On Thursday morning the Buffalo Sabres announced that Jason Botterill agreed to become the 8th General Manager in the team’s forty-seven-year history. Botterill replaces Tim Murray who was fired unceremoniously two weeks ago.
Botterill had interviewed with Buffalo back in 2014 but ultimately lost out to Murray. During Terry Pegula’s press conference following Murray’s departure he stated that he was not heavily involved with the GM search then. This time around, Pegula wanted to be more “hands on” in the process and settled on another Pittsburgh Penguins front office member. When Pegula purchased the Sabres, Ted Black an 8 year Penguins Exec, came along with him.
It isn’t necessarily a homecoming for Botterill, but he did spend three professional seasons in the organization as a player. Botterill appeared in 36 games with the Sabres and 118 with the Rochester Amerks.
Since his playing days ended, Botterill held several key front office positions, beginning in 2007 with the Dallas Stars and then with Pittsburgh. He joined the Pens back in 2008-09. He has worked in the scouting departments for both clubs and was most recently the Assistant GM working under Jim Rutherford.
Botterill was the interim GM for Pittsburgh after Ray Shero was fired, succeeded by Rutherford.
Shero and Rutherford are two accomplished execs with a cupboard filled with Stanley Cups. Botterill’s strengths (according to most NHL observers) is his understanding of the salary cap and ability to negotiate contracts. Both attributes will serve him well when dealing with this young roster.
Now that the Sabres have filled the GM vacancy, that leaves many wondering who the next head coach will be. As I stated over a week ago, Rick Tocchet a former NHL tough guy who spent the bulk of his career with the Philadelphia Flyers and Penguins and is currently an assistant coach in Pittsburgh.
Tocchet is a logical candidate given the relationship between he and Botterill. But Tocchet also carries coaching experience and some baggage. Pegula was adamant about wanting his next coach to have experience. Tocchet was the Tampa Bay Lightning head coach for two seasons (2008-2010).
In 2006, Tocchet was caught up in a sports gambling suit that involved Janet Gretzky (wife of hockey legend Wayne). He pleaded guilty to “conspiracy and promoting gambling” in 2007 and was sentenced to probation. Tocchet was a tough, two-way player who won a Cup with the Pens riding shotgun to Mario Lemieux.
Another name that has been kicked around for several years is former Sabres defenseman Phil Housley who currently is an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators. Housley was the head coach of the Team USA World Junior team when they won Gold back in 2013.
Since both the Pens and Preds are still in the NHL Playoff’s neither candidate can interview for the job until their respective team has been eliminated.
That could open the door for a host of former head coaches including Lindy Ruff, Kevin Dineen and Patrick Roy.
Botterill played hockey collegiately for the Michigan Wolverines and won a National Championship back in 1996. It would be interesting to see if the Alberta native takes a look through the NCAA ranks for the next coach of the Sabres.