Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill gave head coach Phil Housley the “vote of confidence” on Wednesday.
In an interview with reporters including The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington and The Athletic’s John Vogl, Botterill said that he is not looking to make a coaching change.
“We’ve made progress as an organization compared to last year. We’ve been in a position where we’ve been in games,” Botterill said. “I see the results on the ice. I see the communication that we’re going through here. There’s not going to be a coaching change.”
No doubt about it, there are Sabres fans who are frustrated with a team that looks like it will see a playoff drought extend to eight seasons. Buffalo also hasn’t won a playoff series since 2006-07, having lost in the first round in their two postseason appearances since.
Still, Housley hasn’t exactly had a ton of time to turn things around.
That 10-game winning streak and brief spell at the top of the NHL’s standings raised expectations, so seeing Buffalo trail eight-seed Columbus by six points stings. It’s probably not much comfort that the Sabres have already exceeded last season’s 62 points by generating 63 standings points in 59 games.
Such an improvement comes from a lowly point, no doubt, but it’s fair to argue that Housley might deserve one more season.
This is only Housley’s second campaign with the Sabres, and it’s tough to ignore the instability this organization has struggled with. Housley joins Dan Bylsma, Ted Nolan, and Ron Rolston as the fourth coach the Sabres have hired since dismissing mainstay Lindy Ruff in 2013. Botterill’s also only been in place since 2017, so a big front office change would serve as a pretty sudden swerve.
On one hand, you don’t want to keep doing something that isn’t working, and plenty will argue that the Sabres would be guilty of exactly that if they stuck with Housley behind the bench.
On the other hand, when you look at some of the most troubled organizations in sports, a big chunk of them seem to keep changing regimes. For all the benefits that can come with new methods and voices, it can be rough on players, whether that means useful contributors getting shipped out for the sake of change, or merely incumbent players having to learn new systems and connect with new coaches.
With Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin leading the charge, there seems like some light at the end of the tunnel for Buffalo. Like it or not, it seems like Botterill is giving Housley more time to prove that he can be the vehicle who can transport this franchise out of that darkness.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.