Tag Archives: Ralph Krueger

Ralph Krueger Interview – Schopp & The Bulldog (5/15/19)

Schopp & the Bulldog (3:30 p.m.)
WGR 550

https://wgr550.radio.com/media/audio-channel/5-15-ralph-krueger-schopp-bulldog (12:09)


Bulldog: It’s interesting to both of us that you were speaking to the fan base in public, not in public like on the radio like you have been today and again with us now, but when you were here a few weeks ago. The first thought I had when hearing about that was what those people are thinking now. Like, if thinking back on it they’re like, “Boy, I think I talked to the new Sabre coach last week.” Tell me about your motivation for wanting to do that and what you were seeking and what you found.

Ralph Krueger: Well, most importantly for me was to feel the heartbeat of the city. I’ve been following the Sabres since I was a kid growing up in Manitoba, and I’ve been to the city a few times when I was with Edmonton coaching, and I understand the passion and the history that’s there. But I wanted to feel a little bit what the market was saying, so I went two nights in a row I had some free time and watched two NHL playoff games in six different locations. So between periods, I’d walk around, sit beside somebody at a bar or in a booth, and chat about the Buffalo Sabres. I just wanted to hear a little bit what the public is saying. But overall, you could feel the passion and you could feel the belief in the core of the team. It was just part of walking up all the way through Allentown and Elmwood and everything and just seeing what the city’s like and the different personalities and the different hot spots. It was good; it was a good feel and I enjoyed the adventure.

Mike Schopp: What stage of your negotiations with the Sabres were you at at that point. Did they know you were doing that?

RK: Yes, they did. I had a meeting with Kim and Terry Pegula one of the mornings after, and Jason [Botterill] and I had a couple of days of meetings and that was near the end of April. It was a good way for me — they gave me some free space and some free time, and you know, walk along the water — just to look at the architecture in the city and some of the history. I love the size of the city. It’s the kind of environment my wife and I feel comfortable in. We’re not — I  mentioned it today to the media already — we’re not really “big city” people. It’s got a good feel and a good size. I like the artsy development that’s going on and the renovations of a lot of the areas. So that’s a side — I think it’s really important as a balancer. The hockey is, of course the number one magnet. The facilities that are in and around KeyBank Center are outstanding and that’s the place where you want to spend your time, but you need to have balance as a coach and you need to know that there’s a good spot for your wife to be in. I feel good about that.

BD: When your name came up two years ago, it seemed like an intriguing idea, but I sort of lost hope about it right away because you sounded — and it read like — you had unfinished business with Southampton. So when it came up again this year, I was thinking of the Pierre LeBrun piece [in The Athletic], where you talked about maybe more of a president-type, an executive-type role, as opposed to coaching. What changed over the course of –I think that interview was from early April — what changed from then to now?

RK: Well Pierre spoke to me about three or four days after I made the decision public to end my time in the Premier League in Southampton. Quite honestly, I really opened up the viewfinder after that. There were opportunities, of course, in Europe of many sorts. There were a few approaches quite quickly out of the National Hockey League, and the one that interested me and intrigued me was the conversations with Jason. And I have to tell you that Jason Botterill very quickly woke the coach in me again. I’ve been a head coach for 25 years on many different platforms. I could feel the passion and probably having been away from being a coach a few years has refreshed me. And truly, I was quite clear. I remember one meal with my wife shortly after where I just said to her, “This is what’s exciting me the most. This is where my heart’s beating the highest.” So I pursued the conversations with Jason and all the boxes were ticked back-to-back-to-back and we have this end result, which I’m looking forward to stepping into that role beginning today.

MS: So the connection between yourself and Jason Botterill and his father became known here in the last few days, and then again it was brought out more today. To what extent did that maybe manifest during the season, or as Botterill is running the Sabres the last two years? Were you in contact with him about the Sabres through that, or is this really more just once the opening came to be that you sort of re-connected with him, which is closer to the reality?

