Share this article

print logo

Mike Harrington's Hot Read: Botterill exudes executive feeling for GM chair

Tim Murray had a scout's eye. He was a rinkrat. It served the Buffalo Sabres well in some areas and simply didn't get the job done in others.

In Jason Botterill, the Sabres have an executive in the general manager's office. It's what they need at this point in their rebuild.

Murray tore the team down and started to bring it back up. It's probably not fair that he didn't even get the chance to finish the job but there were certainly enough reasons for Kim and Terry Pegula to look elsewhere.

In Botterill, the Sabres have a former player who has an MBA from the University of Michigan. He has built winning teams at the minor-league level. He's a savant with the salary cap, which is exactly what the Sabres need with the pickle Murray left them in. Even Botterill admitted the Sabres will be "facing a cap crunch" because of Jack Eichel's impending long-term deal and some of the bad ones Murray took in, like trading for Zach Bogosian or giving Matt Moulson a bloated $25 million pact.

Think about it: The Pittsburgh Penguins are on the road to another Stanley Cup even though Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury chew up their cap space like Pac Man on skates.

They survive through daring moves (think Phil Kessel), unheralded moves (Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, Trevor Daley) and by getting prospects to contribute (think Connor Sheary and Jake Guentzel). It's the model the Sabres are going to have to follow.

It's good news for the opportunity that will be presented to the likes of Justin Bailey, Nick Baptiste and Alexander Nylander, among others. It's very good news for the good folks in Rochester, who have suffered through terrible teams in recent years and haven't won a playoff series since 2005 -- or two years before the Sabres' last postseason triumph.

Botterill checked a lot of boxes in his opening news conference Thursday. It sounds like the search for a head coach will go through the Stanley Cup final, especially if he wants to interview Pittsburgh assistant Rick Tocchet or Nashville's Phil Housley. He needs to rebuild the scouting staff, learn the organization, prepare for the expansion draft.

At 40 years old, Botterill is the second-youngest GM in the league and ahead of only Arizona wonderkid John Chayka. He's got tremendous experience at all kinds of tasks with the Penguins but now it's his show. He's in the No. 1 chair. That makes it an on-the-job training deal for the GM.

On the surface, that should make you uncomfortable. The word around the NHL and the impression we saw Thursday says everything will be just fine. There will be missteps along the way but first impressions mean a lot. And Botterill gave off a good one Thursday.

The Sabres have one of the league's up-and-coming young executives. They haven't been able to say that in a long time.

There are no comments - be the first to comment