BUFFALO, N.Y. — After another big win on Sunday, Kyle Okposo said it best, "I think we made Jason's [Botterill] job a little bit more difficult."
Not too long ago, it looked like the Sabres would be sellers come this year's trade deadline considering they were in a double-digit deficit when it comes to points out of a playoff spot given the way they started the second half of the season.
But lately, they've really turned things around going 7-3-1 so far this month and won five out of their last six. This weekend's games were really statement wins dominating the Penguins in Pittsburgh and beating Winnipeg the next day to pull within six points of Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division.
Once that happened, the conversation shifted from maybe they won't be sellers. Instead, this group showed Botterill why he should take a chance on them. He brought in two players he thinks will help this team build on the recent success trading for veteran forward Wayne Simmonds from the Devils and forward Dominik Kahun from the Penguins.
For Simmonds, they only gave up a conditional fifth-round draft pick and for Kahun, they traded Conor Sheary who is on an expiring contract and Evan Rodrigues who requested a trade anyway.
The fact Botterill got an NHL player in return for them is great.
As far as the other players on expiring contracts, Botterill kept what's been working lately intact, a sign that says let's make a run at this. That has to be the mindset, win now.
Fans are tired of waiting and getting rid of guys like Jimmy Vesey, Zemgus Girgensons or Johan Larsson for future draft picks does nothing for them now. It was positive to see Botterill have that mentality and recognize as crazy as it is despite the past struggles that this team is in the thick of things when it comes to the postseason race.
"As a group we have to continue to focus in on what Ralph [Krueger] has talked about improving every day. And I think our group has done a good job with that and that was our focus today making the moves that we did. I think this will help our group," Botterill explained.
"Meaningful games in March" was the buzz phrase during Botterill's post trade deadline press conference and that's a mantra they should stick with. Keep this momentum going with 20 games left in the season.
Things don't get any easier as they hit the road for a four-game western trip starting in Colorado on Wednesday night.
Maybe they'll keep building on this or maybe things will fall apart. But people can't deny there seems to be a different feel around this team from a year ago when they had that second half meltdown and these conversations weren't had.