Boustedt: Grönborg is 'a good developer, a winner, and a good teacher'

Tommy Boustedt from the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation joined Howard and Jeremy to talk about Sabres coaching candidate Rikard Grönborg

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May 02, 2019 - 1:21 pm
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Rikard Grönborg remains a hot name in the Buffalo Sabres' head coaching search.

The 50-year-old is currently getting ready to coach the Swedish National Team for the 2019 IIHF World Championship starting next Friday in Slovakia. Sweden is looking to win its third consecutive gold medal with Grönborg behind the bench as the team's head coach. However, once the tournament ends on Sunday, May 26, Grönborg's contract with the national team expires.

There has been plenty of speculation that Grönborg is looking to make a return to coaching in North America after spending the last 13 years with the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation in a number of roles from a scout to the head coach of the Swedish Olympic team in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It was back in 2004-05 when Grönborg last coached in North America when he served as an assistant coach for the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Hockey League.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported on Tuesday in his 31 Thoughts blog that Grönborg is expected to be in the mix for the Sabres' head coaching opening. It has also been reported by Friedman that Sabres general manager Jason Botterill has already interviewed Grönborg for the job, and it may be possible that they have more conversations in Slovakia during the World Championship. Botterill is serving as one of the three managers in charge of putting together Team Canada at this year's tournament.

While it has been a while since Grönborg has coached in North America, Tommy Boustedt from the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation believes that he is ready to take that leap back over to North America and into the National Hockey League.

"He's a winner. He can coach at different levels, and has almost won everything he's been into," Boustedt said on Tuesday morning with Howard Simon and Jeremy White on WGR. "He's a very good educator, he's good at developing players. All of the National [Hockey] League players that we have on our men's national team always tell me that they love to play for him because he talks to the players, he [has discussions] with the players, and he tires to develop them, even though they are big stars in the National League. He's a good developer, a winner, and a good teacher."

Boustedt serves as the secretary general of the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation, and has worked with Grönborg for several years with the national program. Grönborg has served as coach of the Swedish program at the Under-18 level, the Under-20 level, as well as working with the veterans with the national team at the World Championship and other international events.

That stands out to Boustedt about Grönborg is his ability to work with the wide variety of age groups, and the respect he has earned from the players who have suited up for him. Players like New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, and former Vancouver Canucks forwards Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin have all played under Grönborg's leadership, and have all told Boustedt how much they love playing for him. They have said how much they like the communication he has with them, as well as the goal of helping them take their game to another level under his leadership.

The Sabres have a number of Swedish players and prospects already playing for the organization, and all of them have a respect for Grönborg and what kind of a coach he has been to them in past years.

Boustedt believes that a huge reason for his successes as a coach is partly because of the education he received while attending St. Cloud State University. Grönborg also played his college hockey at St. Cloud State, playing as a defenseman on the Huskies squad.

"Rikard is a well educated person from a North American university, he has a master's [degree] in [management and leadership], and we want to have our staff well educated," Boustedt said. "Because we think hockey is such a complicated sport, it's not, as a coach, screaming at the players and make them a better team. You have to be like a teacher, and he has that background from his academic status."

After Grönborg's playing days were over, he returned to North America to serve as an assistant coach in the college ranks for three seasons before becoming a head coach and general manager in the American West Hockey League.

Another attribute of Grönborg's coaching that has earned the respect of Boustedt is his calm and cool presence behind the bench on a regular basis. That is an important trait to have for a head coach, especially in tournaments like the World Championship when you only have so many games to work with before the start of the playoff rounds.

"He's a guy that stands the pressures, because being a coach is very much standing the pressure and not breaking down when things get tough. He's good at reading the situation with lots of stress," Boustedt said. "We think that important because when you play in the World Championship, you play in a few weeks and you almost have to win every game. If you don't withstand the pressure, we lose these important games. He's good when he has to be good."

There have only been three European coaches to ever lead a NHL team as the head coach, and Grönborg could be next in line to accomplish that feat. Many players have come to North America and have developed into exceptional talents at the NHL level. Boustedt believes that it is time to see more European coaches take that leap of faith and coach more in North America, starting with Grönborg as the first wave.

"He has learned the very good things you have in North America, and he also learned the good things that we have in Europe. He's a good mix," Boustedt said. "If you look back at the National League before European players started to play over there back in the 1960s, everybody looked the same. I think [over time], the National League has developed, and most European players have come into the game with Russians, Czechs, Finns, Swedes and so on. I think the next step for the NHL is to develop and bring in European coaches. Still, you almost haven't had any European head coaches at all in the National League. I think you need that, and I think Rikard is the right guy, right now to take that step. Not many coaches can do it, but I think Rikard is No. 1 to do it."

Boustedt also believes that if one European coach is able to have some success in the NHL as a head coach, that will open the door for more NHL franchise to be open to bringing in European coaches for their staffs. It all just takes one general manager to be willing to take the chance for the dream to become a reality.

"There were some players that broke the barrier back in the 1960s and 1970s, especially with Börje Salming and others," Boustedt said. "When that barrier was [broken], it was like a flood coming. I think [some coach] has to break it. When the barrier breaks, there's going to be lots of European coaches in North American hockey, I think.

"As long as general managers only look into warm waters for coaches, nothing will be done. It has to be someone brave looking outside the country and maybe take a little chance," Boustedt said. "If you should win something in the end, you always have to take chances."

Grönborg is expected to speak with Howard and Jeremy on Friday morning when he joins the show at 6:30 a.m. EDT (12:30 p.m. local time in Sweden).

You can listen to the entire interview below:

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