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Remembering John Muckler

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Former Sabres coach, executive dies at 86

Edmonton Oilers v Boston Bruins Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

If you were a Buffalo Sabres fan in the 1990s, you’ll remember this name fondly: John Muckler. The former NHL coach and executive passed away on January 4 at the age of 86.

Sabres fans will remember Muckler for the years he served in Buffalo. Previously a coach with the Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota North Stars, as well as a number of AHL and CHL teams, Muckler was originally brought to the Sabres organization as the team’s Director of Hockey Operations in 1991. He would eventually take over as head coach and serve in that spot for four seasons, also serving as general manager for part of that time.

Muckler eventually stepped down from the coaching position, but remained with the Sabres as an executive until he was fired amid conflict with Larry Quinn (then team president) and Ted Nolan.

Among the players that Muckler worked with during his time in Buffalo: Dominik Hasek, Dave Andreychuk, Rob Ray, Pat LaFontaine. His front office also included notables like Don Luce, John Tortorella and Don Lever. During his time as general manager, Muckler helped bring players including Henrik Tallinder, Maxim Afinogenov, Brian Campbell (via the draft) and Miroslav Satan (via trade) to Buffalo.

The Sabres organization released the following statement regarding his passing:

Former Sabres net minder Martin Biron also shared his thoughts & a great historical video of Muckler calling his name at the 1995 NHL Entry Draft:

The Sabres made the playoffs in each of the four years that Muckler served as the team’s head coach, but never got past the second round. He helped lead the Sabres to a 43-42-9 record in 1993-94, and managed to pull the team to a 22-22-8 record upon taking over for Rick Dudley mid-season. Dudley was fired amidst an eight-game winless streak, with the team’s record a measly 9-15-4 at the time.

After his tenure in Buffalo, Muckler coached the New York Rangers, acted as general manager for the Ottawa Senators and served as a senior advisor for the Phoenix Coyotes. He racked up a number of accolades during his career, including CHL & AHL coach of the year honors, two-time Canada Cup Champion and a finalist for the Jack Adams award.

During his playing career, Muckler suited up for teams including the OHA’s Windsor Spitfires, the IHL’s Detroit Hettche and the EHL’s New York Rovers, Greensboro Generals and Charlotte Clippers. He transitioned to coaching near the end of his playing career, serving as a player-head coach for the Rovers and Long Island Ducks for several years.