Botterill: 'We have to learn to win better' as an organization

February 28, 2018

It was a relatively quiet day for Jason Botterill on Monday in his NHL Trade Deadline as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres.

The biggest move Botterill made on Monday was the trade of Evander Kane to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for two conditional picks in the 2019 NHL Draft and forward, Dan O'Regan. Aside from that, Botterill stood pat with the roster and will look ahead to the offseason to continue to improve the team.

Things have not gone well for the Sabres this season as they stand with a 19-33-11 record through 63 games this season, and sit just three points ahead of the Arizona Coyotes for last place in the NHL standings. Botterill has not been all too pleased with his team's effort to this point, but hopes that his roster will finish the 2017-18 season on a high note against some good competition.

Botterill spent some time on Tuesday sitting in with Andrew Peters, Craig Rivet and Martin Biron on The Instigators on WGR. He gave his thoughts about the NHL Trade Deadline and how the day unfolded for him and elsewhere around the league. Plus, he added some thoughts on how the state of the team looks moving forward in both Buffalo and Rochester.

Here is some of what he had to say:

On setting the market as a seller:

"Over the past week or so, I think there's a lot more dialogue of teams calling you, we're calling them type of thing. But for the past two months, it's been us calling different teams, setting the stage that we are open for business and these were some of the ideas that we were looking at. I think what you saw with the league, though, is there is so much parody throughout the league. When you're talking to teams two months ago, as much as fans [wanting us to make a move] two months ago, a lot of teams didn't know where they were going to be. There's so much parody that they wanted to be sure they were going to be in the playoffs before they started reaching out to teams. There wan't much of a trade market two months ago or a month ago. Teams were even looking at what they were going to be doing in the last week here, whether they were going to be buyers or sellers come deadline time."

On making trades to change things up with the team:

"At the end of the day, we're evaluating things that [can] make it best for our organization. But, there is that human element. It was a scenario where we're trying to find position for a veteran player to have a successful playoff run. Unfortunately, some of those deals didn't come through for us that we were hopeful from that standpoint. You're always looking at that scenario where you ultimately want to do what's best for the Buffalo Sabres organization, but you clearly have to look at the human element."

On holding on to draft picks:

"On all of those [deadline] trades, it's not hockey trades in most of those situations. It's not NHL players being traded for NHL players. It's NHL players being traded for draft picks and prospects. Where we're at right now, we don't want to be giving up our draft picks. We find that those are key components for building depth within our organization. Just like we did last year picking a player like Casey Mittelstadt, who's going to be a big part of our future, or Brendan Guhle who was previously a second round pick. Those first and second round picks are key players for our future here. As much as we'd love to get a NHL player that can help us out here right now, giving up first round, second round, or third round picks right now is something we're hesitant to do."

On developing your team through the NHL Draft:

"We had a lot of different discussions with different players to maybe move in a different scenario or going to a different spot to bring some sort of an asset back. Those trades didn't materialize yesterday, unfortunately. You look around the league, there wasn't nearly as much [assets] from a depth perspective that was really moved. I think teams are truly understanding the value of draft picks. So few players actually get to free agency, so the only way you can really develop your team is through the draft and developing younger players through your own system. You can certainly compliment your team through free agency, but if you change your entire team through free agency, it's not going to happen like it did four or five years ago."

On the direction of the organization moving forward:

"We've been talking about the importance of Rochester, that's creating a winning culture down there. I feel as an organization, we have to learn to win better. That's what we're looking for in the next 20 games here. We understand that there's probably going to be some difficult games here, but in key situations, we have to find ways to win. How we played against Boston the other day, that was great in front of our own fans. You had a team that was excited about playing, having [Rick] Nash just come to their team, yet we still found a way to win a game. We've played a lot better on the road, and that's a key element moving forward. What we're trying to do is improve our team, and certainly in Rochester to begin that winning culture. They're certainly going to be in the playoffs this year. Hopefully it'll be of key importance for guys like Ullmark and Guhle to be part of a playoff run. How do you win a five-game series? How do you win a seven-game series? That's something our prospects and players haven't been used to over the last couple of years."

You can listen to the entire interview below: