By Carter Brooks
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis
The Manitoba connection is alive and well in Buffalo, N.Y.
Ralph Krueger has refound metanoia. The Steinbach native is coming back to the NHL for the 2019-20 NHL season.
On Wednesday morning, Winnipeg product and current General Manager of the Buffalo Sabres, Jason Botterill formally announced that Ralph Krueger had accepted the role as the team's 19th Head Coach in franchise history. After putting up a 19-22-7 record in 2012-13 in his only season as the bench boss in Edmonton (which just so happened to be shortened by the lockout), the 59-year-old has decided to take another kick at the can in the big leagues.
“I am excited and honored to join the Buffalo Sabres family, and will strive to maximize the potential that lies within this team,” Krueger said at a press conference in Buffalo Wednesday morning. “I look forward to building on the many positives that have been established within the organization and I am especially eager to get behind the bench and represent this passionate hockey city.”
Also serving as a consultant within the Carolina Hurricanes' organization and fulfilling two years as an assistant in Edmonton prior to his one-season stint as Head Coach, Krueger comes into this new opportunity with a breadth of experience - albeit not an overwhelming amount at the NHL level - 48 games to be exact.
"Ralph is a great communicator and has a history of being a strong leader," Botterill said. "His past has shown that he has a great ability to interact with players and get the most out of a group... His strong communication skills, leadership and diverse background make him a uniquely qualified candidate to lead our team going forward.”
Between terms, the Manitoba product stepped away from the game of hockey to serve as Chairman of Southampton F.C. a Premier League football team, in a position he held from 2014 until this past April. Also during that timespan, Krueger coached Team Europe to a second-place finish in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. He has also coached the Switzerland national team in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Olympics, along with other appearances in the IIHF World Championship.
Before agreeing to terms with the Sabres, the former Calgary Wrangler of the old WHL spent two days touring the city of Buffalo, popping in and out of bars, restaurants and local arenas, talking to the community on their overall feel of the direction of his team. He did so in a manner of disguise, without revealing his true identity, all the while getting a grip on the local scene.
Krueger has his work cut out for him, as his new team, the Sabres, have missed the NHL postseason in each of their past eight 82-game attempts. Buffalo finished the 2018-19 season 27th in the league with a 33-39-10 record. Training camp opens in early September.