Terry Pegula and Tim Murray may not have reeled in big fish Mike Babcock, but that doesn’t make Dan Bylsma any less of a hire. With Bylsma onboard and wunderkind Jack Eichel on his way, optimism is at an all-time high in Hockey Heaven. But, what can we expect with the new bench boss at the helm?
Instant Return to Legitimacy
After finishing back-to-back seasons in last place and posting historically bad offensive numbers, the Sabres have been the laughing stock of the NHL. With Bylsma coming along with his Olympic coaching experience and Stanley Cup ring, he brings instant credibility to the organization and purges it from its losing ways.
This is significant both for internal and external perceptions. First off, such a move carries a lot of weight in the locker room. Keep in mind, this is a locker room that has been infected with a losing culture and tank talk.
Understandably, some players may have become disinterested, while the organization may have fallen out favor with others, but all of that changes now. The players immediately buy into what the Sabres are selling.
Secondly, this improves the outside view of the organization, which is also very important. It becomes important when attempting to attract additional outside talent, whether it be players or other personnel.
This leads us to our next point. Now that the Sabres have secured Bylsma, the team should have an easier time signing free agents or possibly convincing players to drop their no-trade clause or no-movement clauses.
This will give the ever-aggressive Murray more options as he continues to erect the roster at a point that officially signifies the second stage of the sabres rebirth.
Murray has already hinted that he would like to speed up the rebuild by trading prospects and/or draft picks for NHL ready
talent. With Bylsma in the mix as someone who is committed to winning (and doing so sooner rather than later), this put an even greater emphasis on Murray’s strategy.
Expect Murray to make at least one more big splash this offseason, likely acquiring a top-six forward with a package that includes the Sabres second first-round pick. The Sabres also hold the 31st overall pick, which could come into play as well.
In addition to attracting new talent, Byslma will also accelerate the growth of incumbent players.
Just look at the body of work in Pittsburgh where Bylsma coached arguably one of the greatest of all time in Sidney Crosby and a generational talent in Evgeni Malkin. Imagine what Bylsma can do with high draft picks: Sam Reinhart, Eichel, Rasmus Ristolainen and Evander Kane. Not to mention, he already has first had experience working with Eichel as a Team USA assistant at the IIHF World Championship.
Not only will the Sabres get better faster, they’ll sustain that success because they now have a key ingredient that other cornerstone franchises all possess – organizational continuity. Murray, Eichel, Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov and Reinhart form a strong foundation and Bylsma is the final piece to this puzzle that’ll likely be intact for the foreseeable future.
A big welcome to new Head Coach of the Buffalo Sabres, Dan Bylsma! Lets bring one of these to Buffalo! pic.twitter.com/3H9rHgo1FP
— One Buffalo (@ImSoBuffalo) May 28, 2015
What’s been one of the most difficult elements of the Sabres past two seasons is the lack of stability: they’ve had three coaches, two GMs and numerous players coming in and out. All of this turnover hasn’t been good for the development of the team’s young talent or for establishing any kind of culture in the locker room.
Taking a look at the two most successful franchise of late, the Sabres seem to mirror them quite closely (or will in the near future). The Chicago Blackhawks have a dynamic playmaker in Patrick Kanes, a number one center and leader in Jonathan Toews, and a number defensive pairing in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, Joel Quenneville as head coach and Stan Bowman as GM.
The Los Angeles Kings have Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty and Tyler Toffoli as foundational roster pieces, Darryl Sutter as head coach and Dean Lombardi as GM. Like these two franchises, the Sabres have also stockpiled talent from the top of the draft.
Better years are ahead in Buffalo. Bylsma is the final piece to the foundation that the Sabres will be able to build on for the next decade. A decade from now, it’s highly unlikely that Sabres fans will be viewing Eichel and Bylsma as second choices.