RK: The only context we had was really on a personal level to congratulate each other whenever something good was happening with our teams. Otherwise, the contact did not pick up until Jason had made the decision here to go with a new head coach this season. Then everything just happened organically and naturally after that. Our communication is really open. I can feel the common culture and I can feel the vision that is in the club already and the culture that has been instilled by Jason here, which I embrace and only want to build on. It happened quickly, it’s happened instinctively and naturally, and I think that’s the best way for something like this to happen.

BD: I have a feeling what I’m about to ask is something that you could probably write a long, maybe even a book about; maybe you already have. But as best we can in just a few minutes, as far as coaching goes, there’s motivating, there’s extracting the best out of each member of the team that you’re working with, and then there’s systems, and there’s X’s and O’s and tactics. How much of a balance do you feel you have in that? Do you have a strength in one area versus the other and a weakness?

RK: Well, first of all, I definitely build a coaching team. So the coaches will all have a voice at all times. Ultimately, I have to make the final decisions and I’m fine with that. I love the coaching on the bench and enjoy being spontaneous and adaptable according to the performance of players. But I definitely love to use my staff and strengthen the game that we can offer the players through that personnel. But myself, I believe that every single thing has it’s time and every single thing has its importance, so I believe that motivation and structure of getting the group connected off the ice is first and foremost as we build our tactics, which should then show the same unity on the ice. The physicality is something I’ve learned a lot more about being in the Premier League these last six years, and the sports science that we’ve been doing there, I look forward to bringing more of it into our physical preparation. The technical side of a hockey player needs to be worked on continuously. I don’t think there’s ever a time when a player’s finished with his development. One of the challenges I like to do is spend time on technical development on a daily basis. So it’s every component, really, that I like to focus on, but I will use my personnel to help me in putting it into play. Even the physical fitness guys, the fitness coaches, the physiotherapist will be involved with the pre-activation. More than just the coaches will have a role pre-, post- and within training. I think you’re getting a feel –I can probably write a book — but I don’t believe that any head coach is 100 percent expert on anything. Putting those pieces together in the right balance at the write time is what, in the end, will define you as a winning or a losing coach. My job will be to try my very best to get that right.

MS: Well, I mean, in Western New York you’ve certainly got, in the spirit of these comments, Scotty Bowman, for starters. There are a lot of wins in the area, with him or John Muckler. It’s part of Buffalo’s proud history with hockey. The Sabres have asked us to keep this to 10 minutes and we’re there; I just want to tell you quickly, I was out last night and I ran into Nate Oates, the departing University at Buffalo men’s basketball coach, who lives on Grand Island, where I do. Not because we knew you were about to be hired, but he did just happen to tell me, “My house is for sale.” It’s nice, by the way. It’s about as good as you can do, if that interests you.

RK: [Laughs] I think I’m going to probably end up somewhere in the heart of the city. I’m a walking guy, too. Tell him thanks for the offer.

RK: I look forward to meeting you live and I also send my very best wishes to the fans of the Sabres. I look forward to communicating very openly with them about what we’re all up to and how we’re going to build the team into a squad that they’re going to enjoy looking at.

Ralph Krueger Interview – The Instigators (5/15/19)

The Instigators (11:45 a.m.)
WGR 550

https://wgr550.radio.com/media/audio-channel/05-15-new-sabres-head-coach-ralph-krueger-instigators (14:18)

Andrew Peters: Welcome to Buffalo, welcome to The Instigators Mr. Krueger. What’s the first order of business?

Ralph Krueger: The first order of business was to do your program. No, it’s good to hear you and it’s always excellent to begin a coaching job with players on the other end of the phone. That’s a nice start.

Martin Biron: Well one of the players that you coached and you’ve known for a long time is Thomas Vanek and we had him right away at the top of the show and he had nothing but good things to say about you. Tell us a little bit about your experience through your hockey world and coaching and your playing days as well.

