It wasn't a long search for Tim Murray in his go-around on the NHL coaching carousel. The Sabres may not have gotten their first choice, but in the end they arguably landed the free agent coach with the best track record left. Dan Bylsma is officially the next coach of the Buffalo Sabres, the 17th in franchise history.
Bylsma and the Sabres agreed on a five-year deal according to TSN's Darren Dreger. The press conference introducing him is set for 4 p.m. this afternoon.
In Bylsma the Sabres get a Stanley Cup winning coach, someone who has Olympic experience and a person who knows how to deal with star players. For the first time in a while, the Sabres will have some of those to manage.
Bylsma sat out this season after being fired by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He joined the Penguins organization in 2006 as an assistant in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. After two seasons he was named the WBS' Penguins head coach, but it was short lived. Pittsburgh struggled at the start of the season under Michel Therrien. He was fired after 57 games, as the Penguins sat at 27-25-0 and outside the playoffs. Bylsma was promoted as the interim head coach, but he didn't last long in that title either. A stellar finish would lead to Shero removing the interim tag before the end of the regular season.
Bylsma led the Penguins to a remarkable 18-3-4 record to finish the season, placing Pittsburgh fourth in the Eastern Conference. He steered the Penguins to the Stanley Cup in just his first season, only the second rookie coach to accomplish such a feat. After facing two tough opponents in Philadelphia (won in six games) and Washington (won in seven games) the Penguins swept the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Detroit Red Wings would be the Penguins opponent in the final, the second year in a row the two teams made it to the biggest stage in the sport. On the other bench stood Mike Babcock, who Bylsma will get very familiar with now that the coaches are the heads of two geographical and divisional rivals.
The series was a rigorous battle for the Penguins, who had to come back from down 2-0 and 3-2 in the series. Max Talbot was the unlikely hero for the Penguins, scoring both goals in PIttsburgh's 2-1 Game 7 victory.
Bylsma never missed the playoffs during his time in Pittsburgh, but failed to return to the Stanley Cup. The Penguins were eliminated in the first round twice, in the second round twice and one time in the Eastern Conference Finals. Despite having two of the best players in the world, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the team was constantly plagued by lackluster goaltending by Marc-Andre Fleury.
Dan Bylsma will be a really good hire by Buffalo. This can explain a TON of his perceived shortcomings in playoffs pic.twitter.com/5vIzZYjjsO— Ryan Wilson (@GunnerStaal) May 28, 2015
One of the aspects of the Sabres that may have appealed to him most was on display right before his eyes this summer. Bylsma was an assistant on the USA staff at the World Tournament, coaching future Sabre Jack Eichel to a bronze medal.
Bylsma was reportedly in town on Wednesday to meet with Terry Pegula and Murray according to the Associated Press.
The Sabres are giving Pittsburgh a third-round pick in exchange for Bylsma's services since he is technically still under contract with the Penguins. Although an announcement on Bylsma was expected earlier in the day, the compensation held up the deal according to the AP's John Wawrow. Pittsburgh is entited to a third-round pick within the next three years according to the CBA. Bob McKenzie is reporting that Pittsburgh will likely get the Islanders' third-round pick in 2016. The Sabres do not have a third-round pick this year.
There is now only one head coaching job open, as the New Jersey Devils are the last team without a bench boss.