2017-06-16 / Sports

Housley returning to Buffalo as Sabres coach

BY JOHN WAWROW

The Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y.

Phil Housley still remembers high-fiving Sabres fans at Memorial Auditorium in opening his Hall of Fame career in Buffalo during the 1980s.

Now, Housley is looking forward to bringing that type of excitement back to Buffalo — this time as the Sabres head coach.

Some 35 years to the day since the then-18-year-old was selected by the Sabres with the No. 6 pick in the NHL draft, Housley is being asked to instill relevance to a franchise coming off its latest offseason house-cleaning.

“Looking back, I didn’t realize how passionate the people are here,” Housley said during his introductory news conference. “And I’d like to get that passion back as a head coach.”

Housley takes over as a first-time NHL head coach in replacing Dan Bylsma, who was fired along with general manager Tim Murray in April after Buffalo extended its franchise worst playoff drought to six years. And Housley was hired by another new-comer, general manager Jason Botterill.

Though Housley’s ties to Buffalo were hard to overlook, Botterill was more impressed by the work he did over the past four seasons as a Nashville Predators assistant coach.

It was in Nashville where Housley was credited for developing an up-tempo, offensive-minded, P.K. Subban and Roman Josi-led group of defensemen. They played a key role in leading the Predators to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance, which ended with loss to Pittsburgh in Game 6 on Sunday.

“He gets the most out of his players, and I think that trait resonated in the interview process,” Botterill said. “His approach to the game aligns with the way we envision our hockey team playing, and we’re excited to see where his leadership will take us.”

Botterill and Housley have several connections. They were both members of the Calgary Flames from 1999- 2001, though Botterill spent much of that time playing in the minors.

More recently, both had ties to the Stanley Cup finalists. Botterill was the Penguins assistant GM and forced to leave the team during its playoff upon being hired by the Sabres last month.

Housley had no hard feelings toward his new boss when reminded how the Predators lost to a Penguins team Botterill had a hand in building.

“We’re over that now,” Housley said, with a big laugh.

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