This morning after their twelve straight loss last night, the Buffalo Sabres have finally done the inevitable and fired head coach Ralph Krueger. About fucking time.
The Sabres entire organization has a dark cloud over it and that negativity comes from ownership down. The Pegulas have been fantastic since becoming the owners of the Buffalo Bills and turned that franchise around after a 17 year playoff drought. With the strong hires of Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott, the Bills are now a fantastic contender in the NFL. But that story is VERY different on the Sabres side.
In the last ten years of the Pegulas owning the Sabres, they’ve been fucking atrocious and the Sabres have the longest active playoff drought in hockey, without an appearance in nine years. Before we got Jack Eichel, the big thing was that we needed a superstar. The Sabres tanked to get him and gave up a lot bad to get him. But we got one of the most talented players in hockey. It’s been six years and the team has gotten worse since. Other players like Ryan O’Reilly came to Buffalo as a stud to play along with Eichel and while here said he “lost his love of the game of hockey”. He left and became the MVP of the Stanley Cup Finals winning the Conn Smythe the following year with the Blues as he lifted the Cup. Over the years, Buffalo’s way overpaid for players that didn’t even come close to panning out like Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo and most recently Jeff Skinner that then handicap the team for years since they end up without money to spend. Other players like Zach Bogosian looked like complete garbage when they were in Buffalo but then went on to contribute to a Cup winner. Jeff Skinner got signed to a gigantic contract and hasn’t contributed. Outside of Eichel, no draft picks including #1 overall Rasmus Dahlin have panned out into anything great. The Sabres have fired GMs and coaches, all of which seemed to have no fucking idea what they were doing every two years trying new ones and it ends up being the same bullshit every time. There’s barely any scouting or hockey operations going on with Kim Pegula being involved from ownership and seemingly not know what the hell’s going on. Good players don’t want to come here and when they do get here they look bad.
I wouldn’t totally put the full blame on Krueger for how atrocious this dead last team is, but he didn’t do anything productive to fix it. Krueger made some BAD lineup decisions and was scratching players that should’ve played. Guys looked unmotivated and like they didn’t care to be on the ice. Even former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall is a non factor on the ice. But how much can a coach do when players don’t want to be here. Jack Eichel’s out indefinitely with injury but he doesn’t want to be here anymore. Why would he? The guy is the face of the franchise and is stuck in this horrible environment.
So what’s next? Hire a new coach and do this all again? Proven very good coaches Gerard Gallant and Claude Julien are both out there. But I don’t think a new coach fixes anything when the issues this franchise is facing is coming from ownership down. There’s just too many problems and holes in every facet of this team. Do you blow the whole thing up and trade Eichel? He’s the only player with any real value that you’d get any kind of return for. But does trading a generational talent like that which never really comes around for a haul help you improve in the future? It’s tough to even say what could help since this franchise has been in shambles for over a decade.
Its so disheartening and sad that this team which when I was little made me completely love the sport of hockey and gave me so much joy as a fan has now become unwatchable. Now the only saving grace for me with them is that they make me money when I blindly bet against them every day (which I don’t plan to stop even now that they fired Krueger). This team hasn’t improved since that fateful day on July 1st 2007 when Chris Drury and Danny Briere walked away with nothing in return and I don’t see any improvement coming anytime soon.