Ryan O’Reilly’s honesty the other day gave a big answer to what’s wrong with the Sabres, and GM Jason Botterill viewed O’Reilly’s loss of love for the game as something he’s not alone in feeling.
“When you don’t win, when you don't get the results you want, it can be really draining on a player and what he said is probably indicative of a lot of the players of our organization. And that's what we have to work through right now. Right now, we have a losing culture. We haven't won here. And it's up to Phil and I to work with our players, to work through that, to make sure we change our culture,” said Botterill.
Change is something owner Terry Pegula needs to see, as the Sabres have missed the playoffs in each of the seven full seasons since he bought the team, finishing last in the league three times.
"His anger's fairly high. It is high and I don't blame him. I've been here for one year and I was pretty pissed off and upset throughout the year. I guess I could be articulate, but we'll just say it sucks that we won't be watching live playoff hockey right now. That it's all just on TV,” said Botterill.
So how can this be fixed? Botterill says Phil Housley 100-percent will be the head coach next season. When asked if Housley was dealing with uncoachable players, the GM responded with a “no,” saying some just had strong opinions. Some of those opinions, even if accompanied by strong skill, may be gone as part of an effort to become at least competitive next season.
"When you finish where we are, you have to look at everything and that means even looking at changing up our core players. From a free agent standpoint, we'll be involved in free agency, but I am a believer that you just can't build a team just through free agency. It has to come from within our own organization,” said Botterill.
The first step in change comes at the end of the month, when the Sabres find out where their best odds actually land them in the draft lottery.