Get to know: Rikard Grönborg

One report indicates that Grönborg’s name has been thrown into the mix for the Sabres' head coaching job

Brayton Wilson
April 22, 2019 - 10:16 am

Photo: Kevin Sousa - USA TODAY Sports

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The Buffalo Sabres' coaching search continues as it has been relatively quiet with any news of head coaching candidates that the team is looking into.

It has been a week and a half since Todd McLellan was no longer considered a candidate for the Sabres' head coaching position after speaking with the team earlier that week. Since then, McLellan has taken over as the new head coach of the Los Angeles Kings.

Other experienced NHL coaching candidates that have been hired this offseason includes Joel Quenneville with the Florida Panthers, and Alain Vigneault with the Philadelphia Flyers.

With the crop of experienced NHL head coaches now looking thinner, it may be time for the Sabres to look to some other candidates with coaching experience in other organized hockey leagues. There are plenty of names out there with candidates in the American Hockey League, like Rochester Americans head coach Chris Taylor or Toronto Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe, coaches in college hockey like Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin, or some former coaches with past success in junior hockey like Kris Knoblauch with the Kootenay Ice and Erie Otters.

One name that continues to come about in the search for a potential head coach in Buffalo is Rikard Grönborg. Scott Burnside from The Athletic reported on Sunday that Grönborg's name was thrown into the mix for the Sabres' head coaching position after they failed to land McLellan.

Grönborg is a bit of an out-of-the-box candidate for the Sabres, having spent the last 13 seasons with the Swedish National Hockey program. The 50-year-old last coached in North America when he was an assistant coach with the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Hockey League in the 2004-05 season. Since then, he has served as a scout, an assistant coach, a team manager, and a head coach with the Swedish hockey program. 

For the past three seasons, Grönborg has served as the head coach of the Swedish National Team at the IIHF World Championship, as well as the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia is expected to be his final season coaching the Swedish National Team.

Grönborg has had past experience playing and coaching in North America. He played three seasons at St. Cloud State as a defenseman from 1989-1992. After two seasons spent playing professionally in Sweden, Grönborg returned to St. Cloud State to serve as an assistant coach for one season before leaving to serve as an associate coach with the University of Wisconsin-Stout for two years. In 1998, Grönborg was hired as the general manager and head coach of the Great Falls Americans in the American West Hockey League, where he held on to the position for three seasons before taking over as the general manager and head coach of the Central Texas Blackhawks in 2002.

A majority of Grönborg's success has come in Sweden, where he has won the gold medal in the last two IIHF World Championship as head coach. He also won a gold medal at the World Championship as an assistant coach, as well as a silver medal and a bronze medal.

As head coach of the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship team, he led his team to a silver medal after an overtime loss to Finland in the gold medal game. As an assistant coach in the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship, he was part of the coaching staff under head coach Roger Rönnberg that won gold over Russia in Calgary, Alberta. The very next year, he won a silver medal as an assistant after the Swedes fell short to a Phil Housley led United States team in Russia.

While serving as the head coach of the Under-18 Swedish team, Grönborg won two silver medals in the 2011 and 2012 tournaments.

If he were to be hired as the head coach of the Sabres, Grönborg would be the first European head coach in the National Hockey League since the Chicago Blackhawks hired Alpo Suhonen and the Pittsburgh Penguins hired Ivan Hlinka before the 2000-01 season. However, both coaches were fired after one season with their team.

The only other European head coach to ever be hired in the NHL was Johnny Gottselig by the Blackhawks back in 1944. He lasted parts of four seasons as the head coach in Chicago.

There has been plenty of speculation that Grönborg could be looking to become a head coach in the NHL, and the Sabres may be an intriguing option for the long-time Swedish coach.

One main reason for the intrigue is the amount of Swedish-born players on the current roster. As of right now, the Sabres will have forwards Victor Olofsson, Rasmus Asplund and Alexander Nylander, defensemen Rasmus Dahlin and Lawrence Pilut, and goalie Jonas Johansson all under contract next season and as part of the organization. Forward Johan Larsson and goalie Linus Ullmark will be restricted free agents heading into the summer. The Sabres also have some young Swedish prospects in the ranks such as forwards Marcus Davidsson and Linus Weissbach, as well as defensemen Linus Cronholm, Philip Nyberg and William Worge Kreü.

Another area of intrigue for the Sabres' head coaching position for Grönborg will be the chance to coach some great young talent at the NHL level like Dahlin, Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Casey Mittelstadt and Brandon Montour. These guys are key, young assets that can be built upon for not only the 2019-2020 season, but also for the years to come.

It will be interesting to see how the Sabres' coaching search develops from here, but Grönborg may be the most interesting name that comes up throughout the process.

Keep it locked to WGR and WGR550.com for the latest on Sabres #CoachWatch.

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