Sabres' coaching search starting to take shape

TSN insiders Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger give their insight on who the Sabres may be looking at for head coach

Brayton Wilson
May 24, 2017 - 4:31 pm

Photo: Bruce Fedyck - USA TODAY Sports

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It has been nearly two weeks since the Buffalo Sabres brought in Jason Botterill as the eighth general manager in franchise history. Since then, Botterill has been busy getting to know his staff and making his media rounds around Buffalo.

As for his search for the team's next head coach, it has remained relatively quiet with the Stanley Cup playoffs continuing and some possible candidates still in contention. However, talks may begin to start picking up about the next head coach with the NHL Draft approaching on June 23 in Chicago.

“This week I’ve had more conversations from a coach’s standpoint," Botterill said with The Instigators on Tuesday morning on WGR. "Do I have an exact date? No, but I think it’s very important to have this coach in place by the draft.”

“I don’t know who I want, but I know there are people I want to talk to and until you get into the interview process, you don’t know.”

On Wednesday, a tentative list of possible candidates for the head coaching job was tweeted out by TSN's Pierre LeBrun.

This tweet came from an earlier tweet he had in which he reported that the Florida Panthers were to interview former Sabres defenseman Bob Boughner for their vacant head coaching position this week. LeBrun followed that tweet by saying that he believes the Sabres might have Boughner on their radar, but the Sabres have yet to ask permission from the San Jose Sharks for an interview. Boughner is currently serving as an assistant coach under Pete DeBoer in San Jose.

The Sabres and Panthers are the only two teams in the National Hockey League that still remain without a head coach in place.

"I think [the process> is underway, but the bottom line is I think Jason Botterill probably wants someone in place by the NHL Draft in Chicago. That should give Sabres fans a timeline," LeBrun said with Mike Schopp and the Bulldog on Wednesday afternoon. "There are also guys that I probably don't know about. I think that Jason Botterill is going to cast a wide net here. The names I put out there doesn't mean that he's going to have formal interviews with all of them, but I know that they are names that have been connected to him and to the Sabres in some way or another... Some guys might be a phone call, other guys might be more formal. I think those are all names to retain."

The Sabres are able to interview candidates like Jim Montgomery, Todd Reirden and Boughner any time they would like to. All of them are in the offseason and can talk with the Sabres if they are granted permission from their clubs. For candidates like Rick Tocchet, Jacques Martin and Phil Housley, the Sabres will likely have to wait until the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the chance to talk.

LeBrun suggested that Tocchet and Martin are obvious candidates due to Botterill's connections with the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, a name that intrigues him, although a likely long shot is former Edmonton Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger.

"He is so well-regarded in the hockey world in terms of his hockey acumen," LeBrun said. "I honestly can't tell you this and I don't know if Jason Botterill can, but is Ralph Krueger actually available? He's the chairman of the Southampton Football Club in England. When I hear that title, I think 'cha-ching cha-ching' to start with. We asked him during the World Cup of Hockey in September here in Toronto about his future hockey-wise. He said one day he'd like to come back, but he didn't know when that was. He wanted to see things through [in Southampton>."

"I believe that there has been communication between Krueger and Botterill over the past 10 days. What exactly does that mean? Who knows. It may be Ralph Krueger saying, 'Yeah, I don't think it's time.' But maybe not. I honestly can't tell you that. There's lots and lots of good names out that I tweeted out there that all have a good shot."

Krueger had a chat with Joe Prince-Wright of NBC Sports' ProSoccerTalk last week and had told him that he was offered two NHL head coaching jobs this postseason but turned both of them down. However, Prince-Wright suggested with Howard and Jeremy that Krueger did not want to close the door on anything.

TSN's Darren Dreger has also been on top of the Sabres' head coaching search. He joined The Instigators on Wednesday for his weekly visit with Andrew Peters and Craig Rivet, and he gives some of the same names that LeBrun had given earlier in his tweet.

"Obviously Rick Tocchet I think would be in the mix. Jacques Martin might be in the mix. Those guys are busy in the moment," Dreger said. "You asked me last week about Ralph Krueger - no real update there, but for me he remains a long shot for a number of reasons. Mostly personal reasons and whether or not now is the right time to come back to the National Hockey League. [Phil> Housley's name remains out there. Todd Reirden's name remains out there."

In addition, WGR's own Paul Hamilton says that current Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli is also in consideration for Buffalo's head coaching vacancy.

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

In case you missed LeBrun's interview with Schopp and the Bulldog, you can listen to the entire conversation below. LeBrun also talked about the future of the Sabres, and what might happen around the league as we near the expansion draft on June 21.

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