Botterill Points to Youth As Reason for Optimism

"This group has shown glimpses that we can be a really strong team."

Brendan Keany
May 27, 2020 - 12:24 pm

WBEN photo

BUFFALO (WBEN) - Another year of no playoffs for the Sabres.

It has been nine long years since the franchise played postseason game, and it has been 13 years since the Sabres last won a playoff series.

On Tuesday afternoon, the NHL officially ended any small hopes fans had of potentially capturing out an expanded playoff birth, as the league announced it's 24-team playoff format.

Naturally, the season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic while the Sabres sat in 25th place. Having long-shot odds at winning the coveted first overall pick in this year's NHL Draft Lottery is also a tough pill to swallow, especially since teams that made the tournament but lose in the first round will also have a chance to win the first pick.

Perhaps even bigger news Tuesday, the team announced that General Manager Jason Botterill will return for his fourth season despite finishes of 31st place, 27th place and 25th place during his three-year tenure.

On Wednesday morning, Botterill held a press conference via Zoom, and he was asked about any bitterness about being so close to reaching the expanded playoff format.

"There's disappointment, but at the end of the day, it's our fault we didn't win more game prior to that," he said. "We shouldn't have put ourselves in that position - we should have been in a position that no matter what happens, that we would have been more a part of the mix."

In a report by John Wawrow of the Associated Press, co-owner Kim Pegula specifically stated that the move to retain Botterill for the time being wasn't likely to be a popular one.

“I realize, maybe it’s not popular with the fans, but we have to do the things that we feel are right,” she said. “We have a little bit more information than maybe a fan does, some inner workings that we see some positives in.”

Regardless, any reasonable person could surmise that there is even more pressure on Botterill to build a contender for next year, and he addressed that pressure in the press conference.

"I'm not surprised that our passionate fans want to see a winner on the ice," said Botterill, adding that his job description naturally comes with a sense of urgency. "That's nothing surprising from our standpoint - we understand that - we understand that's part of pro sports."

But how does Botterill turn this ship around? The GM pointed to the organization's youth and continued development of core players as a potential saving grace.

"This group has shown glimpses that we can be a really strong team, but it's imperative that we add more depth throughout that group an improve our young players to be legit NHL players and have success moving forward," he said. "That's why I think our fan base would be excited about the young players we have coming in here, and that we've shown that we can do it - now, it's imperative that we show it over 82 games."

Listen to the full press conference below:

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