The Buffalo Sabres continued to overhaul their organization under new general manager Jason Botterill on Friday when they announced that Dan Lambert, the coach of the Rochester Americans, their AHL affiliate, has been relieved of his duties.
“I would like to thank Dan for his hard work and contributions to our organization during the last two seasons and I wish him the best in the future,” said Botterill in a statement released by the team.
“I felt this was the right move for both the Sabres and Amerks and we will begin the process of searching for a new head coach immediately.”
The 2016-17 season was Lambert’s only season as the head coach. The team ended up finishing with a 32-41-3 mark.
When he was hired by the Sabres Botterill talked about wanting to improve the team in Rochester and this appears to be the first step in that process. The entire Sabres organization took a pretty significant step backwards this season with the NHL team finishing with a worse record than it did a year ago. That resulted in general manager Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma all being replaced.
The Sabres have yet to hire a replacement for Bylsma.
Now both of the top teams in the organization are in need of a new head coach.
Earlier this month it was reported that defenseman Viktor Antipin was on the verge of joining the Buffalo Sabres after terminating his contract in the KHL.
Following the IIHF World Hockey Championships on Sunday, where Antipin was a key player for the Russian team that won the Bronze Medal, Antipin told a Russian news outlet (via the Buffalo News) that he will be leaving for Buffalo on May 29th so that he can join the Sabres.
The 24-year-old Antipin spent the past six years playing for Magnitogorsk Metallurg in the KHL.
In 59 games this past season he scored six goals and added 18 assists.
He had a really strong showing at the recent World Championship tournament, playing close to 18 minutes per game and recording four assists to go with a plus-five rating.
The Sabres defense was a major sore spot this season as the team took a pretty significant step backward in its ongoing rebuild, resulting in the firing of general manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma. As a team the Sabres allowed more than 34 shots on goal per game (the worst mark in the league) and 2.82 goals per game (20th in the league).
The only defensemen the Sabres have under contract for the 2017-18 season at the moment are Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges, Jake McCabe and Justin Falk so Antipin should get a pretty good opportunity to get a significant role right from the start.
It almost feels … mean.
Russia seemed like it would finally beat Canada in a significant international competition involving a decent number of top-level players on Saturday. Then the third period happened.
Canada stormed back from a 2-0 deficit in that final frame, ultimately taking the semifinal match with a 4-2 win. Thanks to that dizzying comeback, they’ll face either Sweden or Finland for the gold. Russia, meanwhile, is relegated to the bronze match.
The rally began with a Mark Scheifele power-play goal early in the third, yet Russia had a 2-1 lead deep into the contest. Nathan MacKinnon‘s 2-2 tally came with less than five minutes remaining in regulation.
Not long after, Ryan O'Reilly scored the decisive tally, while Sean Couturier‘s empty-netter ended any drama. Canada generated a 19-5 shot differential in that third-period push.
Check out full highlights above this post’s headline.
Newly minted Sabres GM Jason Botterill has plenty of work to do this summer, so he’s not going to try and fix things that don’t need fixing.
That’s what Botterill explained on Tuesday, telling Sportsnet he has “no problem” starting next season with Robin Lehner as the club’s starting goalie.
“There are more pressing needs,” Botterill continued. “I liked what I saw from him when he won the Calder Cup.”
Botterill is referring to the 2011 AHL championship, which Binghamton captured on the strength of Lehner’s play in goal. The big Swede has yet to find similar success at the NHL level, but has played well at times.
Last year was a big one for Lehner. Though overall a disappointment for the Sabres on the whole, there were some positives to be taken — the 25-year-old ‘tender posted career highs in games played (59) and finished with a solid .920 save percentage.
Yes, his play was erratic at times and yes, his trademark intensity was on display on several occaions — and not necessarily in a good way.
More: Fiery Lehner won’t apologize for being fiery
But there’s something to be said for a guy that finished 12th among goalies in save percentage while playing for one of the worst teams in the league. There’s also promise for the future, given Lehner is still reasonably young and responded well to his first full NHL workload.
So Botterill probably won’t explore uprooting his goalie situation, which makes sense. But that doesn’t mean the GM can ignore the position entirely — Lehner is a restricted free agent, and a new deal will need to be struck soon.
About a month ago, word surfaced that Buffalo Sabres forward Kyle Okposo had been released from hospitalization. Now there are reports detailing what might have been ailing him.
Teammate William Carrier revealed that Okposo’s initial issue was a concussion, according to John Vogl of the Buffalo News by way of RDS.
Vogl also cites Sabres Prospects’ Kris Baker, who reports that Okposo was hospitalized because of an adverse reaction to medication he was taking to treat that concussion.
These aren’t official details from the Sabres, who haven’t provided a lot of information regarding Okposo’s condition.
If this is all true, it seems like mostly good news. A concussion is never something to take lightly – some can threaten a career – but Okposo was placed in intensive care, so there were even greater concerns regarding the 29-year-old’s health.
There’s no indication yet regarding when he might return to NHL competition. On the bright side, he has plenty of time to heal up during the summer, though considering the situation overall, he also might need to miss some time in 2017-18.