The Buffalo Sabres have gone outside of the box in the selection of their new head coach, hiring Ralph Krueger as the 19th head coach in franchise history.
Krueger, 59, replaces Phil Housley, who was fired in April after two years on the job. The Sabres have missed the playoffs for eight straight seasons.
Krueger's only NHL head coaching experience was in the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season, when he was behind the bench for the Edmonton Oilers. He was fired after leading the team to a 19-22-7 record.
The Winnipeg native was a consultant on Team Canada's gold medal winning Olympic team in 2014 and served as head coach of Team Europe in the 2016 World Cup on Hockey. He spent seven years as a head coach in the Austrian Hockey League and 12 years coaching the Swiss national team.
While getting to know Buffalo last week, Krueger said he visited bars and talked to fans about the state of the team while watching two NHL games.
"I changed bars every period so I didn't stay too long," Krueger laughed. "But it was quite interesting. I'd sit beside Sabre fans and have conversations that I won't be able to have with them now. But it was very enlightening. I certainly could feel the spirit of the city."
Krueger has also spent the past five years as chairman of soccer's Southampton FC of the English Premier League.
Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said Krueger has succeeded in high pressure situations at the international level.
“He got results in those situations and that was impressive from our standpoint," Botterill said. "When we did the follow up talking with different players who had worked under Ralph, they felt he was very good communicating with them. That ability to get the most out of a group, communicate with the group, we felt was a very good fit for our situation here in Buffalo.”
Botterill added it was important to hire somebody who could motivate players over the course of an 82 game season.
"Surely with Ralph's resume, I know he had other opportunities. And that's what gets us excited, is that he wanted to come here," Botterill said.
Even though they've been one of the worst teams in the league for years now, Krueger said he thinks the Sabres can become contenders quickly.
"I like the way Jason has been putting this group together and the way he thinks," Krueger said. "He understands the necessity of being strong with and without the puck and developing a team game. It allows this core group of players to develop and show their skill."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.