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Coaching carousel could be Bylsma's saving grace with Sabres

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Posted at 6:16 PM, Apr 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-13 18:16:51-04

What's going to happen to Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma? We all waited for General Manager Tim Murray to give us a clue during his 31-minute season-ending press conference. Instead, he kept his cards close to the vest. The only thing missing was a pair of dark sunglasses.

As expected, Murray was asked three rapid-fire questions about Bylsma right off the bat. He never gave a definitive answer and said: "As I say every day if I get asked that question, he's my coach today, I'm the general manager today."

Ummmmmmmmm, okay?

Have you ever seen 'DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story'? Murray basically dodged, ducked, dipped, dived and dodged around answering the questions about Bylsma, but do you blame him? Murray said he's still waiting to have his season-end review with team owner Terry Pegula in Florida next week.

So will Bylsma stay or will he go? It's the biggest question looming in Sabreland (not Hockey Outlet) until we get a clear cut answer from either Murray or ownership.

Nobody really knows the answer, but Disco Dan can't be very comfortable with his situation. Murray never threw Bylsma completely under the bus, but he never gave his second-year head coach the stamp of approval either.

"Players have legitimate gripes about the coach," Murray told reporters. "I think players have some legitimate gripes about the way our team is built and that's [on] me. I think players have some gripes that aren't legitimate and are excuses. Again, we're all to blame."

The most telling criticism came near the end of the press conference when Murray said he'd like the coaching staff to focus more on the team inside the locker room, rather than what's happening around the league.

"Maybe they [the coaches] could put a coffee in their hand once in a while and do two hours of video instead of three and get out and get to know our players and talk to our players and it's about coaching individuals a little more and coaching systems a little less."

That, my friends, is a hint of shade. Murray said on Wednesday that Sabres ownership lets him make the decisions, but don't for a second think that his bosses input isn't vital....and that input just might be Bylsma's saving grace.

Just four months ago the Pegula's fired Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan only two years into a five-year deal.  If they decide to move on from Bylsma that would be their second coaching change in fourth months. Not ideal. 

Since taking over the Sabres in 2011 Pegula has employed four head coaches, including Lindy Ruff, Ron Rolston, Ted Nolan, and Bylsma. If you include the 2014 acquisition of the Buffalo Bills, Pegula's head coach count doubles to eight [McDermott, Lynn (interim), Ryan & Marrone].

Bylsma should probably consider sending his old bicycle riding friend Rex a fruit basket if he indeed keeps his job. Not to be forgotten, like Ryan, Disco Dan still has three years left on his contract worth a cool $9 million. Not exactly a king's ransom to an owner worth $4 billion, but not chump change, either.

I'm not suggesting that the firing of Ryan will save Bylsma, but it will make the Pegula's think just a little bit more about their upcoming decision -- and the longer they think, the longer Murray will think. The crazy coaching track record shouldn't make or break the decision on Bylsma, but it might make it just a bit more complicated.