The Buffalo Sabres have finally made a move. However, it’s not the move up the standings that fans have been begging for for the past number of years. It’s not a big trade, and it’s not (another) big offseason signing.
The Sabres have relieved head coach Ralph Krueger, 61, of his duties. Don Granato has been named as the team’s interim head coach for the immediate future.
The product of Steinbach, Manitoba was in the midst of a season-high 12-game losing streak, while currently owning a league-worst 6-18-4 record for 16 points – six below the Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils. Buffalo’s points percentage currently sits at .286, while owning a -37 goal differential on the year.
Adding former league MVP Taylor Hall and Eric Staal, Colin Miller, Cody Eakin and rookie Dylan Cozens was supposed to help the team that finished 2019-20 in 25th place, with a .493 points percentage at 30-31-8. It hasn’t helped that team captain Jack Eichel has missed the past seven games with an upper-body injury.
The team’s highest producing player was Sam Reinhardt, who has 11 goals and 19 points in 26 games, while of course boasting a -20 plus/minus stat. In fact, every single player on the Sabres that has skated in more than five games this year is a minus, except for Jake McCabe (+2).
Krueger just wasn’t able to get his team motivated and ready to roll. With both the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames having already cut ties with their respective coaches, Buffalo felt the move was necessary in order to progress forward. Having joined the club for the 2019-20 season, Krueger’s career record with the Sabres is 36-49-12.
“All I can say is I continue to enjoy doing this job also in a difficult time,” Krueger said in his final public appearance after losing to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. “It’s easy to stand here when things are going well. It’s not that easy to stand here right now in this adversity. But I know we are we are learning and growing as an organization and we will take strength out of this in the future.”
After putting up a 19-22-7 record in 2012-13 in his only season as the bench boss in Edmonton (which just so happened to be shortened by the lockout), the then 59-year-old decided to take another kick at the can in the big leagues.
Also serving as a consultant within the Carolina Hurricanes’ organization and fulfilling two years as an assistant in Edmonton prior to his one-season stint as head coach, Krueger came into his role with Buffalo with a breadth of experience – albeit not an overwhelming amount at the NHL level – 48 games to be exact.
Between terms, the Manitoba product stepped away from the game of hockey to serve as Chairman of Southampton F.C. a Premier League football team, in a position he held from 2014 until April of 2019. Also during that timespan, Krueger coached Team Europe to a second-place finish in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey alongside Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice. He had also coached the Switzerland national team in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Olympics, along with other appearances in the IIHF World Championship.
Buffalo has now missed the postseason for nine-straight seasons, and will most certainly be looking at a 10th-straight year outside of the playoffs following the team’s performance in 2020-21.