The Buffalo Sabres have hired Ralph Krueger as their next head coach in hopes of ending an eight-year playoff drought, the team announced Wednesday.
The 59-year-old Krueger coached the Edmonton Oilers during the NHL’s lockout-shortened season in 2012-13. He was fired by the team via Skype after the youth-laden Oilers finished 19-22-7.
Krueger has vast coaching experience, including overseeing Switzerland’s national team to Olympic Winter Games appearances in 2002, 2006 and 2010.
“Throughout his career, Ralph has shown the ability to adapt to a variety of high-pressure environments while leading some of the world’s elite players,” Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said in a statement. “His strong communication skills, leadership and diverse background make him a uniquely qualified candidate to lead our team going forward.”
Krueger returns to the NHL after spending the past five years as chairman of soccer’s Southampton FC of the English Premier League. Krueger was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and played hockey professionally in Germany from 1979 to 1991.
He replaces Phil Housley, who was fired after two seasons. Last season, Buffalo won just 16 of its final 57 games following a 10-game winning streak in November.
In finishing 13th in the Eastern Conference, the Sabres joined the 2016-17 Philadelphia Flyers as the only teams in NHL history to miss the playoffs in a season in which they won at least 10 straight games.
The Sabres’ playoff drought stands as the NHL’s longest active streak.
Krueger said he will “strive to maximize the potential” of the Sabres and is “eager to get behind the bench and represent this passionate hockey city.”
The hiring came as Botterill returned to Buffalo for a number of scouting meetings this week. He had been in Slovakia working as a management member of Canada’s national team competing at the world championships.
Krueger’s experience includes coaching Team Europe to second at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. He also served as a special adviser to Canada’s national team when it won gold at the 2014 Sochi Games.