Jason Botterill is taking the right approach in finding a coach

The Sabres general manager is interviewing a lot of candidates because he wants to hear what they have to bring

Paul Hamilton
May 01, 2019 - 12:55 pm

Photo: Bruce Bennett - Getty Images

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(WGR 550) - Jason Botterill is going through an extensive interview process before he decides on a coach for the Sabres. I get all the time that since there isn’t a coach in place that nobody wants the job, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Botterill wants to make sure he gets this right, so the interviews are important. So far, he’s spoken to Todd McLellan and Dave Tippett, that we know of. Others that have, or will likely be interviewed soon are Jacques Martin and Todd Richards.

I don’t know if they think Chris Taylor is ready yet, but my guess is he’ll at least get an interview.

I think Providence College coach Nate Leaman could get an interview, and if he has any interest at all, I think it would be worthwhile to interview Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin.

The other “hot take” I’d like to address is that Jason Botterill should be fired because he’s shirking his responsibilities with the Sabres by being one of three men running Team Canada for the World Championship. That’s like the mob that screams every time the Sabres get a day off from practice. There are actually people out there that think the Sabres should practice three hours per-day each and every day and never have a day off. I don’t think I need to explain that one. Most can figure it out and most hockey fans realize there’s a collective bargaining agreement in place.

Getting back to Botterill, I don’t understand how helping to run Team Canada in a three-week tournament is hurting the Sabres. I’ve never been to Slovakia, but I know for a fact that they have cell service there. If Jeff Skinner’s agent wants to talk, he doesn’t drive to Buffalo, he picks up the phone. If Julien BriseBois wants to talk trade, he doesn’t board a plane in Tampa and fly to Buffalo, he picks up the phone.

Being in Slovakia is part of Botterill’s job. Most GM’s are at the World Championship looking for that European free agent like Arttu Ruotsalainen, so if any of them want to talk trade, Botterill will be where he’s supposed to be and will be able to have a face-to-face conversation.

The other part of his job is to talk to and interview Rikard Grönborg. Grönborg isn’t in Buffalo checking out the new Labatt House, he’s in Slovakia trying to lead Sweden to its third straight gold medal. The idea of Grönborg  has started to grow on me and I would be shocked if he didn’t get an extensive interview with Botterill. I think he wins, and the fact that he's done some coaching in North America helps. Being Sweden's coach at the Worlds, he also gets to coach NHL players. Talking to players that have played for him he's very detail oriented and pays attention to trends in hockey. I'm not sure all in the Sabres locker room would accept him, but I don't know if any coach would satisfy them. 

It wouldn’t surprise me that when the Toronto Marlies' season is over, Botterill asks the Maple Leafs for permission to interview Sheldon Keefe.

The report out there that Botterill is asking all candidates how they would handle Rasmus Ristolainen is shaky at best. First, nobody would know that unless Botterill told them personally which maybe he did. Second, what would be the point? No coaching candidate is going to say “No, I’ve got nothing. There’s nothing a coach can do for him.”

I think Botterill has been around Ristolainen long enough to know that he’s bull-headed when it comes to how he plays and isn’t very open to coaching. I also don’t think any coach is going to improve his hockey IQ. I think the road to having success with Ristolainen is having him on a third pair playing 15-to-17 minutes per-game against other team’s bottom-six forwards. If he was on a good team where that could be his role, I think he might become more consistent.

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