SportsPulse: USA TODAY’s hockey insider Kevin Allen details the story lines that you should pay attention to this season.
USA TODAY Sports
First-year Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill admits to being bemused that he is repeatedly lauded for the patience he exhibited in waiting for a chance to run his own show.
He spent 10 years as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ management team before Buffalo owners Terry and Kim Pegula hired him last summer.
“The people I was under, like (Minnesota Wild GM) Chuck Fletcher, was 14 years as an assistant general manager before he became a GM and (New Jersey Devils GM) Ray (Shero) was (14) years,” Botterill told USA TODAY Sports. “I just assumed it took time to get that position. I was fortunate to get named an assistant GM at such a young age that I wasn’t in a rush.”
The influence of Fletcher, Shero and finally Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford are evident in Botterill’s style. He is buttoned up professionally, never at risk to say the wrong words at the wrong time. He is deliberate and calculating in his planning and aggressive in his effort to make major moves when needed.
“Maybe he took some things from us, but from my standpoint I took a lot from Jason,” New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero said.
Botterill, 41, was hired on May 11, and within 50 days, had hired hot coaching prospect Phil Housley and improved his defensive corps’ mobility by trading for Marco Scandella and Nathan Beaulieu.
The early reviews on Botterill are that he moves the ball forward consistently and effectively.
One reason why Botterill hired Housley is that the Hockey Hall of Famer, one of the most dynamic puck-moving defenseman in NHL history, wanted to immediately push the pace in Buffalo.
“Our players are excited about the pace of play and the aggressiveness of our system,” Botterill said.
The local fan base has to be encouraged by Botterill’s relationship with his young star Jack Eichel. Although the Sabres haven’t signed him to an extension yet, it seems as if Botterill already has a strong connection with Eichel.
“It’s great to have someone there who is so well put together and so professional,” Eichel…