It isn’t unusual for two head coaches of different sports in the same city to become acquainted with one another. There are enough social events where paths cross and coaches meet in various social settings. In Buffalo, because two professional sports teams are owned by the same family, the chance to engage with one another is almost a given, probably even fostered by ownership.
I’m not sure it was entirely planned to work out to this extent, but Sean McDermott and Ralph Krueger appear to have formed an unusual ‘bromance’ in their short time together in Buffalo. The Bills and Sabres have head coaches that may appear to be very different in background and personality, but when you look under the hood there are some striking similarities.
In this situation, you have an elder statesman brought in to revive a moribund hockey franchise carrying a record playoff drought. He is paired up with a younger first time head coach who was brought in to um… revive a flailing, underperforming football franchise.
I often wonder what it must have been like in the Bills’ interview room when Sean McDermott was introduced to Terry & Kim Pegula. At that time, the job was Anthony Lynn’s to lose. I have a vague recollection of a journalist (can’t remember who, sorry) asking Kim Pegula why they were interviewing numerous candidates when Anthony Lynn was already the favored candidate as interim head coach.
Mrs. Pegula’s reply was telling. She said (paraphrasing) that you never know if a candidate may walk in and just wow you. And then Sean McDermott walked in with a giant cobbled-together portfolio containing notes written 20 years ago… and the rest is history.
However, the history of hiring Sean McDermott may be worth reviewing as it reveals a pattern the Pegulas may be following as they look to reorganize the Buffalo Sabres. When Sean McDermott was hired, Doug Whaley was the general manager and Russ Brandon was President of the Bills. Within a year, Whaley was gone and Brandon eventually found his own way out the door.
Anyone who thinks McDermott wasn’t instrumental in the housecleaning process that happened to the Bills wasn’t paying attention at the time. The Pegulas seemed to have full faith in Doug Whaley and that gradually seemed to cool off as McDermott began to dig into his job.
McDermott obviously saw what he believed needed to be changed within the Bills’ organizational structure. It’s no accident Brandon Beane was lured to join McDermott in Buffalo. He was the man who McDermott believed he could share his vision with to create a sustainable winning franchise for the Buffalo Bills.
‘McBeane’ had the full faith and trust of ownership. Big changes were made in the front office, scouting staff and around the organization as a whole. So far the results have been outstanding and the future looks very bright for the Bills.
The Sabres, however, are another story. They have yet to find the same mojo in the front office and with coaches, now owning the NHL’s longest playoff drought. They fire yet another head coach and somehow through divine providence Ralph Krueger is ready to redefine the twilight of his career by deciding to take on one more coaching gig.
The Pegulas swipe right and the ‘Renaissance Man’ comes to Buffalo and brings his unique personality and decades of experience to the Sabres’ organization. Who knows what transpired in Krueger’s relationship with Jason Botterill over the last year, but one has to wonder if Krueger was as instrumental in ushering Botterill out the door as McDermott was with Doug Whaley a few years ago.
Ralph Krueger strikes me as sharing some similar personality traits with Sean McDermott. While McDermott may seem a bit more introverted by nature, both exude uncommon leadership qualities. They also seem to both be passionate about the intangibles, the qualities in players that are not measurable. They both appear to share similar views on forming bonds with players.
Perhaps this was a conscious decision on the part of the Pegulas to seek another coach who shares a similar philosophy of coaching for their hockey team. It seems to be working OK for the Bills so far. Why not try to see if you can get lightning to strike twice in Buffalo?
What could not have been planned by the Pegulas is the immediate chemistry that formed when McDermott met Ralph Krueger. Throughout last season, McDermott mentioned he often chatted with Krueger and shared tales of joy and woe. That bond has obviously continued to grow. McDermott talked about it during his last press conference with the media before training camp starts.
So far the Pegulas have been very lucky in life. Will their luck hold out? Can they recreate the same synergy for the Sabres that exists with the Bills? We can only hope so at this point, but early signs suggest the bromance between Sean McDermott and Ralph Krueger may blossom into a wonderful friendship that enhances both of their careers.
Editor’s babble: Let’s hope so! Thanks for reading. You can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO, likely pining away for a return of sports.