After missing out in the much-talked about sweepstakes for Mike Babcock, the Buffalo Sabres have finally found the man who will lead the team to the future behind the bench.
Dan Bylsma has agreed to terms with the Sabres on a contract to become the 17th head coach in franchise history. He takes over for the recently fired Ted Nolan after the Sabres finished in last place in back-to-back seasons.
The news of the hiring was first reported by the Associated Press’ John Wawrow. Terms of the deal were not disclosed as of this writing, but it’s known that a third round pick in 2016 is heading back the Penguins’ way as compensation.
Bylsma coached the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2008-2014, amassing a record of 252-117-32 in just under six seasons. He made the playoffs in every season with Pittsburgh, and lead the team to the Stanley Cup in 2009, his first year behind the bench.
Though the knock on the 2011 Jack Adams Award winner may be his lack of playoff success while having, arguably, the best player in the world in Sidney Crosby, Bylsma has proven himself to be a great coach in his own right. None of his teams finished any lower than 4th place in the Eastern Conference standings, nor did they finish with less than 100 points for a full season — 99 in 2008-09/72 in lockout-shortened 2012-13 — under Bylsma.
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In Buffalo, Bylsma will be given the keys to the shiny new car known as the Jack Eichel after the reigning Hobey Baker winner is selected by general manager Tim Murray at the NHL Entry Draft. Bylsma has already test-driven the new car after helping coach Eichel and Team USA in the recently completed IIHF World Championships. In addition, young players like Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons, Evander Kane and Rasmus Ristolainen are also expected to be a major part of the team’s future as they look to end the longest playoff drought in franchise history.
Bylsma’s relationship with Murray goes back to his playing days in Anaheim when the Sabres GM was the Director of Player Personnel with the then Mighty Ducks. It likely wasn’t a major factor in his hiring, but it also didn’t hurt that they knew each other ahead of time.
Prior to his signing with the Sabres, Bylsma was also rumored to be a candidate for the New Jersey Devils head coach position due to the relationship with new Devils GM Ray Shero. However, it appears that the allure of coaching players the caliber of Eichel and Reinhart was much more enticing for the 44-year old coach.
The Hockey Writers will have more on this signing as it becomes available.
Michael is a former Managing Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s covered the Buffalo Sabres, along with the NHL in general, for various outlets since 2009. His work has been featured on outlets such as Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.