The Buffalo Sabres have parted ways with head coach Phil Housley.
On the same day the Florida Panthers gave Bob Boughner his walking papers and the Los Angeles Kings decided Willie Desjardins wouldn’t be back, the Sabres are in the mix by firing their second-year coach.
Buffalo may have finished the 2018-2019 regular season with a 7-1 win over the hapless Detroit Red Wings, but that’s far from enough as the Sabres rolled in for a 13th place finish in the Eastern Conference.
The team went on a 16-33-8 slide after a 10-game winning streak in November and now holds the NHL’s longest-active streak for missing the post-season. Thanks to Carolina’s playoff berth, the Sabres stand alone in that category.
Housley leaves Buffalo with a 58-84-22 record, with the Detroit win calling an end to what was a 0-6-1 skid through early March. Not only that, the Sabres were shut out for three consecutive games in that month.
So now, Buffalo will hire their fifth new head coach in six years. This pattern started with the firing of Lindy Ruff in the 2012-2013 season. Since then, the Sabres have gone through Ron Rolston, Ted Nolan and Dan Bylsma as well. Housley joins Nolan and Bylsma as coaches that’ve only endured two years in Buffalo.
Housley lost the support of many of the hometown faithful and that’s never a good sign. The “Fire Housley” chants were distinct during many home games, even if general manager Jason Botterill seemed to show faith in his guy. In the end, the record mattered most.
And the Sabres will have to move on. Again.
This leaves a lot on their plate for the summer. They have to figure out the Jeff Skinner situation. He scored 40 goals this season for the first time in his career and was a bright spot for Buffalo despite a poor showing in March. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent come July 1.
And they’ll have to find some support for their young stars, like Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin. Buffalo may have made a 14-point improvement in the standings, but that young core needs help. Signing Skinner would go a long way to establishing that precedent, but some secondary scoring would go a long way to giving this team a needed boost – no matter who arrives behind the bench.
(Photo credit: NHL.com)