The Buffalo Sabres were unable to hire former Detroit Red Wings‘ head coach Mike Babcock, but they did not wait long before naming Dan Bylsma as their new man behind the bench this week. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported a five-year contract for Bylsma with the Sabres, and the 44-year old will be the 17th head coach in franchise history.
Bylsma did not coach in the NHL this year after being fired by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he had a 252-117-32 regular season record over five-plus seasons as Penguins’ head coach. He led Pittsburgh to the 2009 Stanley Cup after taking over for Michel Therrien with 25 regular season games to go that season, and Bylsma also won the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year in 2011.
A lack of recent postseason success spelled the end for Bylsma in Pittsburgh, as the team advanced past the second round just once in his five full seasons as coach. Injuries took Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin out of the lineup a lot over that time, but it ultimately looked like time for both sides to move on.
Prior to taking over the Penguins Bylsma coached in the AHL, so that experience with young players makes him a good choice to accelerate Buffalo’s rebuilding process. With the No. 2 pick in next month’s draft, another young player (Jack Eichel?) will be added to an intriguing overall mix of players.
A five-year deal for Bylsma shows commitment from both sides, which is the right move in concert with where the Sabres are right now. But if the team does not show tangible progress over the next couple seasons, any financial concerns are not likely to prevent a change from happening.
I think the Sabres can take a big step up next season, to the fringes of playoff contention and perhaps beyond. If that happens, Bylsma will surely be a top coach of the year contender and he may even win the award for the second time.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter.