BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Newly named Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger knows that fans in Western New York are ready for a winner. Krueger quite literally hit the streets to do some undercover work, getting a pulse of the city and the current state of the Sabres.
While in town for his first interview, Krueger and his wife went from bar to bar, nonchalantly asking fans about their opinions of the hockey team that hasn’t made the playoffs in eight seasons.
“I watched two NHL playoff games and I changed bars every period so I didn’t stay too long,” Krueger said with a laugh. “It was quite interesting. I’d sit beside Sabres fans and had conversations I won’t be able to have now. But it was very enlightening. I could certainly feel the spirit of the city.”
Krueger didn't need fans at a bar to tell him the Sabres head coaching job comes with some pressure. He said that doesn't bother him because the bigger the expectations, the more fans care.
"I don't want to make any big promises,” Krueger said. “The only one that I will make is to do everything in my power to find out what this group is made of very quickly and to get us into that competitive space for much longer than the team was able to get into last season.”
Krueger has an impressive resume — but little experience as a bench boss in the NHL. To some, the lack of experience in North America might be a red flag. To Botterill, that wasn’t a concern at all.
“We put a lot of stock into his experience at the World Championships, the World Cup and at the Olympics,” Botterill said. “Those are high-pressure situations where you have to make adjustments and you have to make quick decisions. He got results and that was impressive from our standpoint.”
So what does Krueger bring to the table? The buzzword for Botterill when speaking with reporters was communication. On several occasions, the Sabres GM praised Krueger’s ability to help his players reach their potential.
“Our main focus was to find someone who can communicate with our young players,” Botterill added. “[He’s someone] That can get the most out of our young players moving forward.”
Krueger is still in Europe and won’t be back in Buffalo for a few weeks. He’ll head to Slovakia to spend more time with Botterill and meet with Sabres captain Jack Eichel and teammate Sam Reinhart.
After the World Championships, Krueger will return to Buffalo. This time, if he goes to a bar, It’s safe to assume he won’t go unnoticed.