RK: Well more than anything I’ve been living in Europe most of my adult life but I began my career in hockey as a three-year-old walking onto an outdoor rink just outside of Winnipeg. Hockey has always remained my love and I’ve just been able to grow and develop as a human being through all different stages of playing as a professional, coaching, even had a player-coaching gig at the beginning for a couple of years. I’ve definitely gone the multiple destination route all over the map in hockey but always staying close to the game and trying to get better every day as a leader and as a coach. I’m excited now to put all that experience into play in Buffalo.

Craig Rivet: How long is it going to take before you start to reach out to the players on the team? I’m sure that they’re extremely excited with a new coach coming aboard. How long before you start reaching out to each guy on the team? 

RK: Well I’ll be meeting with Jack (Eichel) and Sam (Reinhart) in Slovakia next week. Our season just ended in the U.K. last weekend so I have some things to clean up but I’ll be in Slovakia and be able to watch Sam and Jack and speak to them. Sadly, Brandon (Montour) got hurt and won’t be there anymore, but in the weeks that follow I’ll be reaching out to each individual player and begin that process of understanding what their motivations are, how we can maximize their abilities and their potential. That’s going to be my job and I really look forward to picking up with the players in the next few weeks here.

AP: What does that conversation sound like, look like when you talk to players like Jack and Sam?

RK: Well, first of all I’m going to do a lot of listening. Jack is now an experienced National Hockey League player, Sam has been there a few years now too and I think it’s important to listen first and foremost and then to process. I need to make sure that the staff, the coaching staff is ready to go when we blow the whistle for our first training camp practice and we’ve got four months to get all the information that we need to be able to do that. Of course I’ll be letting them know what’s important to me, but I want to feel what’s been working for them. I want to feel where they see our assets as an organization, as a hockey club. And I’ll be tapping into that experience first and foremost before I formulate the final plan that the players will then be feeling when we go to training camp.

MB: How much attention were you paying to the National Hockey League in the last three years here since we saw you last on the bench at the World Cup for Team Europe? How close have you been paying attention and how much work will it take for you to get up to speed with what’s going on around the whole National Hockey league? 

RK: Well the good thing, Marty, is  my experience, especially in the last decade, took me very close to a lot of NHL head coaches and that relationship has stayed on a permanent communication basis. So I’ve got friends all over the league, quite a few actually in our division, which is a good thing. They’ve been quite open with me. I take the example of the Olympic Games in 2014, where we had Babcock leading a group of (Ken) Hitchcock, Lindy Ruff, Claude Julien and myself. The communication that went on there for one year where everybody put everything out on the table and the discussions were really open. Discussions of that nature have stayed on. I had Paul Maurice and Brad Shaw at the World Cup in 2016. We’ve become very close friends and are permanently communicating with each other. So all over the league I’ve got people, Jon Cooper down in Tampa and so on, who really are friends through my experience and it’s been helpful. I have to tell you the truth, even while I was in the Premier League, my startup site, every single morning, was  NHL.com and always watching games, highlights in my free time. So the connection has been tight. My son is a professional hockey player too now, playing in Switzerland. Whether internationally or in the National Hockey League, it’s remained my passion. It’s remained the favorite place for me to go and so my connections have been deep. But that’s a good question and I need to work really hard through the summer to make sure I’m completely up to speed on the personnel of our opposition.

AP: We talk a lot on this show about team identity. Do you have an idea of what kind of identity you want your team to have?

RK: Well, first and foremost, I’m the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres because Jason Botterill has been reaching out to me of late and especially when I made it clear that it was time for me to get back into hockey, our conversations just flowed so naturally and were so strong. The culture that Jason wants his organization, his players, his team to look like completely is in line with what I believe in. And then when I met Terry and Kim Pegula, I have to tell you the Pegulas are really, really clearly the people that finalized my decision to come here when I look at the culture that they want to see in the club. So those things are really important and then my job will be to drive that culture into the dressing room, into the players. And people should feel it when we play Buffalo Sabres hockey that there’s an identity there that people respect and that we are competitive every single night. And I look forward to bringing into the front, that will be my job.

