The Buffalo Sabres didn’t end up with Todd McLellan after a recent courting process, and have now been linked to several other names including out-of-the-box options. Today, Darren Dreger of TSN was on The Instigators on WGR550 in Buffalo and reported that Jacques Martin is a leading candidate for the job (quote via WGR550 producer Brayton J. Wilson):
This isn’t a news flash because it’s been speculated. I’m told that Jacques Martin is a top candidate in Buffalo, but he may be among them. There’s been speculation of Todd Richards, although a couple of days ago I got the sense that [Richards] is of interest and is certainly a candidate, but things weren’t heating up there. Maybe that’s changed in the last 24 hours, I don’t know that, but yesterday I was told that Jacques is considered a top candidate. We’ll see.
Martin is currently an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and John Shannon of Sportsnet also notes that the Ottawa Senators have asked for permission to talk to their old coach.
It is easy to see why Martin might be on GM Jason Botterill’s short list, given the connection the two share from their days in Pittsburgh together. Botterill was an assistant GM for the team when Martin joined them in 2013, and the two enjoyed consecutive Stanley Cup wins together in 2016 and 2017. There is also the simple fact that Martin is an extremely experienced head coach, including a near decade behind the bench of the Senators and time leading the St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens. His 613 regular season victories put him 20th all-time, though he never did win a Stanley Cup as a head coach.
There is also the idea that Martin could be the type of structured, defensive coach that the Sabres need. The team has struggled in their own end for years and failed to capitalize on their early season success in 2018-19. Rookie head coach Phil Housley is out after just two years, the fourth name that has come and gone without much success since Lindy Ruff was fired during the 2012-13 season.