The Buffalo Sabres won’t be hiring a rookie head coach like Rickard Gronborg this year, meaning the list of available names has been dramatically shortened. One name that had still been connected to them was Todd Richards, an assistant under Jon Cooper in Tampa Bay the last three seasons. Richards has experience as a head coach with both the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets, but it now appears as though he won’t be in the running either. John Shannon of Sportsnet tweets that Richards will not interview for the job in Buffalo, and that Jacques Martin and Dave Tippett remain the front runners.
Richards was the first name that John Vogl of The Athletic (subscription required) listed in his recent breakdown of the candidates, but Tippett and Martin followed quickly afterwards. Both coaches have been out of the head coaching role for a few years, with Tippett last leading the Arizona Coyotes in 2016-17 and Martin fired from the Montreal Canadiens in 2011-12. That doesn’t mean they’ve been away from the game though, as Tippett has been working with the Seattle expansion franchise as a senior adviser, while Martin was on the Pittsburgh Penguins bench as an assistant the last several years.
Buffalo GM Jason Botterill tried the rookie route with his first coaching hire, bringing in legendary Sabres defenseman Phil Housley to run the bench. Housley had experienced success as an assistant with the Nashville Predators, but things didn’t go well for him in Buffalo. The team went 58-84-22 during his two seasons, simply not good enough when they have a star forward in Jack Eichel earning $10MM per season. It’s not time for a rebuild for the Sabres, which is likely why an experienced hand is what Botterill is after this time around.
It is important to note that Botterill is currently in Slovakia with Team Canada for the IIHF World Championship, a tournament that will end on May 26th.