The Buffalo Sabres announced Sunday that head coach Phil Housley has been relieved of his duties after two seasons behind the bench
After a blistering start to this season which saw Buffalo win 10 consecutive games, the team hit a rough patch that they could never turn around. Saturday’s season finale win was the first back-to-back victories since mid-December.
In a Sunday news conference, General Manager Jason Botterill said the decision came down to performance. He suggested Housley couldn't communicate well with younger players and the second half of the season showed a need for a change. He also took blame for not assembling a strong enough roster.
"Today certainly wasn't an easy day, but the results in the second half were just not there. We were very inconsistent. Our fans expect more. We expect more. In the end, I thought this decision had to be made for our organization to move forward. We are all responsible for the success and failures of this organization. We are certainly not pleased at where we're at," Botterill said.
"We all need to be accountable and not make excuses."
Housley’s record in his two years included 58 wins, 84 losses and 22 ties.
Botterill said the search for a new coach starts immediately. He says there was a conversation with team owners Kim and Terry Pegula, who supported the decision. In a statement, the two backed Botterill, saying the move was in the best interest of the organization.
“We appreciate Phil Housley’s effort over the past two seasons. He will always be a respected member of the Sabres organization, and we wish him and his family all the best moving forward. We support the decision made by Jason today. It wasn’t an easy decision, but we know Jason is operating in the best interests of the organization both short- and long-term. We are confident we share the same vision of bringing winning hockey back to Buffalo, which remains our expectation,” the Pegulas said.
The team's assistant coaches are still on the payroll until a decision is made by the new head coach.
Housley is a Hall of Fame defensemen who was drafted sixth overall by Buffalo in the 1982 NHL Draft. In eight years with the Sabres, he amassed 558 points, which ranks fifth all-time in Sabres history.