Closing in on the end of the second year of his five year contract, Dan Bylsma may be on the hot seat. A season riddled with injuries and a ragtag D core, it’s understandable to see why the Sabres have struggled. It’s also understandable to see fans, among others, defend Bylsma. He hasn’t been given the best roster and Tim Murray shouldn’t be immune to criticism either. Now in the second year removed from the “tank”, the Sabres were expected to make the jump to playoff contention after showing signs of life in Bylsma’s first year as head coach. With the Sabres in the middle of a 3-6-1 run and sitting in 7th place in the Atlantic, frustration has set in for Sabres fans itching for a playoff series. Six years since a playoff game and fans are looking for answers.
There is no easy answer to this Sabres season. The blame should be distributed around equally. When it comes to roster issues, Tim Murray should face criticism. He didn’t build a good enough D core and when injuries started to pile up it became evident that we didn’t have organizational depth either. While I didn’t expect a roster ready to contend deep into the playoffs, I did expect Murray to build a team that could at least reach the playoffs. One of the great things about Tim Murray is that he is able to admit when he is wrong and that should give some hope that Murray won’t continue to make the same mistakes in the future. So in the end, I do agree Bylsma should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to roster issues we have faced.
On the other hand he should not be given a pass when the Sabres have struggled to find any sort of consistency all season. Too many times the Sabres have seemed to sit back in the third period when they are up. The Sabres forecheck is nonexistent on some nights. Our defenseman attempt far too many stretch passes. It’s frustrating when you see Josh Gorges try to make a pass from the corner to the opponents blue line ten times a game just to see it come back the other way. Bylsma’s unwillingness to adapt to his surroundings has been troubling too. The rumors that he is losing the locker room is worrisome but not that surprising considering the same thing happened when he was fired by the Penguins.
So what do the Sabres do? Do they cut ties with Bylsma this summer and start fresh? Do they let him start the season with a revamped roster?
Bob McKenzie said this, when talking about Bylsma’s future,
“At this point in time, I would suggest that Bylsma will be back. But that’s not going to be carved in stone until after the season and the review process goes through the proper stages.”
While at times I have called for Bylsma to be fired, I wouldn’t necessarily view it as the end of the world if we bring him back to start the season. It probably gives him a fair chance to work with a somewhat complete roster. Tim Murray will have all offseason to build this team up, especially on the back end. If we start to see the team stray into the bad habits we have seen them have this year then I would fire Bylsma.
If Bylsma does in fact get fired this offseason, I would love to see the Sabres go after a younger coach with a more modern approach to the game instead of going after an old time hockey coach. Hockey is moving towards a faster and more skilled game. Tim Murray will have to adapt and anyone that is coaching the Sabres will have to adapt as well.
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