So the lottery balls didn’t bounce in favor of the Buffalo Sabres and they miss out on Connor McDavid – big deal. The Sabres still have the opportunity to select another cornerstone player in Jack Eichel.
The biggest concern heading into the offseason is the head coach position. The organization has already stalled the development of some of its prospects by botching the last two coaching hires by appointing Ron Rolston and Ted Nolan. It’s imperative that the Sabres make the right hire this time around in order to not squander the tremendous opportunities that lie ahead.
That’s why now’s the time to hope fortune is in the Sabres favor and the hockey gods bless them with impending free-agent coach Mike Babcock. At least landing the highly coveted coach won’t come down to dumb luck.
Money & Connections
Before we continue, let’s take a look at the actual probability of this happening. Obviously, first and foremost, Babcock will actually have to walk away from the Detroit Red Wings.
Given a connection between Babcock and Sabres GM Tim Murray and Sabres owner Terry Pegula’s deep pockets, there’s at least a chance this could become a reality.
BUF GM Tim Murray has history with Babcock dating back to days in ANA. Sabre owner Terry Pegula has lot of $ and not likely to be outbid.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) April 12, 2015
As TSN’s Bob McKenzie alludes to, Murray was the Director of Player Personnel with the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks when Babcock coached the club from 2002-2004.
Couple that with the fact that Pegula has shown the propensity to spend and bring in a big-name coach (by bringing Rex Ryan to the Buffalo Bills), the Sabres will at least be in the running should Babcock decide to leave Detroit. One thing’s for certain, the Sabres won’t lose out on Babcock by being outbid.
As it’s said, “money talks and people walk.”
If the Sabres were able to reel in Babcock, he’d bring in two attributes the Buffalo locker room desperately needs: credibility and stability. Hampering the development of the young Sabres has been the revolving door of coaches. There have been three different coaches within the last three seasons in Buffalo.
Hiring Babcock would almost certainly be a long-term move rather than taking a gamble on a less experienced or less successful coach. The Sabres players need a system they can learn and grow under, instead of constantly shifting personnel and schemes.
The second ingredient Babcock brings is his championship pedigree. Again referring to the young roster, having a Stanley Cup winning, two-time Olympic Gold Medal winning coach will go a long way.
He’ll instantly bring credibility to the franchise and be able to guide players through his past experience. He’ll have full attention in the locker room, which means a lot for a franchise who in the past seemed to have the coach’s words falling on deaf ears.
The biggest stumbling block, however, is that Babcock will likely want to sign on with an instant Stanley Cup contender. The Sabres are probably 3-4 years from being there, and that’s only if everything goes according to plan.
To counter that, the Sabres are positioned to eventually be a contender for many years and the organization boasts one of the most impressive prospect pools in the NHL.
Not only will the Sabres likely add Jack Eichel, they possess last year’s second-overall pick Sam Reinhart, all-star Zemgus Girgensons and the promising blue line pairing of Nikita Zadorov and Rasmus Ristolainen, among others.
Another aspect to consider is having control over roster decisions. Murray has shown he’s in full control and has a very concrete strategy in place. Babcock will be in the position of power and can make any demand he wants and someone of his caliber should want, at the very least, a say in roster moves.
Given their past history, maybe Murray will budge a little on this matter. However, this could be a real issue if Babcock also wants control over all roster transactions.
Either way, it’s fun to imagine what a Babcock-led future would have in store, and through it all, Sabres fans have never feared to dream. We’re setting up for an exciting offseason in Buffalo. Let the fun begin this summer!
As an American based in Amsterdam, Joe provides a unique hockey insight, bringing a global perspective to the game. Joe has several years of experience covering the game on both a domestic and international level, including being credentialed for multiple World and World Junior Championships.