CR: I had the opportunity to play under nine different NHL coaches in my time and when I look back to those coaches, you spoke of Claude Julien, you spoke of Lindy Ruff. I had a lot of other great coaches and one thing I realized is that in each and every coach, those guys were only as good as the guys that they surrounded themselves with. And that’s talking about the assistant coaches and guys that the head coach speaks with and build game plans and environment and everything else. Have you had an opportunity or do you have anybody in mind of who you plan on bringing on to your staff?

RK: I can’t really bring any names on the table. I will be contacting the assistants that were with the Sabres this year and will be reaching out to some candidates that I have had experience with. Again, I’m the type of leader that also likes to surround myself with people that are ready to ask hard questions and challenge me on a daily basis. That’s going to be important as we go forward, that we have a real, honest staff environment where everybody is involved and everybody has a voice. The important thing for me will be to find a group that has different strengths that brings assets to the table that are unique and not just one tone through the coaching staff. So that search will begin and Jason and I will be working very tight on building that team. We’re not in a big rush; I think if we have it set by the development camp it would be a good goal to have, to have your entire coaching staff in place. So we’re going to take our time and get it right rather than get it quick.

AP: You had Steve Smith in Edmonton; how influential was he, if at all, with your decision to come here?

RK: Steve, I’m sure, gave an opinion to Jason which didn’t hurt, because I’m here.

AP: I didn’t know if maybe you had any dialogue with him at all or anything.

RK: No, I’m the kind of person, I didn’t make a lot of calls. I like to make my own impression, to tell you the truth. I didn’t reach out to a lot of people. I came into Buffalo undercover a few weeks ago and walked the streets for five, six hours on one day and three hours the next. I enjoyed the passion of the people. I asked people about hockey, I watched two playoff games. I’m not going to mention the pubs I was in, but it was really interesting. I asked people about the Sabres, I asked them how they were feeling about the potential of the group and what I felt was a passion for the game. I really like the size of the market. I’m more a smaller-city person than a big-city person personally, but also, I know the history of the Sabres. I grew up loving to watch the way they played and I can feel the passion for the fan base and the hunger for something good to happen here. I’d love to see that happening when I think of those people who now won’t be able to talk to me in the pub anymore. It’s certainly the right time to go to a fabulous hockey market.

MB: The last few years here in Buffalo, the fans have been patient. Obviously Jason Botterill has talked about progression and wanting to see this group progress, play meaningful games in March and April. But everything really, it comes down to playoffs. What is your goal, realistically, for this group moving forward right from the first year?

RK: Well it’s a little early to make big promises, but no question that I have taken this job with the belief that we can become a contender very quickly and that we need to be in the mix. I know Jason and I have spoken about that a lot. I was part of a rebuild in Edmonton and this is not a rebuild. This team is ready to go to another level of competitiveness and we need to get into that mode really quickly. I think that my life as a coach really predominately was at World Championships, Olympics, World Cups and I coached over 17 tournaments at that level, 18 actually all together. Every game in those tournaments was like a playoff game, every game was important and mattered and I think that’s what we want to be. A club that very quickly is playing hockey in games that matter right through the season into April and then beyond. I can tell you that a defined goal, it would be too early to speak about, but the general feeling is let’s become competitive quickly and let’s become a contender quickly.

Ralph Krueger Introductory Conference Call (5/15/19)

Ralph Krueger Introductory Conference Call (12:30 p.m.)

https://sabresdigitalpressbox.com/2019/05/15/ralph-krueger-introductory-conference-call/ (24:42)


Q: Talk about the factors, from your perspective, the main ones that led to your decision to accept this job. (Adam Benigni – WGRZ)

A: First and foremost was the very natural communication together with Jason Botterill. I think when you look at this point in my career, it’s extremely important the people I’m going to be working with and for. When Jason and I began the conversation a couple of years ago, it just had a natural flow to it. When we picked it up at that point, when I was deciding to move back to the game of hockey, he really embodied a lot of the things I care about. His culture that he’s driving into the Sabres was important. When I then met Terry and Kim Pegula a few weeks ago, the culture at the top was confirmed; the path that they would like to go down, the way people are treated and the passion they have for the city of Buffalo, but also for the game of hockey through the Sabres. The key reasons would be those three people that really made me feel passionate about taking this responsibility.

