State of the Sabres Address March 2021
As I type this column on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, the Buffalo Sabres are amid a 10-game losing streak and for the last nine days I have waited for the coach to be fired. Each passing day I continue to wait. However, this story is not about the players, this is about ownership and their mission to find the right fit to lead the Sabres.
I honestly believe Terry Pegula bought this hockey team, the Buffalo Sabres, because he loved them as a fan and he really wants to win. Reading so often on Twitter fans stating the owners do not care and they only bought the team as a steppingstone to the Buffalo Bills, makes my head shake. When buying the Buffalo Sabres, they had no clue when or if the Buffalo Bills would go for up for sale and how much that would even cost them. Terry Pegula grew up a Sabres fan just like you and I and he eventually had the finances to buy the team.
In a conversation with a person close to the team and asked to remain in anonymity: “Don't listen to that narrative. The guy cares. So does Kim.”
I want to put only so much blame on the Pegulas. As an owner, Terry Pegula has been trying to find the right person to oversee his hockey team. He first gave the reins to Darcy Regier and claimed that day the chains would be broken. And they clearly were as the Sabres delved into free agency like they haven't in a long time. As we saw, it did not work. So, they decided to break it down and start over. They brought in Pat Lafontaine as the President of Hockey Operations (POHO) and he oversaw bringing in a new GM, who turned out to be Tim Murray. A few months into his tenure, there was a falling out between Lafontaine and the Pegulas, and the POHO resigned abruptly.
While many speculated why Lafontaine resigned and put the blame on ownership, particularly Kim Pegula, I was told once again in anonymity after I asked the odds they will hire a new POHO, “They're just not doing it. After LaFontaine they don't want to have anybody in there. He ruined their trust much like Tom Donahoe ruined Ralph Wilson's trust many years.”
The Pegulas have hired and fired several general managers and coaches over the last 10 years, looking for the right combination. As we can all attest, they nailed the right combination for the Buffalo Bills and in turn the Pegulas have tried to build the same model for the Buffalo Sabres. The issue with that is in football the coach usually holds the power and the general manager builds around the needs of the coach; In hockey it's the general manager with the power who build the team and then finds a coach to lead his team with the talent that was brought in.
Now, the owners have entrusted the hockey team to a person who has been in the organization for 11 years. They seemingly have lost trust in the advice people outside the organization have given them over the last several years and are going to go with who they know. Will it work? Well, only time will tell. I do know that Kevyn Adams did not hire Ralph Krueger and at some point, I believe Adams will bring in his own coach. Hopefully, that time is very soon.
Per Elliotte Friedman, if the Sabres fire Krueger, Bruce Boudreau would love to coach here since he is from across the border. He also said Nate Leaman as a strong candidate. He is the college head coach at the Providence Friars and Sabres interviewed Leaman during the last search in which they hired Krueger.
So….. now we wait!