Botterill to use Penguins’ NHL-AHL relationship as model for Sabres

10 Comments

For the Buffalo Sabres to succeed, the Rochester Americans will also have to succeed.

That was the message today from new general manager Jason Botterill, who comes to the Sabres after a decade with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Botterill was most recently the associate GM of the Penguins, with responsibilities ranging from scouting to contract negotiations to salary-cap management. However, he also served as GM of the AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, and we all know the importance the Baby Pens have played in the Big Pens’ recent success.

Now he wants to bring that model to Buffalo.

“I think one of the successes of the organization that I’m coming from is the relationship between Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh,” said Botterill. “We want to re-strengthen the relationship with Rochester and Buffalo.”

The Americans, like the Sabres, have struggled in recent years. This past season, the AHL team missed the playoffs for the third straight time. The NHL team last made the postseason in 2011.

While Botterill obviously sees room for improvement in a lot of areas, he does really like one thing about the Sabres, and that’s their top two centers. Coming from a team that won championships with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, it’s no wonder he’s excited to have Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly.

“This is a league that thrives on centerman,” he said. “The fortunate thing here is we have a couple of amazing high-end centermen.”

The defense, on the other hand, needs a lot of work. But at least Rasmus Ristolainen is there.

Botterill, who replaces Tim Murray as GM, is aiming to hire a head coach to replace Dan Bylsma before next month’s draft.

What he wants in that coach is someone who will educate the players, but also someone that will lay down the law when necessary.

Communication will be key, and so will “presence.”

“Making sure the players understand the head coach is in control,” said Botterill, “and certainly leading the charge.”

It should be noted that, in 2015, Botterill hired Mike Sullivan to coach Wilkes-Barre, and that decision worked out rather well for the Penguins.

It should also be noted that, after cleaning house last month, Sabres owner Terry Pegula said that “discipline, structure, communication and character” would be the pillars of the club going forward. No more dysfunction would be tolerated.

As far as next season’s goals, Botterill simply wants improvement and competitiveness. When asked when the Sabres might compete for a Stanley Cup, he wasn’t willing to offer a prediction.

“We will be better,” he said. “But at the same token, I have a lot of respect for this league, and there are some teams that didn’t make the playoffs this year that will be better next year.

“I came from an environment in Pittsburgh where, yes, we had success the past couple of years, but for numerous years, we didn’t achieve those results or we had injuries.

“To me, the goal of the organization needs to be year-in-year-out competing at a high level, and in one of those years you break through.”

Related: What will the Sabres do with Evander Kane?

AP sources: Capitals to host Maple Leafs in outdoor game at Naval Academy

Getty
Leave a comment

Two people with knowledge of the situation say the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs will play an outdoor game at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, next season.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Saturday because the NHL had not announced the event. The game is scheduled to be played March 3 at the 34,000-seat Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium that hosts Navy football games.

It will be the first NHL outdoor game at a U.S. service academy, though quite possibly not the last. The league has explored doing games at the Army’s home at West Point and at the Air Force Academy.

It’s the third outdoor game for the Capitals and Maple Leafs and the first in the Washington area since the 2015 Winter Classic downtown at Nationals Park.

Capitals-Maple Leafs at the Naval Academy will be one of at least three outdoor games next season. The Ottawa Senators will host the Montreal Canadiens in the Heritage Classic on Dec. 19, and the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres will play in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 at Citi Field in New York.

NHL Network revealed on air that the league would announce a game at Navy on Monday.

Trio of Red Wings prospects ‘making a statement’ in AHL Calder Cup playoffs

Getty
Leave a comment

The Detroit Red Wings saw their playoff streak come to an end earlier this spring, but their farm team in Grand Rapids continues its postseason run, qualifying for the Calder Cup final.

The Griffins clinched a spot in the championship series with a 4-2 win against the San Jose Barracuda on Saturday.

It has been during this playoff run that a trio of prospect forwards seem to have left quite an impression on Detroit’s coaching staff, led by Jeff Blashill.

