Former Capitals defenseman Phil Housley is among the names being floated around as a possible head coaching candidate for the Buffalo Sabres.
Lindy Ruff was relieved of his duties on Wednesday after more than 1,100 games behind the Sabres bench, with Ron Rolston named interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
Buffalo is 6-10-1 this season and in last place in the Northeast Division. Prior to his dismissal, Ruff was the longest tenured head coach in the NHL having been hired by the Sabres in July 1997.
Rolston comes to Buffalo after a year and a half with the club’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Rochester Americans, where he compiled a 63-44-2-15 record.
As for Housley, the Hall of Fame defenseman and veteran of 21 NHL seasons coached the United States to a gold medal at the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships and has expressed interest in returning to the NHL someday.
“You have goals as a player whether they’re short-term or long-term and you have goals as a coach,” Housley told CSNWashington.com last summer.
“For me, my long-term goal is to eventually get to the NHL and if [coaching the World Junior team] helps then so be it… You always want to challenge yourself and I’d really like to move up to the next level at some point in my life.”
Housley spent two years with the Capitals from 1996-98, but he is best remembered as a Sabre. The Sabres selected Housley sixth overall in the 1982 NHL Draft, and the St. Paul, Minnesota native spent the first eight years of his Hall of Fame career in Buffalo.
Housley began coaching shortly after retiring from the NHL in 2004 and the seven-time NHL All-Star has been the head coach at Stillwater High School in Minnesota since 2005. He has also been an assistant head coach with USA Hockey at the 2004 Under-18 Four Nations Cup, and at the 2007 and 2011 World Junior Championships.
“Just being behind the bench for the first time [in 2004], it was a great feeling to be that close to the action without actually playing and I just fell in love with it,” he said.
“I was very fortunate to make the transition from done playing to moving into a coaching role and staying connected to the game. I have a tremendous passion for the game whether it’s as a player or a coach and now I just keep trying to move up the [coaching] ladder.”
Housley’s biggest coaching milestone came in January when the U.S. beat Sweden in the gold medal game at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
“He was a great coach,” Capitals prospect and World Junior gold medalist Riley Barber told the Capitals Radio Network. “He was always positive and I think that his positive attitude helped us as a team and helped us really blossom as a team in the end. He was never negative and he was always positive even when we lost. So I think his approach to the whole tournament was a very key thing.”
Other names that may surface as possible head coaching candidates in Buffalo should the Sabres not hire Rolston on a permanent basis include:
- JON COOPER (head coach AHL’s Syracuse Crunch; 2011-12 AHL Championship; 2009-10 USHL Championship)
- DALLAS EAKINS (head coach AHL’s Toronto Marlies; 2011-12 AHL Conference Champion)
- DALE HAWERCHUK (former Sabre; Hall-of-Fame member; head coach Barrie Colts)
- PATRICK ROY (Hall-of-Fame member head coach QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts)