I have tried to give GM Jason Botterill the benefit of the doubt for taking over a team with very few NHL ready prospects and poor depth, but as this coaching search progresses it only crystallizes how uncertain the team really is with its decision making.
This postseason has been a visual nightmare for Sabres fans, seeing Ryan O’Reilly storm into the Conference Finals in St Louis and Evander Kane be an impact player for San Jose. Also, we have had to watch a host of teams with new young coaches that are forward thinking like Bruce Cassidy of Boston and Jim Montgomery of Dallas lead their teams to impressive playoff seasons in their first year.
Buffalo’s GM has decided that we need a coach with NHL EXPERIENCE so of course Jacques Martin (another NHL retread) would be the leading name. Rikard Grönborg of the powerful Swedish National team was a popular name and is the type of unique move that could transform the Sabres… and Buffalo had no interest.
Source adds that Jason Botterill’s “strong preference” is to hire someone with NHL experience. https://t.co/HvADms6SDH
— John Vogl (@BuffaloVogl) May 9, 2019
Much of success in sports depends on your team’s ability to be proactive, not reactive.
In the NFL, the Patriots are idolized by the sports media for their culture, but their real success is the willingness to be cutting edge whenever possible whether it is with a new player, scheme, or new nutrition plan, etc… Buffalo instead had a coach who up until being fired was afraid to play a young player over a veteran out of “respect” and fear of hurting that player’s feelings.
There was no disputing that Ryan O’Reilly was a tradeable asset and who could’ve used a new location, but the moment the return came back it was universally panned as a steal for St. Louis and now is a trainwreck for Buffalo, who at best will have the 28th pick in this draft and Tage Thompson who didn’t inspire much hope this season.
Again it was a reactive move by Botterill not proactive.
Joe Sakic waited what felt like two seasons to trade Matt Duchene but the return he got was superb and the early dividends were shown by Samuel Girard’s play this year and the upcoming picks he has. By the start of February, you could see the Sabres were in a tough place and Housley was not the guy for the job. Why wait until after the season to fire him, wasting an opportunity to make any form of a playoff push?
Why not hire Barry Trotz before the start of last season who became the Islanders coach and did a brilliant job transforming that team into a strong roster. While firing a coach after a season is a bad look, doing so to hire the coach who just won the Stanley Cup is a pretty defendable move. For as many issues as the Sabres currently have, it is hard to know what young players may have a future and what the team truly lacks when the head coach was so over his head with everything.
After all of this, we have not even touched on Jeff Skinner, who very possibly is going to leave Buffalo. This is 100% the type of player the Sabres want to play with Eichel, yet Skinner has never played in a playoff game and after this last season plus the current lack of depth is Buffalo really the place he wants to settle for the long term? If Skinner leaves, Botterill will be backed into a corner to find a player like that on the market, adding another roster hole while dealing with a PR nightmare of epic proportions.
Things have progressed for the Sabres that almost any move made is going to be panned and criticized, which is a tough spot to be in. Any trust with the fans over the last decade has been completely eroded and the longer this regime continues, the further it forces the question of what the plan truly is.
Whoever Botterill hires will be the move that defines his reign as GM. Perhaps he hires a young thoughtful mind like Sheldon Keefe from the Toronto Marlies which would regain some faith for fans by grabbing a truly progressive individual.
Maybe Dave Tippett is the guy.
Outside of those two names the patience will be paper thin for Botterill and will continue to paint a picture, fair or not, of an indecisive organization where dysfunction reigns supreme.