Q: What is that culture that you speak of? What kind of things do you want to see — and I’ll say that you and Jason want to see? What are you trying to develop in the locker room and with this team? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)

A: First and foremost, we want to earn respect and be difficult to play against every night. I think that Buffalo is a market — first of all, it’s passion and the history are clear to me — but it’s a market that respects hard work. The unity that I will be working on putting together not only off, but on the ice, it builds from off the ice onto the way we play, that you feel us connected when we’re out there. It’s certainly a hard-working culture. It’s a culture that treats people right with giving everybody a voice, but quite clear who has the responsibility in the end. I think that it’s an open and honest culture, but one that strives to find out what everybody’s made of. First as individuals and then finally us as a group. Those are driving elements for me in the culture we’d like to build in Buffalo.

Q: One of the things that seemed to be a problem under the Pegulas when they made the change in hiring Jason and eventually Phil Housley was a lack of communication, a lack of character. They talked about those things back two years ago and Phil kind of even noted that he underestimated how much the culture needed to be changed in Buffalo. How do you go about addressing that? What have you seen from the team and how much can you not underestimate how important that factor is? (John Wawrow – Associated Press)

A: First and foremost, the most important communication for me here early on will be to listen. To communicate with the players and the staff and to learn about what has been going on and where the opportunity lies to take the club to another level. I know that I’m a good listener and I like to process that. Before we draw up our final plan, which we will kick off with training camp in September, we have four months of communication in all directions. I definitely like to keep those lines of communication open all the time. They never get shut down in good times or in bad. Let’s make sure that we’re continuing to strive for an environment where everybody knows what the expectations are. That’s what communication does: It clears what we expect from each other and what we expect from the way we want to play, eventually, on the ice. The only way that works is if we permanently work on clearing those paths. I find that’s certainly one of the strengths that I have that I’m going to be bringing to this job.

Q: You wanted to come back, you said, in more of a management portfolio, whether that was team president or whatever. Why did you decide, then, that you would come back to coaching? There are some people (who) probably say you haven’t been around the NHL for so long, how can you step back in when you’ve been running a soccer team? (Jim Matheson – Edmonton Journal)

A: I think it’s a really valid question that I would be asking too. I have to tell you first and foremost that when it was clear that I was stepping away from Southampton and that I wanted to come back into hockey, I opened up my viewfinder and a lot of opportunities started coming in my direction, which was nice, but there was nothing that lit a fire as much as my conversations with Jason. I could just feel the coaching magnet pulling me back. I believe that I’m very fresh, is certainly the case, but I’ve stayed very close to the game. All the friendships that I’ve built over the years are warm and I’ve been in contact with multiple head coaches over these last years. It’s always been my start-up site, NHL.com, and watching games or observing the way the league is operating has always been important to me. So I feel that in these next four months, I need to work hard to get up to speed. I need to build an outstanding assistant coaching staff around me to help in that process and to also add value to our leadership group from the coaching standpoint. I know there’s going to be some hard work ahead, but I personally look for opportunities where I’m going to be challenged and where I can continue to grow as a leader. I know this one will be one of those and I will build a team around me to help in the process.

Did you know Jason, then, from when you turned down the Pittsburgh job a couple years ago?

Well that was Jimmy Rutherford that was my primary contact.

Because Jason was working there then.

Yeah. I know Jason was in the background. He mentioned to me that that was the first time he was really aware of me. So I’m grateful to Jim Rutherford. We spent five years together; I was a consultant for him in Carolina (with the Hurricanes) until 2010 and it was the beginning. But our first good conversation one-on-one really happened in the summer of 2017.

