Ralph Krueger and the Buffalo Sabres: Where Do Both Parties Go from Here?


On 17th March, 2020, the Buffalo Sabres parted ways with Ralph Krueger. The decisions came following a 12-match losing streak which left the team sitting at the bottom of the East Division. Despite his extensive knowledge of the sport, the 61-year-old was unable to transform the Sabres’ fortunes. Although Krueger had one year left of his deal, the franchise’s hierarchy opted to end his reign early, with his opening season as head coach finishing in a mere sixth-place finish. So, where do both parties go from here? Well, let’s delve into their respective situations.

Requiring a Period of Stability

At the time of writing, the Buffalo Sabres haven’t made the playoffs since 2010-11. Prior to that, the team were somewhat regulars in the knockout phase, qualifying in three of the previous five years. However, the 31-year-old side is currently enduring the worst run in their history regarding playoff qualification. Although the Sabres have never won the Stanley Cup, Terry Pegula’s team do have three Conference Championships and six Division Championships to their name, so this losing streak is likely to be keenly felt.

In their efforts to get back to the playoffs, Krueger’s former side has appointed four permanent head coaches, including himself. Of those, each has struggled to hit the heights. Now, it’s time for the owner, Pegula, to stay true to his word. After taking over the Sabres in 2011, he stated that the team’s “reason for existence” is to win the cup. In spite of his financial capabilities and long-term ambitions, the 31-year-old outfit isn’t any closer to the pinnacle than they were before Pegula’s arrival.

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For the immediate future, Don Granato takes control of the Sabres. In taking the step up from being the assistant, this opportunity is the 53-year-old’s first role as the head coach of an NHL team. Albeit in a short-term capacity, altering the Buffalo Sabres’ fortunes won’t be easy, especially with the added pressure of their recent shortcomings weighing them down. This scale of Granato’s task is evident from the latest odds. As of March 17th, the Sabres are +30,000 in hockey betting online to win the East Division in 2021, which showcases the challenge that awaits the 53-year-old.

Could a Football Return Be on the Cards?

While Krueger’s sporting legacy predominantly lies in hockey, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the Winnipeg-born coach will seek pastures new following his recent sacking. Interestingly, the 61-year-old has proved himself capable of using his skills in other sports, including football. From February 2014 to April 2019, the Canadian held the chairman position at Southampton.

Having sold a handful of players in the 2014 summer transfer window, including several to Liverpool, the Saints embarked on a rebuilding process. Although Southampton supporters are somewhat indifferent regarding Krueger’s approach, it’s difficult to argue that he didn’t spearhead a successful recruitment period. Upon losing Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, and Luke Shaw, a Krueger-backed Saints signed Dusan Tadic, Sadio Mane, Toby Alderweireld and Virgil van Dijk.

Even though none of these players line-up at St. Mary’s Stadium anymore, they’ve each gone on to regularly play in the Champions League. Moreover, regarding Mane and Van Dijk, they won the competition with Liverpool in 2018-19. History shows that Krueger is more than capable of managing a football club. Plus, he’s more experienced now than when he first arrived at Southampton.

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They Both Want the Same Thing

Ultimately, the Buffalo Sabres and Krueger are both longing for consistency. Pegula has gone through a handful of coaches without success, while the 61-year-old Canadian got less than two years at the KeyBank Center. Now, they can both make a fresh start, and that looks to be what they need.