The Buffalo Sabres have had to wait all summer to find themselves a head coach because, presumably, their next coach was still working. Now, with the playoffs finally over, the team is free to pursue any and all coaching candidates.
The two long-rumored front-runners are Rick Tocchet or Pittsburgh, and Phil Housley of Nashville. Both assistant coaches are enjoying their first day of vacation today (one more than the other) but with their schedules now much more free, expect new Sabres GM Jason Botterill to move fast.
Speaking of Botterill, he was on the ice last night to celebrate with the Penguins, having helped build the franchise that is now a back-to-back Stanley Cup champion. GMBOT has said that he wants to have a coach in place by the NHL draft, which gives him about three weeks until his self-imposed deadline.
Both Housley and Tocchet have not yet interviewed with Buffalo, but some others already have, including Craig Berube, coach of the AHL Chicago Wolves, Todd Reirden of Washington, and Scott Arniel of the Rangers, as well as Bob Boughner, who was announced as the head coach of the Florida Panthers today.
The obvious connections here are that Tocchet worked with Botterill in Pittsburgh, and Housely’s connection to Buffalo through his playing days. The Pegulas have, for better or worse, shown a propensity to hire people with a connection to Buffalo, which makes me think Housley would be the front-runner here. To me he seems like the better coaching candidate, connections aside, but then again, Tocchet did just win another Stanley Cup last night.
It’s now up to Botterill to get the ball rolling with these two candidates, as the Sabres are now the last team left without a head coach. With the NHL season now fully over, let’s get this thing going.