It’s not easy to win the Stanley Cup. The Buffalo Sabres have been around since 1970 and haven’t done it. Tim Murray has been in hockey for all of his adult life and he hasn’t won one.
Dan Bylsma has. He hoisted the Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, and he competed for another one every spring for the next five years. That means something to Murray.
“To me, he’s a winner,” the Sabres’ general manager said Thursday while introducing Bylsma as the team’s new coach. “We improved today by hiring him.”
The GM figures Bylsma can show every member of the organization what it takes to be a winner. The 44-year-old coach is eager to take up the challenge. Bylsma spent this year on the sidelines after being fired by Pittsburgh after six seasons, and he watched more hockey than ever before. He paid attention to the Sabres.
“There is, I think, a bright future ahead for this team,” Bylsma said in First Niagara Center. “This has been one team I really looked at to develop with as a team and an organization.”
Bylsma has already met Evander Kane and Josh Gorges. He’s likes the competitiveness of Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson and the Sabres’ young defensemen, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov. He worked with future draft pick Jack Eichel as an assistant coach of the U.S. world championship team.
Bylsma knows how to deal with stars after coaching Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and he’ll pass on what he’s learned to Eichel and the others.
“I’m going to remind him of the hard work and details that going into being a star player,” Bylsma said.
The coach arrived in Buffalo as the team’s most experienced bench boss since Scotty Bowman came to town with five Cups in 1979. Bylsma is 252-117-32, giving him the highest points percentage (.668) of any coach with at least three seasons on an NHL bench.
The Penguins, who will receive a third-round draft pick in 2016 as compensation because he was still under contract, fired him last spring after a second-round playoff exit. Bylsma says proving them wrong is not his motivation.
“I’m not coaching to prove anything to anyone else,” he said.
Byslma, who played professionally for 12 years, is coaching because he loves it.
“I was planning to be a coach long before I was done playing,” he said. “There’s a fan base here that’s passionate about hockey. I’m looking forward to being part of that.”