More names starting to surface in Sabres' coaching search

A couple of reports have brought up five possible candidates for Buffalo's head coaching position

Brayton Wilson
April 26, 2019 - 12:54 pm

Photo: Elise Amendola - Associated Press

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The Buffalo Sabres' head coaching search remains quite mute as the end of April draws near.

After Todd McLellan was no longer in the coaching mix for the Sabres, and subsequently took the head coaching job with the Los Angeles Kings, the news of any interviews, let alone candidates, have been on the lighter side of things. This past Sunday, Scott Burnside from The Athletic said that Swedish National coach Rikard Grönborg's name was thrown into the mix after the Sabres failed to land McLellan. On Wednesday, TSN's Darren Dreger said in an interview with Andrew Peters and Martin Biron on The Instigators that Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Jacques Martin is a top candidate for the Sabres' head coaching job, and that there has been some speculation surrounding Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach Todd Richards being a candidate.

Since then, there have been a couple more names that have been speculated to be of interest to the Sabres for their head coaching vacancy.

On Thursday, Bruce Garrioch from the Ottawa Sun reported that the Ottawa Senators had received permission to speak with Martin about their head coaching position. He also mentioned Dreger's comments on Martin as a top candidate for the Sabres' opening.

However, one other name that Garrioch mentioned in his article is Providence College head coach Nate Leaman. According to Garrioch, he believes that Leaman has already talked with the Sabres and is highly-regarded in the organization. He also mentions that the Sabres had spoken to Leaman a couple of years ago about the head coaching position in Rochester, but he decided to stay with the Friars, and the job was then given to Chris Taylor.

Leaman, 46, has been coaching at Providence since 2011, and has led the Friars to a 176-101-38 record in eight seasons. In just his fourth season on the job in 2014-15, Leaman helped lead Providence to its first and only NCAA Frozen Four championship over Jack Eichel and Boston University. This past season, the Friars found themselves back in the Frozen Four semifinals in Buffalo, but Leaman's squad lost to the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, who then went on to win the Frozen Four title for a second consecutive season.

Prior to his coaching stint with Providence, Leaman had spent eight seasons as the head coach of Union College, where he posted a 138-17-35 record. He was hired as the Dutchmen's head coach in 2003 after spending four seasons as an assistant coach at Harvard University.

On Friday, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman joined the Boomer and Warrener in the Morning show on Sportsnet 690 The Fan in Calgary. He provided some insight on what he has heard with the Sabres' coaching search, including a new name that is also becoming a hot name on the market.

"I believe Jacques Martin has interviewed there. I think the Swedish National coach Rikard Grönborg has been interviewed there. I'll tell you something else. I don't think they want to go first time NHL head coach, I don't believe it's their preference, but their American Hockey League team in Rochester, which had a really good season, was juts knocked out in a sweep in the first round of the playoffs by Toronto. That team is coached by Sheldon Keefe. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't at least ask to interview him. I heard they were impressed with the job he did, and I think he's going to enter the picture."

Keefe has been with the Toronto Marlies for the past four seasons as their head coach in the AHL. The 38-year-old has already impressed a number of people around the hockey world, leading the Marlies to a 189-87-28 as the head coach and four straight playoff appearances. Last season, Keefe helped lead the Marlies to a league-best 54-18-2-2 record and the team's first ever Calder Cup championship after defeating the Texas Stars in seven games in the Calder Cup Final.

His teams have also made it to at least the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs in all four seasons. The Marlies are currently set to face the Cleveland Monsters in the second round of the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs.

Before becoming a head coach in the AHL, Keefe was a successful head coach with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League. After taking over head coaching duties in the Soo in 2012-13 season, Keefe led the Greyhounds to three straight playoff appearances, advancing to the next round of the playoffs in each seasons. In three seasons with the Greyhounds, Keefe posted a 121-41-13 record with a win percentage of .691. His best season came in the 2014-15 season, where he led the Greyhounds to a 54-12-2 record and the top record in the OHL. However, his squad lost in the Western Conference Final to Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters in six games.

Keefe was a former second round pick (47th overall) of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1999 NHL Draft. He played parts of three seasons in the NHL with the Lightning, scoring 12 goals and 24 points in 125 games. After playing in parts of two more seasons in the AHL, Keefe decided to call it a career in the 2004-05 season and pursue his coaching career.

Keep it locked to WGR and WGR550.com for the latest on the Sabres' head coaching search.

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