Buffalo Sabres: Things We Know This Week


I was extremely fortunate not to be at Doc’s office earlier as from what was disclosed to me was “Negative Stanley” pacing the shag carpet, pugnaciously ranting without taking a breath for a good 20 minutes. He was referencing the Sabres new head coach, Ralph Krueger.

From what I understand, Stosch evoked by acknowledging that Dan Bylsma was the Stanley Cup-winning experienced NHL coach who managed superstar egos at the highest level in Pittsburgh. Underachieving here in the Queen City, he still would and was considered a “safe hire”. He was the second-tier coach targeted just after Mike Babcock by Tim Murray. However, as we all know, Babcock eloped 90 minutes north on the Queen Elizabeth Way to the Gardner Expressway.

Moving on, he addressed that going for the next up and coming potential superstar, assistant coach, Phil Housley gave every reason to be optimistic. New blood. Familiar blood. Successful at his entire career. Hall of Fame. This could have been a huge splash making Botts look like a hero.

Unfortunately, it did not appear Housley was inspiring or energizing from the start of his failed two seasons. At times it seemed that many members of the blue and gold were simply not truly engaged. Defensively it looked to the average fan as if no defensive scheme even existed.

Stanley entered territory that is like nails on a chalkboard. He proclaimed that the fact that the beloved reputation of Ted Nolan, from his “hardest working team in the NHL” days in the ’90s, was impacted. He was used to be the “Fall Guy” for the losing record since Pat LaFontaine, the Sabres President who hired Nolan, was long gone. It was an attempt to temper some fans holding grudges from the mid-’90s. They believed he could motivate all levels to championship competing teams. Any tool he had to be successful was stripped-off the team. The team was constructed to lose badly. This was done during the time the GM was doing anything possible to lose, gaining every advantage possible to walk away with Connor McDavid. (or Jack Eichel)

So, they got to shut up the fans that were still calling for them to bring Nolan back after Lindy Ruff won a Jack Adams Trophy and followed that up with a Stanley Cup Finals appearance. And, of course, we all remember the Sabres came up short in game six with a controversial goal by Brett Hull.

These were my of the same fans who wanted Flutie back after he showed he could not throw any sort of a long ball. Opposing coaches put a spy on him and played the run begging Flutie to beat them with his arm strength… or lack thereof.  These fans got to watch Nolan hit rock bottom in back-to-back seasons in his return to Buffalo, unfortunately, coming back at a time where the plan was to bottom out and rebuild. So, he was there to just keep the team together and showing up loss after loss.

No coach from the ’90s was going to make a name for himself when Murray’s obsession with getting Conner McDavid.  Even though the consolation prize was a franchise player in Jack Eichel. Murray did not even hide his disappointment in losing the lottery to Edmonton.  He clearly looked hurt and disappointed to not have a chance at landing McDavid in the lottery. Murray should have been panegyrical how blessed the organization was landing a generational talent like ‘Captain Jack’.

This time Stanley inherently showered the waiting room with a surplus of sarcasm, asked the small entertained office staff  “Soccer or Football?  Which is it?  That is what direction we went with for Housley’s replacement?  The chairman of English Premier League soccer team in Southampton for the past five years? A soccer guy? I am not young enough to waste time striving for a championship before I croak to be hiring a soccer guy to coach an NHL team!”

Stanley was playing that as a drama card. A reason to complain. However, the way he worded it makes one wonder what Botterill was thinking. I am so relieved to have missed his complaining.

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I, for one, think the Sabres are lucky to have an executive come back to coach the Sabres. His background is diverse. He has a ton of coaching experience at all levels.  He is well respected and an author of a dynamic book. Not only is he a motivator, but he also thrives under pressure and has management experience.

He evaluated talent in the NHL. The Sabres took a risk. But the safe Bylsma failed.  The popular Housley failed. The popular Nolan was successful for those desiring the tank, but that did nothing for his already tarnished resume.

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This hire is not safe and is unpopular in some circles. But it is not a horrible idea. He failed to mention Ralph Krueger has played the game for many years across the pond.  He was an NHL assistant coach for a couple of seasons as well as the Oilers head coach for one season. In addition to his time spent evaluating talent in Carolina, he had a long successful coaching career overseas at the international level.

Coach Krueger is extremely intelligent, motivating, adaptable, professional and has a likability factor about him. He has been known for his ability to be a people person. However, he also knows when to hold players accountable. He chooses those times and places very intelligently. Jim Rutherford, former Carolina General Manager, and current Pittsburgh General Manager have had him on his radar several times when coaching was needed. That is no inconsequential statement. My neighbor used the word ‘integrity’ when referencing the new coach having met him several times over the years.

It was reported on WEDG radio (103.3 FM) that the man did his due diligence going incognito visiting Buffalo restaurants and bars getting involved in conversations with people giving him a sense of the area.

His first task after saying hello is to befriend Jeff Skinner and gain agreement on the kind of game they will play, hopefully being attractive to the soon to be UFA.

The Panthers, Kings, Islanders and Maple Leafs have the coaches I would have preferred based on my knowledge of availability over the past several seasons. That being said, this hire has a little something different that is pleasing the more and more I peel back the layers investigating his background. Some of the other recycled options are those with no upside and strictly a candidate because someone else gave them the opportunity that failed, but they can claim experience.

I will go on record as saying that I like the hire and like his resume. He does many things well and has done it at multiple positions.

He even did it as a Chairman for European soccer team most recently. Soccer? Or is it Football? I’ve been to Wembley to see the Bills/Jags painful display. So, it’s certainly football. No wait, it is soccer to us, but since they use the foot, it is football to them. The British claim we have it wrong. Why do we have it wrong? What about the CFL? Maybe they have it wrong. Wait, the NFL Europe league was called Football, not soccer. Or was it depending on whose newspaper you acquire? OK. It is football, I mean soccer.

OK, we can do this again sometime, but for now, I am finished.

“Next weeks no good for me. The Jonas Brothers are in town.”

 -Alan (The Hangover)

I am so confused that I will hit the red “Digress” button with competitive urgency. The button says do not push. I digress…

Things We Know About the Buffalo Sabres This Week:

  • The Sabres got their guy. Ralph Krueger, 59 years old with a resume showing he will try almost anything. When he does agree to try the said task, he is all in, on all levels. He becomes the Sabres 19th head coach in franchise history. Hopefully, in 2021 we are not searching for the 29th head coach. I would prefer him winning from age 59 though maybe 70 if left to my own devices.
  • Zach Bogosian had off-season hip surgery and Lawrence Pilut had shoulder surgery with no solid answers as if they will be ready for the start of the next hockey season. Brandon Montour gave the team a scare with an injury, but all reports indicate he certainly will be ready to go start the season. Injuries like these could hinder the Sabres willingness to make the blockbuster trade with Rasmus Ristolainen as a key piece of a deal. No reports indicate the talented defenseman is on the market. It is more fans wishful thinking.

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