The Sabres hosted Dan Bylsma on Wednesday. There’s a chance they might not bring another coaching candidate to town.
Buffalo and New Jersey are the final NHL teams searching for a coach. If Buffalo deems Bylsma as the best choice to replace Ted Nolan, it will move fast to prevent the coach from talking further with New Jersey.
It’s suddenly a buyer’s market, so if the Sabres prefer other candidates, they have plenty of time to make a hire with fewer teams on the hunt. Toronto, Philadelphia, Edmonton, St. Louis and San Jose have ended their searches, with the Sharks set to introduce Peter DeBoer on Thursday. Detroit is expected to promote Jeff Blashill from its minor-league team to replace Mike Babcock.
The Sabres and Devils have both expressed interest in Bylsma. The former Pittsburgh coach has a choice between a fresh start with General Manager Tim Murray in Buffalo or reuniting with a GM he knows. Devils GM Ray Shero hired Bylsma with the Penguins, and both were fired last spring.
The Penguins, who have Bylsma under contract for one more season, are entitled to draft-pick compensation if the coach gets a new job.
The Sabres declined to comment on their search Wednesday.
Bylsma is the most well-known candidate remaining on the market. The 44-year-old spent six seasons behind the bench in Pittsburgh, leading the Penguins to the Stanley Cup in 2009 after taking over as a midseason replacement. He won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s coach of the year in 2011 and guided the Pens to division titles during his final two seasons.
Failure to capture a second Cup with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin led Pittsburgh to fire Bylsma and Shero after last season. Bylsma has a 43-35 record in the playoffs. The Penguins lost in the first round in 2011 and 2012; in the second round in 2010 and 2014; and in the Eastern Conference finals in 2013.
Bylsma’s resume includes an NHL record. He reached 250 career wins faster than anyone in history, achieving the milestone in only 395 games. He has a record of 252-117-32.
Bylsma was out of the NHL this season but served as an assistant for the bronze medal-winning U.S. team at the world championships. He got a close-up look at American center Jack Eichel, who will be drafted second overall by the Sabres next month.
Bylsma was head coach for the United States at the 2014 Olympics, finishing in fourth place after a 5-0 loss to Finland in the bronze-medal game. Bylsma played 429 games as a forward in the NHL, skating for Los Angeles and Anaheim from 1995 to 2004. Murray was director of player personnel with the Ducks during two of Bylsma’s seasons.
Bylsma played two games for the Rochester Americans during his first season as a professional, recording one assist in 1992-93. The Michigan native played collegiately at Bowling Green, where he was a Scholar-Athlete during all four of his seasons. He has a degree in accounting.
After retiring as a player in 2004, Bylsma spent one season as an assistant coach for the Ducks’ minor-league team. He was an assistant for the New York Islanders in 2005-06 and worked for Pittsburgh’s minor-league team for three seasons before replacing Michel Therrien in February 2009.
Bylsma earned the nickname “Disco Dan” during his playing days because of his tendency to dance in the dressing room. His wife’s name is Mary Beth, and they have a son, Bryan.
It’s not known if the Sabres have more interviews scheduled. The Ottawa Sun reported this week that no teams have asked permission to talk with Luke Richardson, Ottawa’s minor-league coach who was hired by Murray when he was assistant GM for the Senators.