening eight games before suffering a major concussion. Rather than risk further brain damage, he retired. It allowed him to re-enroll at Michigan and get his MBA.

The Stars hired him as a scout in 2006-07, and the Penguins put him in their front office the following year. The Sabres may want him in their building now.

The Sabres' first round of interviews also included Los Angeles’ Mike Futa, Columbus’ Bill Zito, Nashville’s Paul Fenton, Pittsburgh’s Bill Guerin, Calgary’s Craig Conroy and New Jersey’s Tom Fitzgerald.

Five Things to Know about Sabres GM Jason Botterill


Add video coach to the Sabres’ list of vacancies. Adam Nightingale, who held the job this season, has been hired by the Detroit Red Wings as assistant coach/video.

Nightingale is working as the video coordinator for the U.S. national team at the world championships, which begin Friday. He spent four years as the director of hockey operations and video coordinator for Michigan State.

His brother Jason is the Sabres’ coordinator of analytic-related hockey evaluation.

Since the end of the season, the Sabres have let go of General Manager Tim Murray, coach Dan Bylsma, scouting director Rob Murphy, amateur scouting director Greg Royce and massage therapist Chuck Garlow.

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