Jason Botterill walked into the Sabres’ arena Thursday afternoon and pushed all the right buttons.
Buffalo’s new general manager promised to deliver the four things owner Terry Pegula said he was looking for in the organization: discipline, structure, communication and character.
“I’m excited about leading this organization to the next level,” Botterill said after being introduced as the franchise’s eighth general manager in KeyBank Center.
The 40-year-old played in the Sabres’ organization in from 2002 to 2005, and he fondly remembers the passion shown by the fans in Buffalo and Rochester. He wants players to take pride in representing the fans and the Sabres logo.
As the associate general manager in Pittsburgh and GM of the Penguins’ minor-league team, Botterill saw how important it was for the entire organization to have success. He pledged to build a winner in Rochester, which in turn will teach young players how to win in the NHL.
Botterill said there will be competition at all levels, and players won’t be rushed into a job until they’re worthy and ready.
The new GM, who said organizational meetings will start next week, won’t rush into an overhaul. While he has some knowledge of the employees and players, he wants to get to know people and learn about them firsthand before making any decisions.
One decision for Botterill is head coach. He needs to hire one after the Sabres fired Dan Bylsma along with Tim Murray three weeks ago. Botterill plans to speak to numerous candidates before deciding, a process he hopes to have completed by the NHL Draft on June 23. He will also meet with Rochester coach Dan Lambert before deciding who should lead the Amerks.
Botterill said he will take the lead on the coaching search and consult with Pegula and his wife, Kim, as he nears a decision.
The GM said during his two interviews with the Pegulas, there was never a discussion about having a president of hockey operations above Botterill. There was a GM, associate GM and assistant GM in Pittsburgh, and it’s possible Botterill will adopt something similar.
He said there will be a collaborative effort inside the organization, something Pegula has mentioned often during the last month while hiring for the Sabres and Bills.
Though Botterill admitted it was tough to leave Pittsburgh with the Eastern Conference finals on tap, he is “100 percent ecstatic” about joining the Sabres’ organization. He feels he has a great starting point in centers Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly, and Botterill is looking forward to building a puck-possession, up-tempo, north-south team behind the centers.
“You can see he’s well-prepared,” Terry Pegula said. “It just shows by his track record.”