Sabres coach on hot seat; GM says team's play 'unacceptable'

Buffalo Sabres coach Ralph Krueger’s status has been placed into question after first-year general manager Kevyn Adams called his underperforming team’s play “flat-out not good enough” during a wide-ranging conference call on Friday.

Adams was short on specifics when it came to Krueger, saying “everything is under evaluation” and adding he has full authority from owners Terry and Kim Pegula to make hockey decisions.

“He understands the situation we’re in is unacceptable, and the players do, everybody does,” Adams said of the second-year coach.

Buffalo Sabres' Colin Miller is escorted to the penalty box after fighting with New York Islanders' Anders Lee during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Uniondale, N.Y. The Islanders won 5-2. (AP PhotoFrank Franklin II)

“I like Ralph a lot. I’ve learned a lot from Ralph,” he added. “But we both know that this hasn’t been good enough in terms of translating to success. We’ll assess everything.”

As for his players, Adams questioned his team’s lack of competitiveness and passion. He said he is considering shaking up his roster through trades but ruled out a “full-fledged” rebuild.

Though Adams said captain Jack Eichel hasn’t requested a trade, the GM sidestepped a question over whether he would consider dealing him.

Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel (9) skates during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP PhotoJeffrey T. Barnes)

“Jack is one of the best players in the world, period. Are people going to make a phone call and ask? Of course. And that’s the extent of it,” Adams said. “For me, Jack is someone when you see him going and you see the dynamic difference-maker he can be, there’s not many in the league like him.”

Adams’ comments in the hastily scheduled call with reporters came with the Sabres in freefall and already in jeopardy of extending their playoff drought to an NHL record-matching 10th season. Coming off a 5-2 loss at the New York Islanders on Thursday, Buffalo (6-12-3) is 0-4-1 in its past five and in the midst of a 2-9-1 skid.

“I’m angry and I hope that all of you are,” Adams said. “I would hope that our fans are because that means you care, and that’s a good place to start. But what’s going on is unacceptable.”

This is not what was expected after Adams' offseason moves. He signed forward Taylor Hall to a one-year $8 million contract and acquired veteran center Eric Staal in a trade with Minnesota.

Krueger has been criticized for being too rigid with his philosophy, which has led to Buffalo ranking last in the league in scoring 24 goals in five-on-five situations and 29th in goals per game at 2.19. The coach was also questioned for benching high-priced forward Jeff Skinner during a three-game stretch last week.

Eichel publicly contradicted Kruger when discussing the timing of an injury, which led to the captain missing two games.

Krueger has one season remaining on his contract. He’s the team’s fifth coach since Lindy Ruff was fired in February 2013. Krueger was noted for being a motivator and innovator, but had been out of hockey for five years while overseeing English Premier League soccer club Southampton FC.

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