The Buffalo Sabres conducted interviews with Todd McLellan this week as the coach was in town for the Frozen Four, but will not be hiring him to be their next head coach. Bob McKenzie of TSN reports that McLellan is no longer in consideration for the position and that the team never did formalize an offer for him. Instead, McLellan is expected to be hired by the Los Angeles Kings, though that has not been formally announced either. The Sabres will continue their search for a new head coach.
If McLellan does end up with Los Angeles, it would be his third Pacific Division team in five years after previously coaching with the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers. The Kings are looking for a coach to help turn around their franchise after a dreadful season, and informed interim coach Willie Desjardins that he would not be getting the job. The 51-year old McLellan was fired by Edmonton after going 9-10-1 through the first 20 games of this season, but has an overall coaching record of 434-282-90.
The Sabres meanwhile are looking to replace Phil Housley after just two seasons on the job. The Hall of Fame defenseman was considered an outstanding assistant coach with the Nashville Predators but failed to put together much success in his time in Buffalo. The Sabres rode a winning streak all the way to first place in the NHL early in the 2018-19 season, but ended up with an overall record of 33-39-10, a huge disappointment for GM Jason Botterill and his staff.
While Buffalo hasn’t had much success over the last several years, there are definitely parts of the roster that should appeal to any prospective head coach. Captain Jack Eichel set a career high with 82 points in 77 games this season while first-overall pick Rasmus Dahlin was as advertised and stepped into a top-pairing role almost immediately. The 18-year old defenseman—he’ll turn 19 tomorrow—recorded 44 points in 82 games while logging more than 21 minutes a night and should be in consideration for the Calder Trophy.
Still, there will be immense pressure on whoever the Sabres do bring in to replace Housley as the team hasn’t experienced a winning season since 2011-12 and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2010-11.