[Botterill] wanted you to coach his team then?

We just had conversations. There was no way I was leaving Southampton at that time. We got to know each other at that point. My commitment — I’m a project person and that one wasn’t finished there, and now it is. So at that point, I wasn’t available to coach.

Q: What did you learn from your one lockout-shortened season as a head coach in Edmonton that you’re going to apply going into this job? (Lance Lysowski – The Buffalo News)

A: Well first of all, it was interesting to be an assistant coach for a couple of years, because moving from the international scene and my 18 tournaments and Olympics/World Championships/World Cups into the National Hockey League was definitely a learning curve. The head coaching year was the lockout year, which we all know was a difficult one for everybody involved, but I thought that it gave me a platform to understand better what I needed to develop, as far as a plan was concerned, if I was going to be a head coach. The partnerships that I then developed through the Olympic full year that I spent together with Lindy Ruff, Mike Babcock, Claude Julien and Ken Hitchcock, that was really an interesting year of growth and development. Adding the experience with Brad Shaw and Paul Maurice at the (2016) World Cup — all of those have helped me. You basically come out of that one year understanding what you need as a plan from beginning to end, and I’m ready to do that and put it into play now.

Q: As you look at the Sabres’ roster, and I understand you want to get here and obviously delve in much more deeply as you move forward, but what do you see and how far away is this team from — you know, they have the 10-game win streak this year, then things went south after that — how far away are they from true competitiveness and what do you think you need from a roster standpoint? (Adam Benigni – WGRZ)

A: Well one of the things, in my experience, when I was in Edmonton, that was a rebuild phase completely with nothing but youth. This is a really good mix; if you look at the young core, with some experience now, if you look at Jack (Eichel), Sam (Reinhart) and Casey (Mittelstadt) up front. The two Rasmuses, Dahlin and Ristolainen [on defense], Brandon Montour that’s been added now. Especially the younger players, there’s some good experience also in and around that group and I think that, above all, this group is ready to become a contender and to compete with anybody on any given night. I’m confident that we can become that kind of a team quite quickly. I like the way Jason has been putting this group together and they way he thinks. He understands the necessity of being strong with and without the puck and developing a team game that’s dynamic and allows this core group of players to develop and show their skill, but at the same time, find the discipline as a group to defend properly. That’ll be high on our agendas to put that game plan into place quite quickly to become a contender and competitor right into April. That’s where we want to be hanging around and I’m confident we can get there.

Q: I know “analytics” is a buzzword, especially these days, with coaching hires and I was just curious [about] your viewpoint on analytics and how you think they can help you learn more about the game, and what your stance is, just in general. (Matt Bove – WKBW)

A: Well I think it’s just another tool in our kit today and it’s one of the things in our box. It’s something also on the sports science level and the analytics level in these last few years at Southampton I’ve been able to learn many, many, many things that I’d like to put into play here in the National Hockey League and in Buffalo. We had quite a lot of opportunity to develop that area and I believe it’s an important part. But above all, it’ll come down to not overusing the analytics. I believe you need to create a space where the players have certain guidelines and a framework, but within that space, I like them to be able to be creative and also to let their instincts play. Finding that balance is the challenge that we have as a head coach. But I, again, will say that the analytics will play a role. Most of it will stay with the coaches and we’ll put it into play without handcuffing the players.

