The Buffalo Sabres have announced Jason Botterill as their new General Manager today. The team had been waiting for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ second-round series to end before announcing the hire. The Sabres will presumably now begin their coaching search with Botterill at the helm, as they look to try and instill a culture change in the franchise from top to bottom.
Botterill has been rumored for weeks to be the top candidate for the job, as the team shut down the search after interviewing him a second time. The Penguins’ associate GM is considered one of the brightest young minds in hockey, with many colleagues saying he could have succeeded in any industry. He comes with a wealth of experience in many different roles, including serving as the interim GM for the Penguins between the Ray Shero and Jim Rutherford tenures.
The 40-year old Botterill was quite a player in his own day, selected in the first round by the Dallas Stars in 1994. He was a star at the University of Michigan, scoring 62 points in his senior season. Though his NHL career was limited, it didn’t take him long to get back into the game after retirement. Botterill returned to Michigan to finish his MBA before working for the league’s central scouting. Pittsburgh hired him away from the league offices in 2007, and would be promoted to assistant GM within two years. His promotion to associate came with Jim Rutherford’s hiring, though Botterill maintained a lot of the responsibility he’d had prior.
While he doesn’t have a ton of experience as a full-fledged GM in the league, it would be hard to find many people around hockey that doesn’t believe he’ll succeed as one. Legendary Michigan coach Red Berenson even once said he thinks Botterill should be the next commissioner of the NHL. His navigation of the Penguins’ salary cap situation and eye for young college talent will be a huge boost for a Buffalo team looking for anything to hang their hat on.
The Sabres once again ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic Division, this time not even receiving a top-5 pick in the process. The team that should have taken steps forward towards playoff contention stagnated at the bottom of the league, unable to keep their stars healthy or happy. Botterill will be tasked in bringing in talent to supplement the core of Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly and Rasmus Ristolainen (among others) and have an immediate impact in the 2017-18 playoff picture. It won’t be easy, but there weren’t many other more exciting candidates for the team to pursue.
Darren Dreger of TSN was first to break the news on Twitter, though John Vogl of the Buffalo News had reported that he would be announced after the Pittsburgh series.