General Manager Jason Botterill spoke with the media on Wednesday morning to take questions regarding the official start of the Sabres’ offseason.
Ultimately, there was a feeling of disappointment (again) after barely missing the expanded playoff format this, year.
“There’s disappointment, but it’s our fault we didn’t win more games prior to that…In the five or six games leading up to the pause, we played well but didn’t get the results that we wanted.”
Since Pegula took over the #Sabres and claimed their "…reason for existence, will be to win a Stanley Cup", they rank (excluding Vegas):
Shots against: 30th
Nine years later they can't make a 24-team playoff
— BuffaloHockeyCentral (@BHCdotcom) May 27, 2020
Botterill discussed the atmosphere at KeyBank Center and how much that fueled the team throughout the season, making the Sabres a top-10 home team in the league. The organization also had more alumni events planned to end the 50th anniversary season, but we didn’t get a chance to see those.
It was no surprise to hear that Botterill focused on the fact that the team won 10 games two years ago and got off to a hot start again this past season. He went on to say that the team shows glimpses throughout the year of the kind of game the team can play, and how well the special teams can be.
But the biggest thing Botterill discussed was his belief in the younger players and how important they are to this team’s success. He talked about players like Tage Thompson returning from surgery, Casey Mittelstadt going to Rochester with the right attitude, and Dylan Cozens having some extra time to prepare for possibly his first NHL season.
“I’m going to continue to believe in these young players…We have to do a better job of having more depth scoring throughout our entire lineup.”
Botterill said he would look to free agency and trades over the upcoming offseason but really believes in the younger players coming up through Rochester.
He admitted that Carter Hutton’s game took a step back in the second half, but he was impressed with how Linus Ullmark performed.
Botterill on goaltending: Linus took a big step, especially at even strength.
Carter I thought was outstanding at the start but his game slipped when we came back from Sweden. We need more consistency from him.
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) May 27, 2020
Hutton has another year remaining on his contract, but it’s possible the Sabres could look elsewhere for a backup goaltender for next season. Ullmark would be the starter and probably would be expected to take another step forward.
There’s going to be a ton of pressure on Botterill in his 4th season, and he’ll likely be on the hot seat unless the team can start winning again. At this point, it may be a while before we see any hockey, so we’ll have to hope that Botterill’s plan works and come to fruition as soon as possible.