Sabres' Botterill said communication with Krueger made it feel like a match to him

Ralph Krueger was interviewed by the Sabres before Phil Housley was hired in 2017

Paul Hamilton
May 15, 2019 - 3:39 pm
Jason Botterill

Photo: Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres)


Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - Jason Botterill finalized the deal with Ralph Krueger last week. The Sabres' GM flew home from Slovakia to hold meetings with his scouts and to talk about the 19th head coach in Sabres history. Botterill said there are many  things that brought him to Krueger’s doorstep, “His past has shown that he has a great ability to interact with players and get the most out of a group.”

NHL experience was important to Botterill as he interviewed potential candidates. He said many things impressed him about the Sabres new coach, “We like what he has in a NHL background. The fact that he worked with Carolina as a consultant, leading up the five years where he was head coach of Team Switzerland. We liked the fact that he was on the bench for three years in Edmonton, but we also put a lot of stock into his experience at the World Championships, at the World Cup and at the Olympics. Those are high pressure situations where you have to make adjustments and you have to make quick decisions and he got results.”

One thing that has always stuck with me is when Phil Housley said he wasn’t going to be in the room or consulted on trade deadline day. With the experience Krueger got in the front office of Southampton, I wondered if that will change with him. “I think the general manager and the coach need to talk about everything that goes on in the organization. There needs to be that communication daily of what type of players are we looking to bring in, what players do we need to make adjustments on and when I sat down with Ralph, I felt at ease and that part of why I felt comfortable in making him the head coach.”

Botterill and Jeff Skinner’s agent haven’t been doing a lot of talking as they waited for a coach to be hired. Botterill totally understands why Skinner would want to know that and now they’ll start the process again, “If you’re going to sign a long-term contract with an organization, you’re going to want to know who the head coach is.”

Botterill spoke with Krueger before Phil Housley was hired. Krueger said things went well back then, “When Jason and I began the conversation a couple of years ago, we just had a natural flow to it and we picked it up when I was deciding to move back to the game of hockey he really embodies some of the things that I care about.”

So what are those values? Krueger said, “We want to earn respect and be difficult to play against every night. Buffalo is a market that respects hard work.

“The most important form of communication for me early on will be to listen, to communicate with the players and the staff and to learn about what has been going on.”

Krueger has a belief in this team that not many others do. He feels they can do good things now, “In Edmonton that was a rebuild completely with nothing but youth, but this is a really good mix. If you look at the young core with Jack, Sam and Casey up front or the two Rasmuses back and Brandon Montour has been added and there’s some good experience around that group and I think above all that this group is ready to become a contender and compete with anybody on any given night.”

When Krueger was here speaking with the Pegulas, he went on a scouting mission through the city of Buffalo. Krueger loved what he saw, “We matter in Buffalo and that matters to me as a head coach. I want that pressure, I want that responsibility.

“When I went for my walk, I was able to watch two NHL playoff games and I changed bars every period, but it was quite interesting. I’d sit beside fans and have conversations with them that I won’t be able to have with them now, but it was very enlightening. I certainly could feel the spirit of the city, I loved the history, the architecture and I could feel that it’s a hard working community and it’s a place that my wife and I feel very comfortable in.”  

Montour got injured in Team Canada’s game against Slovakia and is out of the tournament. Botterill updated Montour’s status, “He’s on his way back to Buffalo right now to see our doctors. We don’t believe it’s long-term, so we’ll be able to give you a more accurate description later on this week.”

Zach Bogosian and Lawrence Pilut have had surgery that will likely keep them out when the season starts. Many feel that will stop any trade that would involved Rasmus Ristolainen. I didn't bring No. 55's name up specifically and Botterill said those injuries will not go into his offseason thinking, "With Bogosian and Pilut both having off-season surgery, you have to make sure you have a plan to at least start the season off, but we’re looking long-term here. If something comes up that helps our team, we’ll certainly look at that, but we like how some of our young defenseman this past year like Will Borgen and we think they could push for jobs and maybe help us at the start of the year.”

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