Q: Could you talk about, I guess you were able to come into Buffalo a couple weeks back, walk the streets, you popped into some bars, you were kind of doing your own reconnaissance work. Tell us that story. (Leo Roth – Rochester Democrat & Chronicle)

A: Well first and foremost, my wife and I are not “huge city” people. We love the type of city that Buffalo is. It’s very real; there’s a warmth there, and a passion for especially hockey that is important to me. There’s a history there that I, as a coach, have always found important to be working in an environment where there’s a responsibility; we matter in Buffalo. And that matters to me (as) the head coach. I want that pressure. I want that responsibility if I’m going to work in an environment, where an important part of what Buffalo is all about. When I went for my walk, I was able to tap in; I watched two NHL playoff games a few weeks ago and I changed bars every period, so I didn’t stay too long, but it was quite interesting. I’d sit beside Sabres fans and have conversations that I won’t be able to have with them now, but it was very enlightening. I certainly could feel the spirit of the city. I loved the history, the architecture and just the size. I could feel it’s a hard-working community and it’s a place that my wife and I feel very comfortable coming to live there. But, of course above all, the environment that I’ll be working in will be a match to what I was looking for.

Q: You spent six years in Southampton and had an interesting start there. Your owner was Katharina Liebherr. What was it like working for her? How was she as an owner and was her selling the team two years ago a reason for you to depart? (Michael Pachla – Hockeybuzz)

A: First and foremost, it was very refreshing to work for a woman. I enjoyed the dialogue. I enjoyed the priorities (which were) often different, in a good way. It brought a healthy balance to the club and that’s why I actually went there. The goal was definitely to sell the club and to allow it to develop at another level. Quite certainly, there was a commitment there for two more years when the owners took over, that I would remain and hand over in a proper way, and that’s happened now. But certainly, when I met Kim and Terry, the Pegulas, we had our conversation; it was outstanding in the balance that they bring as owners. I just felt very comfortable with them; extremely positive and passionate people, and I could feel that we’re going to have a very constructive journey together here, which is important for the fans to hear in the end, that it’s all about getting this group back on track and winning.

Q: When you think back — we’ve all seen the reports of how your job ended in Edmonton via, apparently, a Skype call. Do you have any, I’m not saying any bitterness toward the Oilers, but is there any feelings that you never got to finish what you began and just how abruptly things ended, do you know how much more you have to prove in some ways? (John Wawrow – Associated Press)

A: That’s a really good question, because it’s part of the energy and the passion that I have for this role right now. I have no hard feelings from my time in Edmonton. I never did. I was grateful for the opportunity, I was grateful for the experience that I had, and I moved on quickly after that. But now, to be able to re-enter, where I feel I’m walking into an environment that is ready to go to the next level, and not in a building-from-scratch phase. It’s certainly a reason why this became so interesting so quickly and why I feel a really high energy level here to throw myself into this job.

Q: What did the World Cup experience almost three years ago do for your career? (Bill Hoppe – Olean Times Herald)

A: Well that definitely confirmed that in my heart of hearts I’m a coach. My kids have been telling me ever since that that’s the happiest I’ve looked in the last six years, was when I was coaching in hockey at the World Cup. It was also having a group, at that level, very many top-level star NHL players with experience in one environment. If you look at (Marian) Hossa,  and (Zdeno) Chara and (Anze) Kopitar, the players and the team that we had at that point, with (Roman) Josi back on [defense] and so on — I can go through the whole lineup — it was quite a surprising group, but it also confirmed the way I’d like to operate as a coach in the National Hockey League. I think when I was in Edmonton I was still searching for the proper style and it was an opportunity, at the highest level against the best players in the world, to test a system of play which will be the core of what we will be implementing here. I’ve seen no reason to adjust that core plan of wanting to have a team that is aggressive in regards to the way it pressures the puck and uses speed in the attack as a balance to that. I think that the World Cup was an important experience also from a building standpoint. We built an organization there from scratch over one year. There was no federation or team in place. We had to think of all the different roles that you need within a group to have a chance to be successful. Making it up against Canada in the final really confirmed our process. So it certainly helped me a lot to have that experiment.

