On Monday, according to a league source, the Buffalo Sabres were confident that they had a long-term deal in place with Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock.
This deal would’ve made Babcock the 17th coach in Buffalo Sabres’ franchise history. It was set to be the largest contract a head coach had ever received in the history of the National Hockey League.
Fast forward to Wednesday afternoon. The Toronto Maple Leafs have officially named Mike Babcock as their new head coach, with that same record-setting contract Buffalo was reportedly offering.
What went wrong?
According to the Buffalo News’ Tim Graham, the organization is shocked at the turn of events. “Sabres livid way Babcock handled past few days,” Graham tweeted. “Sabres so confident he was coming that they were prepared for Monday news conference.”
While Matthew Coller of WGR refutes that report on Twitter, saying “sources with knowledge of negotiations with Babcock calls reports of Sabres reaction to him going to Toronto just sour grapes.”
Further reports to Tim Graham refuted the report of a press conference, but did not deny the anger coming from the Sabres’ front office.
Some Sabres fans are reaching for the panic button, but this move today most certainly is not the end of the world for the Sabres’ organization.
Yes, Mike Babcock was the prime target for this franchise from the first day of the offseason, but things don’t always work out the way you planned them to.
There is one thing to be certain about. All throughout this rebuild process, Buffalo Sabres General Manager Tim Murray has had a very well thought out plan. With hindsight being 20/20, it is very easy to look back and see how well things have turned out.
The Buffalo Sabres have a pipeline filled with much young talent, and a roster filled with pieces to build a solid foundation with.
Two of the bigger names in that pipeline? Center Sam Reinhart, and (most likely) center Jack Eichel. Safe to say things have gone according to plan.
Oh, and don’t forget the acquisition of players Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian this most recent trade deadline.
There is a lot more that could be discussed, but it is assumed that you’ll get the point by now.
While losing out on Mike Babcock is a mild tremor in the foundation, this certainly is something the organization can, and will, get through.
Looking ahead, two of the bigger names you will hear mentioned with, and linked to, the Sabres job are Dan Bylsma and Luke Richardson.
Dan Bylsma, ex-Pittsburgh Penguins head coach, is one of the top-tier head coaches out there. At this point, Bylsma is the biggest fish remaining in the pond, with Todd McLellan to Edmonton, and Mike Babcock to Toronto.
In 6 seasons with the Penguins organization Bylsma amassed a record of 252-117-32 in 401 games. Bylsma won the Stanley Cup in his first year with the team, replacing the fired Michel Therrien behind the bench.
For those keeping track out there, Bylsma was also the fastest National Hockey League coach to record 200 and 250 career wins.
Dan Bylsma seemingly brings the track record that Tim Murray appears to be looking for, but could his inability to win multiple Stanley Cups with Crosby and Malkin at the helm create some doubts? Certainly seems like a fair question to ponder.
“Front office sucked,” Ryan Wilson, of Hockey Buzz said. “Bylsma did more good than bad, but some of that bad was head scratching bad.”
The deeper you dig, the more you realize that the blame seems to fall on both Bylsma and the Penguins’ front office. Both sides could’ve done better, but nothing can obviously be done about it now.
Next potential option for the Buffalo Sabres? Luke Richardson.
Richardson, widely known for his 21 year National Hockey League career, has carved out a future in the NHL as a head coach, down in the American Hockey League.
Fun fact, Luke Richardson ranks 28th all-time in National Hockey League history with 1,417 games played. Also, Richardson is one of seven players in National Hockey League history to play in at least 1,400 games and record at least 2,000 penalty minutes in a career.
For the past three season Richardson has coached the Ottawa Senators‘ AHL affiliate, the Binghamton Senators, amassing a record of 122-82-24.
Richardson has not been able to get his franchise past the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs, but his job has still been very successful. He has found himself molding the future of the Ottawa Senators, working with, and successfully developing, players such as 2015 Calder Trophy finalist Mark Stone, Andrew Hammond, Mike Hoffman, and Cody Ceci.
This past season, the Ottawa Senators contemplated naming Richardson their new head coach, after firing Paul MacLean, but Richardson told the Senators he hoped to remain in Binghamton for a myriad of reasons.
Richardson’s current location allows him to be close to his daughter who is currently enrolled at Cornell University.
“If the right situation presents itself, I would definitely look at it,” Richardson told the Ottawa Citizen, just a few weeks ago. “Maybe I will get some interviews, but that doesn’t mean there will be job offer.”
There is no secret that Tim Murray really likes Luke Richardson. Murray was instrumental in getting Richardson his first coaching gig with the Binghamton Senators.
Many have speculated that Richardson would be a perfect fit for the Rochester Americans, but Richardson does not appear willing to make the lateral move.
It does appear pretty important to point out that Richardson’s deal with the Ottawa Senators‘ organization runs out at the end of June.
Whichever way Tim Murray decides to go with the head coaching vacancy, you must always remember what was mentioned above: there is a plan in place for this franchise.
Murray certainly isn’t getting every thing that he wants (see: McDavid, Connor), but he continues to make the best out of the his current situation.
There is no doubt in many hockey minds that the next head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, whomever it may be, will have certain success.
The success may not come over night, but in due time, the Buffalo Sabres will again be competing for a Stanley Cup. Today’s developments are just a minor bump in the road toward the franchise’s ultimate goal.