Tomas Nosek, Tyler Bertuzzi and 2015 first-round pick Evgeny Svechnikov have all been productive for the Griffins throughout this AHL postseason. This could help put them into the conversation for NHL roster spots in the fall, and present something of a youth movement in Detroit after years and years of chasing the playoffs.

Nosek is the oldest of the three at 24 years of age. Bertuzzi is 22 years old, and Svechnikov is only 20.

“I don’t know what all the pieces will be for us next season, but certainly Nosek made us confident he can be an effective NHL player,” said Blashill, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“Bertuzzi and Svechnikov, they are making a statement as well. They are becoming elite players in the AHL playoffs, and those are statements you want to make. We’ll look at them in camp and make our decisions based on who is going to make us better.”

The team’s general manager, Ken Holland, has in the past expressed his hesitation about a full-on rebuild, but after missing the playoffs, the Red Wings have an important few weeks ahead of them and the future of their franchise. They currently have the ninth overall pick in the NHL Draft following April’s lottery, and, after a busy trade deadline, four third-round picks, according to CapFriendly.

With six picks in the first three rounds, and 11 picks in total, Detroit should be able to help further stockpile their organization with a number of promising young prospects. It’s been suggested that the areas of concern for the Red Wings heading into the draft are up the middle and on the blue line.

Up front, all three aforementioned forwards — Nosek, Bertuzzi and Svechnikov — spent some time with the Red Wings this past regular season. Nosek and Bertuzzi each improved their overall point totals this season compared to 2015-16, and have been able to maintain a point-per-game pace in the playoffs. In Nosek’s case, he’s just over a point per game. Svechnikov had 20 goals and 51 points in 74 regular season games — his first full AHL campaign.

“Certainly part of us getting better next year is the young people on the (Red Wings) taking a step,” Holland told MLive.com. “And, hopefully, there is a player or two or three here that can push their way onto the team.”

Coyotes’ Rieder undergoes ankle surgery, expected to be out 8-12 weeks

Getty
Leave a comment

Tobias Rieder underwent ankle surgery after suffering an injury at the recently concluded World Hockey Championship, the Arizona Coyotes announced on Saturday.

Per the Coyotes, the operation was successful and he is expected to make a full recovery. However, the 24-year-old right winger is expected to be out eight to 12 weeks, as he goes through rehab.

With that timeline, he should be ready for training camp in September.

For the second straight year, Rieder was injured while playing for Germany in the IIHF tournament. Initially, it was reported that the Coyotes didn’t believe this latest injury was serious.

This past season, Rieder scored a single-season career best 16 goals in 80 games. He’s about to enter the final year of his two-year contract, which has an annual cap hit of $2.225 million.

Despite concussion history, Clarke MacArthur says ‘I’m going to play if I can’

Getty
Leave a comment

Ottawa Senators forward Clarke MacArthur has again emphasized his desire to continue his playing career, despite another regular season derailed by a concussion.

It will, however, depend on what doctors tell him.

MacArthur missed all but four games in the regular season because of a concussion suffered during training camp. In January, it was reported that this latest concussion would keep him out of the lineup for the remainder of the season — more bad news that followed a 2015-16 campaign in which he played only four games.

In a surprising development, MacArthur was cleared and returned to the Senators lineup late in the season, just before the playoffs started. During Ottawa’s impressive postseason run, which ended Thursday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final versus Pittsburgh, the 32-year-old forward had three goals and nine points in 19 games.

On Saturday, he revealed to the Ottawa Citizen that he had been dealing with discomfort in his neck during the playoffs. He was also adamant it was nothing else other than a neck ailment, and that he will get an MRI to see what it could be.

As for his playing future?

“I don’t know what the play is,” said MacArthur, per the Ottawa Citizen. “I just want to take a week or two and see how I feel. I still love playing the game. I’ve got to talk to the doctors and take a week or so and see where I go.”

Despite a history of concussions, MacArthur has in the past stated that he wants to continue playing. He is about to enter the third year of a five-year, $23.25 million contract.

“If everything works out, then I’m going to play if I can.”