Q: Earlier in this call, you talked about the team being ready to be a contender. This team was last in the NHL after January 1, has not made the playoffs in eight years — the longest stretch in the league right now. The fan base is frustrated. Most people are disbelieving this team has what it takes. What makes you think the team as is can be a contender, and how do you approach the cultural problem with this club and this organization? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)

A: Well the parity in the National Hockey League is what makes the league so great. Where Buffalo has been and where we’re going to go, it’s percentage points that make the difference. It’s getting those percentage points right. I believe that all great players and developing players need some pain to understand the complete game that’s necessary to be a success in the National Hockey League. I think the players I mentioned before, especially the young ones, have had that experience, whether it was last year or over the last few years. I’m at heart, of course, an optimistic coach and an optimistic person, but I don’t believe I’m a dreamer. I believe I’m a realist and I’m looking at what I see here. I know we’re going to work hard through the summer to add some pieces and to make some adjustments in the roster. Only time will tell; I don’t want to make any big promises here. There’s only one that I will make, and that is that I will do everything within my power to find out what this group is made of very quickly and to get us into that competitive space for much longer than the team was able to get into last season. Again, I looked at this roster very deeply and I’m going to begin by meeting Jack (Eichel) and Sam (Reinhart) next week (at the IIHF World Championship) in Slovakia and continue the process of getting to know the players through the summer. It’s up to me to figure out how I can help them to add percentage points to their individual games. If we get those right, I think the next step will be there for us.

Q: I have two questions. What approaches and ideas which could be useful in the NHL have you picked up through your years in English football? And the second question is that you were maybe the only NHL coach who had a positive experience with Nail Yakupov in Edmonton. He had a good season last season in Russia and now he’s a free agent in both the NHL and KHL. Would you be interested in signing him? (Igor Eronko – Sport Express)

A: The biggest thing, internationally, that’s interesting is when you look at World Cups, and Olympics and World Championships is that your competition is forever changing in the way it plays. So every night, you have a completely different opponent with a different playing style. So you need to be really good in-game to be successful and you need to be able to adjust and adapt quickly, and I think that’s something that I’ll be able to bring from the international tournaments that I was a part of. Overall, from Southampton, my experience would be off the ice, I’ve already mentioned the sports science. The way the athletes work, the opportunities we have there to tap into will be quite a few. With Nail, I enjoyed my season with him. He was our top scorer that season in Edmonton. But the player personnel decisions, we’re only into our first day here and Jason will drive that process and we’ll be having discussions as we move forward on anybody who’s available.

Ralph Krueger Introductory Conference Call


BUFFALO, N.Y. (May 15, 2019) — The Buffalo Sabres today announced the team has hired Ralph Krueger as the 19th head coach in franchise history.

“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. “His strong communication skills, leadership and diverse background make him a uniquely qualified candidate to lead our team going forward.”

Krueger’s most recent hockey experiences come in international competition. In 2014, he won a gold medal at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia as a consultant to Team Canada’s coaching staff. Most recently, he served as the head coach of Team Europe, who finished as runners up at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

“I am excited and honored to join the Buffalo Sabres family and will strive to maximize the potential that lies within this team,” Buffalo Sabres Head Coach Ralph Krueger said. “I look forward to building on the many positives that have been established within the organization and I am especially eager to get behind the bench and represent this passionate hockey city.”

At the NHL level, Krueger was named head coach of the Edmonton Oilers prior to the 2012-13 season after spending the 2010-11 and 2011-12 campaigns as the team’s associate coach. Prior to his time in Edmonton, Krueger served as a European Consultant for the Carolina Hurricanes from 2005 to 2010, capturing a Stanley Cup in 2006.

Krueger began his coaching career during the 1991-92 season as head coach of VEU Feldkirch in the Austrian Hockey League, where he spent seven seasons and led the team to five consecutive championships (1994 to 1998). He spent the next 12 years as head coach of the Swiss national team, serving behind Switzerland’s bench for three Winter Olympic Games and 12 IIHF World Championships.

A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Krueger recently spent over five seasons as the Chairman of Southampton Football Club, a soccer team that currently plays in England’s Premier League. During his tenure in England, Krueger helped guide Southampton to four consecutive top-eight finishes in England’s top league for the first time in the club’s 127-year history.