The Buffalo Sabres have apparently found their new bench boss. It was reported late yesterday evening that 59-year-old Ralph Krueger is to be named the 19th head coach in Sabres history, though the team is yet to confirm this.
Alongside Krueger, Toronto Marlies’ head coach Sheldon Keefe, Providence Friars’ head coach Nate Leaman and former Dallas and Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett were reportedly in the mix. Though Tippett seemed like the ideal candidate due to his years of experience, Krueger won out in the end. He was born in Winnipeg to German immigrants and also possesses Swiss citizenship.
Here’s what Sabres fans won’t like about this move without having to think twice about it: Krueger hasn’t been involved extensively with ice hockey since 2014. For the past five years he has been an executive for the Southampton Saints Football Club of the British Premier League. He was dismissed from the club this past spring and will make the jump back to the ice for the first time since he coached Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
While he has a plethora of experience at the international level throughout the years, Krueger lacks NHL seasoning and the little bit of it he has is far from impressive. He was Edmonton’s head coach during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and, despite possessing the last three first-overall picks of the NHL Draft at the time, the Oilers underwhelmed and posted a 19-22-7 record. While that’s not exactly atrocious, Krueger was canned after the season and replaced with Dallas Eakins.
Despite this, fans in Buffalo will like the fact that Krueger has been praised for many things that the Sabres desperately need. He’s known for communicating well with his players as well as being a good motivator. On the strategic side, he is reportedly defense oriented but knows how to adjust to the styles of his players as well, something that Dan Bylsma and Phil Housley before him could not do.
Krueger, who turns 60 in August, isn’t in an enviable position as he joins an organization that has done nothing but spin in the mud for the last several years and one that hasn’t held onto a coach for more than two seasons since Lindy Ruff was fired in 2013. Back behind an NHL bench for the first time in six years and just the second time in his career, the German-Canadian is tasked with helping turn around a team with a fanbase that is rapidly losing faith.
The vacancy behind the bench may be filled, but General Manager Jason Botterill still has a plethora to do this summer, most notably purging dead weight that he brought to the team and finding players for his new coach to work with instead of throwing him under the bus like he did with Housley. If he doesn’t, Buffalo will be searching for a new GM next.
It will be interesting to see if Buffalo gives Krueger more than a two-year deal. How do you think he’ll do? Will he be the coach that at last turns Buffalo back into a winner? As always, let us know your thoughts!