Grönborg The One That Got Away
The Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill will have to look elsewhere for his team’s next head coach.
News broke early Thursday morning out of Switzerland where Richard Grönborg, the soon-to-be most eligible eligible hockey coach in the world is signing a contract with the ZSC Lions to be their next head coach.
One questions the timing of the Grönborg announcement. I see this as a huge distraction as the World Championships begin tomorrow. Why not wait until after the tournament to announce personal news? Perhaps ZSC backed up two stuffed full Brinks trucks and maid Grönborg a cash offer he couldn’t refuse.
Since last summer, Grönborg has been strongly linked to the Buffalo Sabres. Grönborg, an American citizen, is a hybrid head coach that was born in Sweden where he has coached several Sabres players and prospects including Rasmus Dahlin, Linus Ullmark, Alex Nylander, Victor Olofsson and Rasmus Asplund.
When Phil Housley was fired by the Sabres six weeks ago, Grönborg and Todd McLellan became the two hot candidates to succeed Housley. When McLellan accepted the head coaching job with the LA Kings, It appeared as though Grönborg would be the first position head coaching candidate in Buffalo. Grönborg’s innovative, competitive coaching strategy and his one on one communication style with his players and management made him very attractive to the Sabres.
Sabres fans re going to view Grönborg as the one the got away.
Grönborg, 50, told me three weeks ago he was looking forward to May 26 because that is when his contract is to expire as head coach of Sweden’s national men’s hockey team. Grönborg has won back to back gold medals for Sweden at the IIHF World Championships and is looking to retire from his 13 year career with Team Sweden with a three-peat.
To whom will Botterill turn now to be the head coach of the Sabres?
We now know that Botterill has interviewed Dave Tippett, who is also being considered for the Edmonton Oilers head coaching job as well as the Seattle expansion team that begins NHL play in two seasons.
It is believed that Botterill is looking for a veteran head coach with great communication skills. In the past few weeks, several worthwhile veteran coaching candidates found new employment opportunities.
At the current pace, all such remaining coaching candidates will find new NHL jobs before the end of May. Jason Botterill is GM of a Team Canada at the Works Championships in Slovakia right now and won’t be back in the States until May 27 or 28.
The Sabres are not the only NHL team with a head coaching vacancy. The Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators are also aggressively searching for their respective next head coach.
Anaheim is likely going to promote Dallas Eakins from AHL San Diego to replace Randy Carlyle. Ottawa May hire Maple Leafs assistant DJ Smith as its next bench boss.
Kris Knoblauch is now popular choice for the Sabres head coaching job. Knoblauch spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Flyers under Dave Hakstol and Scott Gordon. He’s not an experienced NHL head coach but he has been on an NHL bench for the past two seasons. That experience counts.
Knoblauch is the essence of the new-school style of coaching that mixes high hockey intelligence with strong communication skills. Knoblauch, 40, was Connor McDavid’s head coach at the Erie Otters. Knoblauch has a very strong resume. His teams won 50 or more games for four straight seasons. He won an OHL Championship in 2016-17 with the Otters and he won a WHL Championship with the Kootenay Ice in 2010-11.
In his four full seasons with Erie, Knoblauch's team recorded three 300+ goal seasons and had a combined goals-for/goals-against differential of +484… His team averaged 4.53 goals per-game in that time span, while allowing an average of 2.75 goals-allowed per-game.
In his four full-seasons behind the Erie bench, Knoblauch's team led the OHL on the power play in two seasons (13-14 & 14-15), while finishing second on the power play for the last two seasons (15-16 & 16-17). The Otters had been in the Top 3 of power-play goals scored in all four seasons and owned a 28.6 percent success-rate on the man-advantage during that time.
While at Erie, Knoblauch developed several prospects into NHL players such as Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat, Andre Burakovsky, Connor Brown, Nick Baptiste, Remi Elie, Travis Dermott, Adam Pelech, Taylor Raddysh, Mason Marchmwnt and Kurtis MacDermid to name a few.
If newly hired Oilers GM Ken Holland hires Dave Tippett to be his head coach, Knoblauch will be available for the Sabres to interview and hire.
Kevin Dineen is a candidate the Sabres will likely reach out to. University of wisnsin hwad coach Tony Granato is also a possibility.
Botterill will likely get shot down is he asks Sheldon Keefe for an interview. Keefe is welded to the hip of Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas, who hired Keefe to coach the Soo Greyhounds as well as the Toronto Marlies. Don’t be surprised if Keefe is given an NHL style pay raise and a promotion to assist Mike Babcock in 2019-20. Keefe is the heir apparent to Babcock’s throne in Toronto.
Todd Richards is also a candidate. Richards is the current assistant coach to Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Jacques Martin has been linked to the Sabres but as an associate assistant coach.
Earlier this week, newly minted Philadelphia Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault hired Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien as his assistant coaches. Yeo and Therrien have NHL head coaching experience.