The Buffalo Sabres most recent interviewee for the team’s vacant head coaching position is the best person for the job, and the team needs to sign him. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported yesterday that former Stars and Coyotes coach Dave Tippett spoke to Buffalo about the job recently and that the interview went well.
Tippett, a veteran of 14 seasons and over 1,100 games behind an NHL bench, has not coached in the last two years, after Arizona parted ways with him following the 2016-17 season. He coached Dallas from 2002 to 2009 and led the team to the playoffs in all but one of those seasons. After Dallas fired him when the team failed to make the postseason under him for the first time, he then moved across the desert to Phoenix and helped turn around the beleaguered Coyotes. The team went to the playoffs in his first three seasons from 2010 to 2012. Though the Desert Dogs did return to mediocrity after that, one can’t deny that Tippett had an immediate impact on a team that had been a laughingstock before his arrival. He has 553 career victories in 1,114 total games coached.
Friedman also reported that Pittsburgh assistant coach Jacques Martin and Swedish National Team head coach Rikard Gronborg are in contention for the job, whilst WGR 550 states that Toronto Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe and Providence College’s Nate Leaman are also being considered. Tippett is the leading candidate and the most ideal. His utmost qualification is the work he did with the Coyotes.
In financial turmoil at the time and the victim of considerable managerial neglect, Phoenix was not an ideal location for any bench boss when the team hired Tippett in 2009. Despite this, the Coyotes improved 28 points in his first season and qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2002. The team’s remarkable turnaround was acknowledged at the 2010 NHL Awards when Tippett won the Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year.
The Sabres aren’t all that different from this when you think about it. Yes, the team’s ownership is stable, but Buffalo has been stuck in a perpetual rebuild for the better part of the last six years thanks to managerial incompetence that hindered its coaches and the team has done nothing but regress over the last four seasons. Phil Housley became the latest Sabres coach to not survive more than two years with the team when General Manager Jason Botterill fired him last month, despite the GM admitting that Housley’s struggles were in part his fault. Botterill can put the Sabres back on the right track and protect his own job in the process by signing Tippett.
Though Housley’s firing was controversial and generated polarized reactions, what is abundantly evident in the aftermath is that Buffalo needs an experienced hand guiding the ship and cannot afford to roll the dice on another rookie coach. The Sabres are a young and largely untried group that needs a proven, battle-tested presence at the helm, not a coach that is too learning his way.
Tippett, who will turn 58 in August, is currently an advisor for the upcoming Seattle franchise and could possibly become its first coach in 2021, but Friedman reports that he wants to return to coaching sooner than that. The opportunity is there for the Sabres to get a quality coach that could put the team back on rails, and for Tippett to get back behind a bench again. It’s the best move for both sides. If Botterill values his job and doesn’t want to be joining Housley on the unemployment line, he’ll make it happen.