Buffalo Sabres had no other choice but to can Ralph Krueger

Buffalo Sabres Head Coach Ralph Krueger. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Buffalo Sabres Head Coach Ralph Krueger. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

It is the end of the road for Ralph Krueger and the Buffalo Sabres.

In an outcome that has been on the horizon for a considerable chunk of time now, the Buffalo Sabres announced this morning that they have relieved Head Coach Ralph Krueger of his duties, with Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News Sports reporting that Don Granato will be the Interim Coach.

Harrington has also reported that Steve Smith has been fired with Development Coaches Matt Ellis and Dan Girardi set to join Granato behind the bench, and it remains to be seen what direction Sabres General Manager Kevyn Adams decides to go in now when it comes to a long-term voice behind the bench.

Krueger has one-year remaining on his contract and will be owed $3.75 million by the Sabres.

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Krueger’s firing is hardly a surprise given that the Buffalo Sabres are in the midst of a 12-game losing skid, including dropping a 3-2 game to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night, Krueger’s last game in charge. They have lurched from one crisis to another this season and are entrenching themselves as one of the biggest laughing stocks in all of sports.

Buffalo is currently bottom of the entire National Hockey League standings with a 6-18-4 record, and their awful total of just 16 points should ensure that they miss the postseason for a 10th straight year, with their current nine-year absence the longest active streak in the league.

One of the most disappointing aspects about the Sabres’ implosion during the 2020-21 season was the fact that this year was meant to different. After all, new GM Kevyn Adams showed that he meant business by being incredibly aggressive during the offseason and making it clear that his team were looking to compete.

Ralph Krueger
Buffalo Sabres Ralph Krueger. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

Buffalo Sabres must now face their destiny after Ralph Krueger firing

Adams signed elite winger Taylor Hall to a one-year, $8 million deal, traded for veteran center Eric Staal from the Minnesota Wild and added some nice depth pieces, surrounding franchise cornerstone and Captain Jack Eichel with some decent weapons for arguably the first time in the forward’s six-year career in Buffalo.

However, none of Adams’ moves have really panned out so far with Hall a bust with 16 points (2 G, 14 A) in 28 games, Staal is a -18 with 10 points (3 G, 7 A) and the goaltending has also been an issue with Buffalo ranked 29th in Goals Against Per Game (3.39), a flaw Adams failed to address during the offseason.

It also became clear pretty quickly that players had stopped responding to the messages being given to them by Ralph Krueger, who also appeared to have lost the support of Jeff Skinner after benching the forward for a number of games in a row when perhaps others were more deserving of having to watch a game or two from the press box.

With defenseman Rasmus Dahlin a -27, Jack Eichel a -9, Taylor Hall a -17, Sam Reinhart a -20 and with just two players on the entire roster with a + rating in defenseman Jake McCabe (+2) and forward Rasmus Asplund (+1), Krueger failed to maximise the talents of what is a pretty decent core.

The Sabres, with the likes of Eichel, Hall, Dahlin, Reinhart, Staal, Rasmus Ristolainen and a pretty solid starter in Linus Ullmark, should have been at least competitive in what is a tough East Division, but instead they have stunk the building out and they’ve regressed more and more as the season has dragged on.

Krueger, who was 36-49-12 after two-and-a-half-seasons in Buffalo, was praised for his ability to connect with players upon his arrival and was seen as the ideal figure to help placate Eichel and ensure that he had all the support he needed around him, but that quickly ran out its welcome and it became evident that Krueger was out of his depth with the X’s and O’s nonexistent as the defensive system was horrible and the offense couldn’t hit water if it fell out of a boat.

Taylor Hall (4)
Taylor Hall #4 of the Buffalo Sabres. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Just look at some of the Sabres’ losses in that 12-game skid, including the 6-0 blowout loss to the Washington Capitals on Monday, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Krueger had lost the locker room and the effort from certain players on the ice was, quite frankly, alarming.

So, there was no other choice for the Buffalo Sabres but to part company with Krueger and, to be honest, you could argue that it was long overdue.

Now, with Ralph Krueger another sad footnote in the tragic recent history of this franchise, it will be up to Kevyn Adams to map out the future for this team and his decisions in the coming weeks could have major implications for the long-term future of this organization.

With Eichel potentially out for the remainder of the regular-season, it is likely that pieces in the ilk of Hall and Staal could be shopped at the Trade Deadline, along with a few others, while Eichel himself could be traded if he’s unwilling to give things another go in Buffalo.

Therefore, Adams could opt to find a young coach who has a track record of developing young players and prospects in order to oversee yet another long and tough rebuild, or he could decide to go out and hire a veteran such as Gerard Gallant or Bruce Boudreau in order to try and save the Jack Eichel era and give this team one last chance to try and make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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Either way, the Ralph Krueger regime is now over and it is fair to say that it was short and not so sweet, and now the Buffalo Sabres must navigate the next few weeks that will be laced with a plethora of franchise-defining decisions that could make or break a fed-up fanbase already on the brink. And it all starts with finding a new Head Coach who will be tasked with trying to clear up a lot of the mess left behind by Krueger, and it is a hire ownership has to get right considering that they have the fewest points in the NHL and have fired and hired five coaches since Terry Pegula bought the team on Feb. 18, 2011. Something has to change for the Buffalo Sabres. And quick.