A New Era In Buffalo: Time To Get To Work
Updated: Mar 21, 2021
Writer: Austin Broad
Editor: Brandon Caputo
Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman | Getty Images
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The Ralph Krueger Era
Photo Credit: Youtube.com/BuffaloSabres
The Krueger era is mercifully over in Buffalo, but there’s still plenty of work left. Buffalo got a season and a half’s worth of games with Ralph Krueger behind the bench and despite being a smart person who was beloved by his players… he was not a good hockey coach.
In 98 games behind the Sabres’ bench Krueger coached the team to 36-50-12 record (6-18-4 this season) and despite having talent he seemed to be able to help the team get to that next level.
Ralph Krueger NHL Coaching Record
Statistics Credit: Hockey-reference.com
While there is plenty of other factors (that I will discuss later in this piece) outside of Krueger for Buffalo’s demise, the former head coach certainly needs to shoulder a lot of the blame. Particularly this year, Ralph seemed to sever a trust between the fans/media and the team because of his vague statements regarding injuries, odd choices in the lineup, and empty buzzwords that he constantly repeated.
One of the more curious issues with Ralph was his relationship with Jeff Skinner, a former 40-goal scorer who the Sabres paid $9 million per year to stay in Buffalo. In his first year with the Sabres Skinner scored 40 goals alongside Jack Eichel but once Ralph became the head coach Skinner’s role changed and his usage became very questionable.
Jeff Skinner NHL Player Statistics
Statistics Credit: Hockey-reference.com
In the two seasons under Krueger, Skinner scored 16 -goals and only 26 points and was forced to play with players that don’t fit his playing style.
Krueger then chose to scratch Skinner for three games and after that moment the fanbase had fully turned on him.
NHL East Division Standings (as of March 20/21)
His time Buffalo ended with a 12-game losing streak and arguably the worst (results wise) Sabres team in franchise history.
It can be argued if he got a fair shot (98 games) but what can’t be argued is that Krueger’s time in Buffalo needed to end for the good of the team and the good of the fanbase.
The Spotlight Now Shifts: GM Kevyn Adams
Photo Credit: Jourdon LaBarber / Sabres.com
Adding to the Front Office
Now that the coach is gone, Adams needs to begin the difficult job of reshaping the entire organization.
As Sabres fans saw against Boston, even though the coach is gone…the team still stinks.
Good news for Sabres fans is that Adams has already hinted at changes and is looking to add to the front office in the near future.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Elliotte Friedman reported that Adams has already gotten permission to speak to former Penguins Assistant GM Jason Karmanos and that he is the top choice for an Assistant GM role in Buffalo.
Karmanos worked with the Penguins under Rutherford from 2014-20 as a VP of Hockey Ops and an Assistant GM, he oversaw amateur scouting and helped incorporate analytics into their front office.
He would be an excellent addition to the hockey staff and would be an encouraging sign to Sabres fans that Adams does have the power to run the hockey department the way he wants to.
Re-Shaping the Roster
Buffalo has been arguably the worst team in the NHL over the last 5-7 years and the roster has (for the most part) remained in tact.
Adams will need to change that and this year/off-season is going to be huge for him. He will have to decide which players will be apart of the “new core” going forward and which players he wants to send elsewhere.
Photo Credit: Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers
While it’s a minor move, after days of speculation, Adams has dealt goaltender Jonas Johansson to the Colorado Avalanche for a 6th Round Draft Pick bringing insurance & added depth to their goalie room for the Avs' hopeful Stanley Cup Playoff run.
These are the types of moves that will be the focus in-season, cutting the deadweight that has no chance of being here next season and focusing on big “blockbuster” type moves in the off-season.
The final thing Adams needs to work on is assembling a legitimate coaching staff that will help bring the team credibility.
No disrespect to Don Granato but if the summer comes around and there’s candidates like Bruce Boudreau, Rod Brind’Amour, John Tortorella, Gerard Gallant or Claude Julien the Sabres need to make a move and hire one of them. The other possible candidate is Providence College’s Nate Leaman who has been linked to the Sabres in the past.
Photo Credit: Dave Johnson / TORSTAR File Photo
A feel good story that came from this was that the Sabres promoted former NHL'ers Matt Eliis & Dan Girardi to Assistant Coaches for Granato's interim staff, both being local Niagara Region natives.
Whatever route the Sabres decide to go it is imperative that they get the right guy in here because their past history of hiring has been abysmal to say the least.
Adams and the Sabres have a lot of work to do and while they managed to take the first step…
they are nowhere near done reshaping this organization that desperately needs a top-to-bottom makeover.