Jason Botterill has promised open communication. Jack Eichel likes the sound of that.
Eichel will meet with the Sabres’ new general manager for the first time Wednesday, part of a whirlwind trip to Buffalo for the center. Eichel has talked with Botterill by phone and text, and the first impression has been good.
“Seems like a great guy, and just looking forward to starting a relationship,” Eichel told The Buffalo News on Wednesday. “First impressions, he’s very well put-together. He’s very well-spoken. I think he’s real sharp. He knows what he wants.
“Obviously, I’ll get to know him more as I get to talk to him and meet him. I’ve heard nothing but great things from other people, peers of his that know him. I’m excited to have him and excited for the future.”
When Sabres owner Terry Pegula fired General Manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma in April, he said he wanted improved communication in the organization. Botterill, a longtime Pittsburgh executive, says talks were common between coaches and players with the Penguins, and he wants to bring that to Buffalo.
“That’s what you want,” Eichel said in a Tim Hortons in Orchard Park, where he was helping the chain raise money for its “Camp Day” fundraiser. “He’s going to try and bring in the winning culture that obviously Pittsburgh has had and instill that on us, and just having an open relationship and trying to keep everyone informed, let everyone know where they are in different situations.
“It will be important for us. Communication’s a big thing, and he seems like a great communicator.”
As Eichel told The News last month, he said talks he had with Murray and Bylsma after the season went well. The firings came as a surprise.
“Obviously, it was a bit of a shocker,” Eichel said. “I think the Pegulas and the rest of the organization, if they think that was best for the future, then that needed to happen.
“Obviously, the last two years, Tim and Dan have been nothing but great to me. I can’t say anything bad. They treated me well and took care of me. I’ve got to thank Tim for drafting me and Dan for being my first coach in the NHL. I learned a lot from him.
“That’s out of my control. I’m a player, so like I say all year, I try and work on being a good teammate and coming to the rink and trying to work hard on being a better player and help the Sabres win hockey games.”
Eichel couldn’t say what just didn’t click for the organization this season.
“I’m not really sure,” he said. “I went through both of my end-of-the-year meetings, and I thought things were all right. You don’t really know what’s going to happen. That’s not my position really. I’m more in terms of playing, as you know. Whoever the GM, whoever the coach are, I’ll just try and show up with a good attitude and be a good player.”
Eichel said he hasn’t kept up to date with the coaching search. He represented the United States at the world championships in Germany this month, and he’s been relaxing at home in Boston since the tournament ended.
“That’s out of my control,” Eichel said of the search. “I’m sure that all the people behind the scenes will do a great job at finding the next guy. I just look forward to getting things started.”
Eichel flew into Buffalo early Wednesday morning and is heading home after meeting with Botterill. He’s eager to get ready for the 2017-18 season with the new-look organization.
“I just look forward to training,” Eichel said. “I always enjoy that. It’s an important part of my life to be able to reflect on your season, think about things you’d like to do better, things that maybe you want to improve on for next year, then kind of attack them in the offseason and see some improvement.
“Just looking forward to getting in the weight room. I’ve got a new trainer this summer. I’m pretty excited about working with him. I try and stay pretty similar to the way I’ve trained my whole career with the same people. I’ve had the same skating, skills guy for seven years. I’ve shot with the same person for three years, four years, so I like rekindling those relationships, being with those people again and training. It’s exciting for me and it’s exciting for them.”