Sabres Head coach Ralph Krueger spoke to the media on Friday morning and was very positive about what he has seen over the course of this last year. Despite the below-average season, Krueger was persistent on the fact that he really likes what he saw from his team.
“We are encouraged by the spirit, maturing, and embracing of how we need to play. It’s real and we feel it right through the lineup. There’s not one player who isn’t embracing the journey. We need to stay connected and play connected. We need to use this break as an opportunity. Complaining is a waste of energy. What I feel right now out of my heart, this group is going to be extremely hungry to work toward that next level. I really have that impression right now.”
Several players gave Krueger high praise for the job he’s done so far during his first season with Buffalo. Rasmus Ristolainen was one of them and said he had wished Krueger would have been the coach sooner. Ristolainen expressed frustration and said he could see himself being one of the first players traded on the team.
“What I love about Risto is he doesn’t hold back on anything. He was somebody that wanted to be traded, but he has embraced our path. He attempted to compete at a high level and he’s a centerpiece of what we’re doing here. I want to coach Risto next season, I would enjoy it. He always comes with a little bit of bite and that’s what we love about him.” -Krueger
Risto wasn’t the only one angry. Jack Eichel was also fed up after being in the organization for five years without a single playoff experience.
“I like the anger. I have no problem with people outing the frustration, but let’s move that and talk about what we’re going to do about that. Across the board, we are frustrated. We’re emotionally angry and frustrated because we know halfway through the season, we were expecting to be a playoff team. It shows that our core has a youth that is willing to reach to higher standards. All this talk, it’s the actions that we take that are going to matter.”
Krueger mentioned that the team has changed a lot since when he joined. Things like sacrifice and work ethic have been brought into the group to a higher standard. He also talked about how he didn’t know the city, the ownership, or what the coaching job was going to be like when he was hired.
“1 year in, we live in the heart of buffalo, and my wife and I really enjoy the city. I truly love the Sabres and our fanbase. I know there’s pain and anger out there. I feel so many positives after one year of experience.”
From what it sounds like Krueger plans on bringing back most, if not all, of his coaching staff next season. He talked about how there is a lot of power in continuity and how that could actually help strengthen the team.
It’s likely going to be nine or 10 months between the time the Sabres have played a game to the next time they play in one, and that’s at minimum. Krueger discussed that there’s a ton of work to be put in during that span, but looks forward to getting back to the regular season.
He also talked about how important hockey, and all sports, can be to a community.
“Sports have a huge role in society regaining its confidence. It’s going to be bigger than us playing hockey in Buffalo. It’s getting the community together and giving people that confidence to spend time together. What better vehicle than sports to bring people back together.”