Yesterday, the Buffalo Sabres fired head coach Ralph Krueger as the team endures it’s the second-longest losing streak in franchise history. After years of dysfunction, it was clear the players didn’t want to play for him and weren’t assembled to play the way he wanted, and frankly it didn’t look like he wanted to be there either.
Don Granato, brother of Olympian Cammi Granato, hasn’t had a very successful career as a coach, but he’s in the interim head coach role now after being promoted from assistant coach. Former players Dan Girardi and Matt Ellis join the staff as assistant coaches after being the two development coaches for the team, presumably taking over the defense and offense, respectively.
As you can probably tell after years of firings and “internal promotions” the Sabres are extremely thin in terms of workforce right now. Ralph Krueger was set to make $3 million this season and for the next two, and his contract was reportedly the primary reason why he was in the job as long as he was. The Pegulas didn't want to pay him and his replacement. This move comes after the owners fired GM Jason Botterill in June and replaced him internally with Kevyn Adams in a cost-cutting move designed to "streamline" their hockey operations.
Surely at some point the Sabres are going to hire new people. When that happens, there’s lots of speculation as to who’s going to take over as head coach. Some of the disgraced, high-profile coaches will cost money (although that shouldn’t be the first reason to not hire them), so those jobs will likely be filled by less experienced coaches who can’t demand as much in terms of salary. Granato is an obvious person for this considering his resume. Heck, maybe Girardi does it “for the exposure” as he’s already made plenty of money as a player.
One person who would be highly qualified for the job of bringing a team like the Sabres together would be Syracuse Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx. Us fans have been scared of losing a highly capable coach like Groulx for years. Both times the Montreal Canadiens opened up job postings we held our breath. There is a potential path for Groulx to stay in the organization with the Lightning in the future, which from the outside feels like a much better situation than Buffalo right now. Honestly, with their roster, front office, and ownership situation, I wouldn’t touch that team with a 10 foot pole, even as a little hockey blogger in Canada. And for Groulx, why risk it when there’s the Lightning with their organization right there with potentially open arms. Or maybe that’s just what I’m telling myself to stem the anxiety.
Circling back, congratulations to Dan Girardi on the new job, I wish him nothing but the best.
Speaking of light workforce, the Vancouver Canucks failed to get the employer paperwork done in seven hours after claiming Jimmy Vesey off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Canucks, under Jim Benning, are famously a team that has failed to understand the CBA and has gotten emails from the league telling them certain transactions have failed to go through because they did them wrong. There was a signing and some actions at the draft a while back that I can remember. Vesey ended up missing the game and the Canucks had to play seven defensemen.
On Vesey: since his employer changed, his paperwork needed to be changed too. Couldn’t get done in time despite their efforts— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) March 17, 2021
Every team I've worked for I've come away thinking "how do you get what you need done with so few people?" and the Vesey paperwork thing is the reminder: sometimes you just don't.— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) March 17, 2021
And speaking of coaches and being light on personnel, the New York Rangers have had their entire coaching staff placed under COVID protocols, forcing the team to “call up” the Hartford Wolf Pack coaching staff to take their places. The Rangers then played the Philadelphia Flyers and beat them 9-0 after a seven-goal second period.
Wow, the entire #NYR coaching staff is unavailable for tonight's game because of COVID protocols https://t.co/xSa5XHsPmP— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 17, 2021