Two games and two
Having known mostly success over the past decade with the Penguins [url=http://www.jaguarscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-calais-campbell-jersey]Calais Campbell Jersey[/url] , Jason Botterill received a sobering introduction to life at the bottom of the NHL during his first season as Buffalo Sabres general manager.
”I’ve been here for one year and I was pretty (ticked) off and upset,” Botterill said during a season-ending news conference Wednesday, ”I guess I could be articulate, but I’ll just say it (stinks) that we won’t be watching live playoff hockey right now.”
Being on the outside looking in is an unusual position for Botterill, who spent the previous two Junes celebrating Stanley Cup championships as the Penguins assistant GM. He was hired last spring after the Sabres cleaned house by firing GM Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma.
If there’s anything Botterill can draw upon from his experience with the Penguins, is seeing the notable difference between what makes up a winning organization and a losing one in Buffalo .
The Sabres finished last for the third time in five years, and extended their franchise-worst playoff drought to a seventh season.
”Right now we have a losing culture here,” Botterill said.
He put the onus on himself, coach Phil Housley and players to find ways of inspiring change, be it with their training habits or communication and leadership abilities.
”I don’t want to hear how disappointed they are. I want to hear what’s going to change,” Botterill said. ”It just can’t be about words. We have to have better results.”
Botterill backed the disheartening sentiments expressed by center Ryan O’Reilly during the team’s final media availability on Monday. O’Reilly said a losing mentality had crept into the locker room and led him to losing his love for playing hockey at times.
”I think he gave you an honest opinion. And in today’s sports world that’s a little bit unique,” Botterill said.
”When you don’t get the results you want, it can be really draining on a player,” he added. ”And what he said is probably indicative of a lot of our players within our organization. And that’s what we have to work through right now.”
Botterill began the news conference by saying Housley isn’t going anywhere after he struggled in his first year as coach. He credited Housley for developing some of Buffalo’s youngsters [url=http://www.bearscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-mitch-unrein-jersey]Mitch Unrein Jersey[/url] , and believes in the up-tempo style the coach began introducing this season.
As for the roster, Botterill didn’t rule out making drastic changes even if it meant shaking up the team’s core group of leaders.
”When you finish where we were, you have to look at everything,” he said.
Buffalo finished last in the NHL with 199 goals scored and 119 goals scored in five-on-five situations. The Sabres also matched a franchise low for home wins in any season by going 11-25-4 at Buffalo – not including an overtime loss to the Rangers in the Winter Classic at New York City in which the Sabres were the ”home” team.
If there was a bright side, Botterill looked forward to the draft in June, when Buffalo is guaranteed picking no worse than fourth overall, pending the results of the NHL’s draft lottery on April 28.
Botterill was impressed by Jack Eichel’s development on the ice, where the third-year center set career bests with 25 goals and 64 points, and off the ice in continuing to mature as a leader.
Botterill, however, said it was premature as to whether the Sabres were prepared to award the 21-year-old Eichel the captaincy, a role that was not filled this past season.
”As excited as we are of Jack moving forward as a leader, it’s imperative that we have more players in that locker room step up,” Botterill said.
”This game cannot have one player lead the entire team. It’s imperative that we have stronger leadership bases in there.”
NOTES: Botterill said G Robin Lehner will not require surgery after the starter visited a specialist this week to assess a lower body injury. … In announcing he expects rookie G Linus Ullmark to play for Buffalo full time next season [url=http://www.cowboyscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-jaylon-smith-jersey]Jaylon Smith Jersey[/url] , Botterill said he’s not determined his second goalie, including Lehner, who is eligible to become a restricted free agent. … Backup Chad Johnson completed his one-year contract and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.
The better J.A. Happ pitches for the Toronto Blue Jays, the better the chance he finishes the season with another team.
Happ pitched a season-high 8 1/3 innings to win his fifth straight decision, Kendrys Morales hit a two-run home run and the Blue Jays beat the Atlanta Braves 5-4 Wednesday for Toronto’s seventh win in eight home games.
Happ (9-3) allowed four runs and six hits, walked none and struck out eight. The veteran left-hander is the first big league pitcher to record four starts this season with at least eight strikeouts and no walks.
”He’s got good life on his fastball,” Atlanta’s Nick Markakis said. ”He’s always been a thorn in the side.”
With Toronto well behind in both the AL East and the wild card standings, Happ could be a candidate for a midseason trade to a contender.
”I know he’s in demand and I can see why,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. ”If we were on the other end of it, I’d want him, too.”
Happ is in the final season of a three-year, $36 million contract.
”I signed to play here and try to help this team get to the playoffs,” Happ said. ”I know there may be rumors out there, but I like it here and my focus is here.”
Happ improved 4-0 with a 2.72 ERA in nine career starts against the Braves.
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Happ had retired 18 of 19 before Freddie Freeman and Markakis hit back-to-back singles with one out in the ninth.
Ryan Tepera came on and gave up an RBI single to Kurt Suzuki, struck out Charlie Culberson, then allowed an RBI single to Ender Inciarte, putting the tying run at second. Tepera finished it by getting Johan Camargo to fly out, earning his fifth save in eight opportunities
Morales, who turned 35 Wednesday, went 2 for 3 and scored twice. He homered in the first, walked and scored in the fourth, singled in the fifth, and flied out in the eighth.
Suzuki and Peter Bourjos hit solo home runs for the Braves, who lost for the second time in eight games. Atlanta began the day with an NL-best record of 43-29.
Braves right-hander Anibal Sanchez (3-1) allowed four runs and five hits in five innings.
”It wasn’t bad, wasn’t great,” Snitker said. ”He kept us in the game, gave us a chance.”
Sanchez is 0-2 with a 9.19 ERA in his past three starts against the Blue Jays.
After Morales hit a two-out drive off Sanchez [url=http://www.cowboyscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-jeff-heath-jersey]Jeff Heath Jersey[/url] , his sixth homer of the season, Suzuki connected in the second, his eighth, and Bourjos tied it in the third with his first homer of the season.
Toronto broke the deadlock in the fourth when Randal Grichuk hit an RBI double and Aledmys Diaz followed with a sacrifice fly.
Blue Jays infielder Yangervis Solarte made it 5-2 with a two-out RBI single off A.J. Minter in the seventh.
WALK THIS WAY
Blue Jays C Russell Martin has walked at least once in eight straight games, matching a career-long stretch. Martin, who walked twice Wednesday, also walked in eight straight in 2013.
Morales has four home runs and eight RBIs in eight career games on his birthday.
THRIVING WITH FIVE
Toronto is 28-1 when scoring five or more runs.
Braves: Markakis started at designated hitter, the first time this season he hasn’t played one of the corner outfield spots.
Blue Jays: RHP Marcus Stroman (shoulder) will be activated off the disabled list to start at the Angels on Saturday, Gibbons said. Stroman is 0-5 with a 7.71 ERA in seven starts. … 3B Josh Donaldson (left calf) left the team Wednesday and will continue working out at Toronto’s spring training facility in Florida. Donaldson will not begin a rehab assignment until he is able to run the bases at full speed.
Braves: Atlanta is off Thursday before opening a three-game home series against Baltimore on Friday. LHP Sean Newcomb (8-2, 2.70 ERA) starts for the Braves. Newcomb has won eight of his past nine decisions. The Orioles have not named a starter.
Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez (3-5, 4.35) starts the opener of a four-game series against the Angels. Sanchez is 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA in three June starts. LHP Tyler Skaggs (6-4, 2.81) starts for Los Angeles.
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