While the Sabres go through some huge growing pains, General Manager Jason Botterill is happy at some of the talk he's heard the last couple of days. Talk is about all the team has at the NHL level, but Botterill is more than impressed with what's going on in Rochester as the Amerks battle in the high-rent district of the AHL's North Division.
"You've heard a lot about accountability in our locker room the last couple days," Botterill said on MSG prior to Friday night's game against Edmonton in KeyBank Center. "I think our coaching staff has held our players accountable and now it's time for the players to hold each other accountable. It's there but it has to be there on a more consistent basis.
"I've come to realize our core group is very passionate. They're excited about being in Buffalo and want to have success here. But going about it, there's still a growing situation about how do you become a vocal leader, how do you keep each other accountable?"
Botterill had praise for the job being done behind the scenes by coach Phil Housley, who has admitted to becoming increasingly less willing to excuse his team's shortcomings in recent days.
"I know Phil is a very positive individual to the media but what I've liked behind closed doors is he holds the players accountable," Botterill said. "There's direct commentary on what the players have to do.
"It's great that the coaching staff is doing it but if we want to get to the point where we want to eventually get with success and playoffs, there has to be that internal challenge and accountability from our group."
What can the Sabres do to tweak the roster? Not much yet.
"We're always having dialogue, whether it's my assistant general managers or with Phil about what does the team need," Botterill said. "I think you look around the league with the parity, there's not a lot of trades just yet. Teams don't know 'Are we going to be sellers or buyers?' They don't know that situation yet."
As for the Amerks, Botterill is pleased at his farm team's 9-5-3 record and second-place standing in the AHL North. The GM admitted it's a struggle to be patient about keeping top defense prospect Brendan Guhle in Rochester.
"Guhle has had a great start of the season down there. It's hard to be patient but he's a very important part of our mix going forward," Botterill said. "What's going on down there right now is he's played big minutes, both power play and penalty kill, and against the other teams' top lines. But he's also getting great goaltending support."
Specifically, the Sabres are also thrilled by the work of Rochester starter Linus Ullmark, who entered Friday with an 8-3-1 record that left him one win off the AHL lead. Ullmark has a 2.89 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.
"We challenged Ullmark at the start of the year not just being about numbers but looking at wins, finding ways to win games," Botterill said. "And he's done an amazing job in that aspect."
Here's the full interview with Botterill, hosted by MSG's Brian Duff:
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) November 25, 2017