The Sabres made an honest effort to hire Mike Babcock when offering the NHL’s best coach an eight-year deal worth $50 million. As you know, he took the same deal when he left the Red Wings for the Maple Leafs.
Now that he made his decision, the Sabres are in a precarious position. No matter whom they hire, he will know he was the second choice. That's not a major issue. Any other coach interested in Buffalo, Toronto or Detroit would have been Plan B.
However, for Babcock, the Sabres were willing to more than double the salary of highest-paid coach in the league. Blackhawks boss Joel Quenneville previously was the highest-paid at $2.75 million per season.
Dan Bylsma won a Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh, giving him the same number of titles that Babock won in Detroit. Bylsma was out of work last season, so he’s not going to command top dollar for his next gig. But the Sabres still need to show that they value Bylsma, also a good coach, almost as much as they valued Babcock and the Leafs valued Babcock.
So what’s the number? We’ll see when they make the hire.
Bylsma had a 401-252-117 record and never finished worse than second place during his six seasons in Pittsburgh. Like Babcock, he also failed to reach the conference finals for five straight seasons with a very good roster. Certainly, he could argue that he’s half the coach Babcock has been in the NHL.
If that means he would make more than $3 million per season, or less than half the $6.25 million average Babcock will make in Toronto, it also would make him the second-highest paid coach in the league – not just the Sabres’ second choice. It’s big money for a man who didn’t have a coaching job last year.
If Buffalo decides to hire AHL coach Luke Richardson, it sends the message that they settled for someone no head-coaching experience in the NHL. Richardson could be a very good coach, but he doesn’t have Bylsma’s record or experience. If they tried to hire Bylsma and failed, they were down to their third choice.
How much would that coach be worth?
Babcock felt an obligation to help boost coaching salaries. You can criticize him for snubbing Buffalo, but he landed the job he wanted in Toronto and achieved his objective for his brothers across the league. Bylsma, Richardson or anyone else Buffalo hires should thank him for the effort every time they cash their checks.