DETROIT -- Sabres coach Dan Bylsma has been a guest at Bills training camp the last two summers and forged a small relationship with deposed Bills coach Rex Ryan. And Ryan, a huge hockey fan, has brought his brother, Rob, and some of his other assistant coaches in the stands at Sabres games the last two seasons.
Even across sports, coaching is a small fraternity. But that's especially true in Buffalo, where the leaders of the city's two main pro sports teams have often chatted and work for the same owners. Bylsma was on the ice in Joe Louis Arena running the Sabres' pregame skate today when news of Ryan's firing broke.
"I just heard it five minutes ago before I stepped here," Bylsma said when asked during his standard pregame media briefing. "It's disappointment really. There was anticipation of winning football games and being a good football team and this is just the culmination of the disappointment of that not being the case."
Like Ryan, Bylsma is in the second year of a five-year contract. The Sabres, however, are trying to build while the Bills had huge pressure on them to break their 16-year playoff drought. The Sabres have been underachieving of late, slipping to last in the Eastern Conference and bringing questions of Bylsma's status into the forefront.
Still, the parallels seem to end there. Bylsma and General Manager Tim Murray seem to be on roughly the same page, while Ryan and GM Doug Whaley weren't in the same book. And it seems improbable the Sabres would make a coaching change after just two years of having Jack Eichel on their roster and with a few key prospects still in juniors, the AHL or college ranks.
For his part, Bylsma said he has regular communication with owners Terry and Kim Pegula. No one in the Sabres' organization is happy with the team's record but there are still 49 games left in the season. The Bills, obviously, had come to the end of the road.
"Right before we went on the road, as Kim and Terry usually are around, I talked to them both," Bylsma said. "Then I talked to Terry alone before and after the games we went on the road. I know they've been a little bit pre-occupied with the Bills and the situation that has been going on there."