The Buffalo Sabres long losing skid and residence at the bottom of the NHL standings resulted in Ralph Krueger losing his job, as the club relieved the head coach of his duties. The Sabres lost their 12th game in a row in New Jersey on Tuesday, prompting first-year GM Kevyn Adams to fire Krueger and assistant coach Steve Smith after going 36-49-12 over one and a half seasons in Buffalo.
“This is about results that haven’t been good enough.” Adams said on a media conference call. “I look and evaluate everything, and I was trying to take a real, honest, fair evaluation, understanding the adversity and the situation our team was in, taking it all into account, but it felt like the right time, and this is about moving forward. This is about how do we improve. I do believe every crisis is an opportunity for positive change and this is a chance for us to move forward and to begin to get this thing pointed in the right direction.”
Don Granato was named interim head coach, with former NHLer’s Matt Ellis and Dan Girardi named as assistants, but Adams indicated that a search for a new bench boss would begin immediately.
“I’m not going to get into specifics, what I will tell you is the search will be effective immediately. I’ve thought a lot about the characteristics and attributes that I think would be important for this organization moving forward.” Adams said. “There will be a lot of people that I will speak to, there will be other people (that will be) part of the process as we go along, but what I don’t want to do is rush into anything or make a quick decision without truly taking as much time as we need, because this is about getting it right. It’s great to say I’m looking for this or that, or they have to have this or that. This is about getting the right person and it’s critical.”
“There has to be a pride that goes with putting on a Buffalo Sabres jersey. There has to be a pride of showing up every day and being a National Hockey League player.”— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) March 17, 2021
Owners Terry and Kim Pegula purged the organization after missing the playoffs last season, letting go of GM Jason Botterill, most of the management and scouting staff in favor of Adams and a skeleton crew and giving Krueger more input in roster decisions, including the signing of former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall and trading for veteran center Eric Staal.
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Financial considerations could be a big part of who the Sabres target for their new head coach. Botterill has a year left on his contract and Krueger was slated to make $3.75 million next season. Veteran head coaches such as Mike Babcock, Gerard Gallant, Bruce Boudreau, and possibly John Tortorella may be on the market this summer, but it is unlikely that any of them would take on the rather large challenge of turning around the fortunes of the Sabres without a big-money long-term deal and some say in player personnel.
Adams will now be focused on the upcoming trade deadline, as the Sabres are likely to move the expiring contracts of Hall, Staal, Brandon Montour, and others for future assets and/or draft picks and hopefully turning around the season of struggling youngsters Casey Mittelstadt and Rasmus Dahlin.
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