One of the attributes Sabres fans want in their next head coach is the ability to develop their young stars. They couldn’t be more wrong. This is the NHL, this is where pro athletes go to be challenged, not coddled.
Phil Housley was a very good assistant in Nashville and prior to with Team USA. He was the good guy; the coach players could go to bitch about the head coach. You need those people but you do not need them calling all the shots. That’s why there is such a demand for coaches with previous NHL experience, why you see retreads.
That’s not the end all though, obviously you need to start somewhere. As in the case of former Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol. A highly successful collegiate coach before landing the Flyers gig. Remember his name because there is a good chance you will hear it again once he learns the pro game from the assistant’s role.
Craig Berube is doing a phenomenal job with the St. Louis Blues right now after a short stint as head coach with Philadelphia. He of course was an assistant there under Ken Hitchcock and slowly worked his way up, learning from one of the best. He was fired after two seasons but bounced back with the Blues organization. First as head coach of the Chicago Wolves in the American Hockey League and then replacing Mike Yeo last November. He was just named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award given annually to the league’s top coach.
Berube paid his dues, put the work in and gained the players respect. That is reflective in the teams play on a nightly basis and a big reason they knocked off the Winnipeg Jets in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
So who is on the radar for Buffalo?
Rumors circulating around current Penguins assistant Jaques Martin, could it be former longtime Sabres coach Lindy Ruff or Alain Vigneault, 57 who did not coach last season after losing the Rangers gig last April.
Either way, the next head coach needs experience, success and toughness, inside and out. Jack Eichel is a rising star, his ability is unquestioned. However, there are questions about his heart. Eichel is the leader of the team and has been since he arrived, whether anyone wants to admit that or not. And he’s had at least one successful coach (with the help of others) run out of the organization in Dan Bylsma.
I say bring Bylsma back. He won, albeit in Pittsburgh with the likes of Sidney Crosby but he still won. My guess is Eichel and company didn’t like being challenged. You can tell he hates being challenged in his post game press conferences. That’s what this team needs, now more than ever. If Bylsma isn’t up for consideration maybe reverting back to Ruff is the way to go but someone with a set of cahonies that will put Jack in his place when his play warrants it, like in overtime when his back-checking efforts are as lackadaisical as any bar leaguer in North America at 11pm. A hard-nosed coach and a veteran that has the blueprint on winning. Because Buffalo has none of that, nada, zip!
It’s not the time for a rookie. It’s time for a real coach with real success and the ability to stand up to the youngsters. Otherwise you can kiss 2019-20 away.