While the Stanley Cup Playoffs rage on with the final four teams fighting for their shot at Lord Stanley’s Cup, the Buffalo Sabres find themselves deep in the throes of yet another coaching search.
The process has been dubbed #CoachWatch and rightfully so.
We sit on our collective hands as days go by, while we hear the rumors rumbling through the newly-rebranded Buffalo Waterfront.
More recently, we have heard the name Ralph Krueger become a white-hot candidate in the seemingly endless coaching search.
It all began with Elliotte Friedman’s weekly “31 Thoughts” blog, where he mentioned the following:
“According to multiple sources, Krueger is rising on Buffalo’s list of coaching candidates. He’s got a real shot at the job.”
Krueger’s name budging to the head of the line serves as somewhat of a headscratcher to some.
When fan-favorite candidate Rikard Grönborg signed with the ZSC Lions and noted that no NHL teams were interested in coaches with no NHL head coaching experience, some were up-in-arms with the backhanded revelation.
Clubhouse favorite Ralph Krueger has only 48 games of NHL head coaching experience, where he ended with a 19-22-7 record – a .463 win percentage.
In the past, Kruger had success with Team Europe in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey but more recently spent time as the director and subsequently as the Chairman of the Southampton Football Club of the Premier League.
Yes, the Buffalo Sabres hottest coaching candidate most recently worked as a chairman for a professional football franchise in England.
While many have preached patience with the Buffalo Sabres - thanks in part to many of the same fans trusting the process with the Buffalo Bills – time could already be running out for Jason Botterill to get things right.
Before red flags start to get raised and sentences begin to get misquoted, we need to take a step back to see how things have worked before.
We look at Terry Pegula’s first general manager – Tim Murray.
When Murray’s tenure ended, he had been given three years and three months of rope before he was let go. This included running with Ted Nolan and subsequently hiring Dan Bylsma to be the bench boss.
Murray was given a chance to hire his own coach and when that did not pan out, the parachute was pulled.
Jason Botterill was able to hire Phil Housley out of the gate and arguably waited a little too long to fire him, but that all depends on who you ask.
Either way, Botterill will obviously be onto his second head coach under his tenure here shortly. With this, the spotlight will directly be on him.
While Botterill might be successful with drafting and player development, winning changes everything.
Winning makes the fan angst dissipate. Winning satisfies the players. Winning brings job security.
We saw last season with the acquisition of Jeff Skinner that Botterill can really swing and nail a home run of a deal. On the other hand, we also saw Botterill’s trade of Ryan O’Reilly. That deal feels like the baseball equivalent of grounding into a triple play with the bases loaded.
When it comes to hiring a new head coach, whether it is the aforementioned Krueger, Dave Tippett, Chris Taylor or someone else, one thing is clear – Botterill needs to nail this hire like he did with the Skinner trade and not drop the ball like he did with the O’Reilly trade.
If this new head coach struggles out of the gate, multiple seats could begin to heat up very early into the season.