Buffalo Sabres: Exploring Early Head Coach Candidates

After the Sabres moved on from Ted Nolan the day after the season ended, Buffalo is set to begin their first true coaching search in nearly two decades.  Sabres General Manager Tim Murray is looking to put together the best list of potential candidates to explore as options for his Head Coach vacancy.  Early in the process a few options are emerging as priorities on Murray’s list

Mike Babcock, Will He Stay or Go?

Of course like many teams in search of a Head Coach, the Sabres would like the opportunity to sit down with Mike Babcock to gauge his interest in the job.  Murray has a connection with Babcock going back to their time in Anaheim when Babcock was the Head Coach and Murray was the Director of Player Personnel.  The Buffalo GM will look to use that relationship as a spring-board to get a sit down with the coveted Head Coach.

In his post-season press conferences, Babcock seemed to talk as if his time may be done in Detroit.  The long time Detroit bench boss may see the writing on the wall with an aging Red Wings club.  Star players Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik

Mike Babcock Coach Red Wings
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Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall are all in their mid-30’s.  The Wings could have a transition period in their near future with the three top players in the organization on the way out in the next few years.  The question for Babcock is; does he want stick around for the potential dip in team performance?  Of course, as Babcock stated, the other influential factor is his wife.  Happy wife, happy life.  If Mrs. Babcock isn’t happy in Mo-Town, the highly coveted coach could leave for greener pastures.

After all that was said at the end of the season by Babcock, I still think Detroit is the favorite to retain Babcock.  He’s made trips to Grand Rapids and the World Championships with Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.  This would seem to indicate Babcock is still very much committed to the Red Wings organization.

Todd McLellan In High Demand

Another candidate high on the Sabres list is former San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan.  Like Babcock, McLellan is in high demand around the league.  After seven strong seasons in San Jose, McLellan has finally been given the opportunity to explore other coaching options.  After excellent regular seasons with the Sharks, McLellan’s teams could never get over the hill in the playoffs. After missing the playoffs for the first time this season, the organization and long time coach

(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
mutually decided to part ways.

McLellan would be the big name hire fans in Buffalo have become accustomed to in the Terry Pegula era.  Whether it be with the Sabres or the Bills, Pegula likes to go out and get a big name to run his teams.  McLellan may end up choosing between the two organizations at the top of the 2015 NHL Draft.  The Oilers are very interested in McLellan and will likely have a new star in Connor McDavid.  The Sabres will counter that with a star of their own in Jack Eichel.  McLellan seems to be the favorite in Edmonton right now, so we’ll see if the Sabres make a push.

Luke Richardson, Not So Flashy Favorite

Luke Richardson has been connected to Buffalo for some time now.  Going back to last year when the Sabres were deciding on the future of Ted Nolan, Richardson was mentioned as a potential candidate.  Richardson and Murray have a connection going back to their time in Ottawa.  While Murray was the Assistant General Manager for the Senators; Richardson was the Head Coach of the AHL affiliate Binghamton Senators.  Richardson has a .535 winning percentage in his three seasons as the Binghamton coach.  This past season was the first year his team didn’t make the Calder Cup Playoffs.

In his time in Binghamton, Richardson has contributed to developing young players like Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and Patrick Wiercioch.  The Sabres will have a lot of young players moving through their organization in the coming years and the organization may want to get a coach with player development as a strength on their resume.

Richardson wouldn’t be the flashy big name some fans are looking for, but would be a solid hire if the Sabres choose to go in that direction.  Tim Murray is a huge fan of what Richardson has done in the AHL and believes it can translate to the NHL.  Murray will certainly give Richardson an interview and opportunity to prove he’s a good fit for the Sabres to lead their team in a new era.