BUFFALO, NY — Ralph Krueger was hired as coach of the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday.
The 59-year-old replaces Phil Housley, who was fired April 7 after his second season as Sabres coach. Buffalo (33-39-10) missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the eighth straight season and finished 13th in the Eastern Conference, 22 points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card.
“I am excited and honored to join the Buffalo Sabres family and will strive to maximize the potential that lies within this team,” Krueger said. “I look forward to building on the many positives that have been established within the organization and I am especially eager to get behind the bench and represent this passionate hockey city.”
Krueger, who was chairman of the Southampton Football Club in the English Premier League for five years before leaving the job April 12, was coach of the Edmonton Oilers in 2012-13. The Oilers finished that shortened season 19-22-7 and did not qualify for the playoffs.
Krueger has a reputation of being a solid communicator, who is particularly adept in relating to younger players.
“When we talked to some of the players that had worked under Ralph, some star players in the National Hockey League that had worked under Ralph [in Edmonton], that was some of things they had talked about,” Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said. “They felt whether it was practice drills, looking through video, he was looking for innovative ways to help improve his players. There was a real buy-in from the players that this guy cared about them and this guy wanted the best, not only for them individually but for the team. I think when players feel that, it’s a buy-in from both sides.
“We understand that where we want to go as an organization, allowing some of our young players to make that jump from Rochester (of the American Hockey League) to Buffalo is going to be key. A big part of our success if going to be the development of [defenseman] Rasmus Dahlin, the development of [center] Jack Eichel, the development of [center] Sam Reinhart, [center] Casey Mittelstadt — players who are already at the National Hockey League level. The fact that we’re going to expect Ralph to communicate well with them, expect Ralph to help their development to move along here for our organization to get to the next step.”
Krueger also coached Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, when it lost in the championship game to Team Canada.
“Our main focus was just trying someone that can communicate with our young players, that can get the most out of our young players moving forward here,” Botterill said, “so is it an added benefit that he’s been in the international scene a little bit and understands a little bit more, whether it’s his time coaching in Austria, coaching in Switzerland, being in England? Certainly that’s a benefit that he can build a stronger personal relationship with some of our European players. But we think that’s an important element to get that relationship with our players, whether they’re from Europe or from North America.”
NHL.com correspondent Heather Engel contributed to this report