Phil Housley knows the importance of good assistant coaches. After all, he was one.
Now that Housley is the head coach in Buffalo, he needs to start the process of finding quality assistants.
“It’s going to be very important that we surround Phil with a staff that he feels comfortable with and they can rely on each other,” Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill said. “The head guy has to be the leader of your group, but over the course of 82 games you have to have strong assistant coaches who are empowered. We just have to make sure there’s a good fit.”
Since Housley is a first-time coach, it would make sense to have a former bench boss on the staff. In Pittsburgh, for example, longtime coach Jacques Martin helps Mike Sullivan.
Jack Capuano would fit the criteria, and his name has already been floated by TSN. Capuano spent parts of seven seasons as coach of the New York Islanders, who fired him in January. He went 227-192-64 with the Islanders, who made the playoffs in three of his five full seasons.
Housley and Capuano are familiar with each other through USA Hockey. They were John Tortorella’s assistants last year at the World Cup of Hockey.
The Sabres still employ Dan Bylma’s assistants: Terry Murray, Bob Woods, Tom Ward and goaltending coach Andrew Allen.
“We’ve told them they have been allowed to talk to other teams,” Botterill said, “but it’s a scenario where Phil will certainly sit down with them over the next few days or the next week or so and see if there’s a fit.”
Housley will no doubt be looking for assistants who like fast-paced hockey. He promised that style during his introductory news conference.
“The brand of hockey is just being an attacking mindset, playing with speed, playing with pace, playing fast,” Housley said. “Coaches talk about the process, but I think it starts with coming in training camp, setting guidelines, the structure and putting in place what they’re expected to do.
“Our practices are going to be very high tempo. I’m not a big believer in an hour, hour and 15, but they will be high tempo, and that’s where you learn the skill and the development is in those practices. It’s going to be competitive as well, but I think that’s where you have to draw from. Then the games, I believe, come a little easier because you are prepared to play that way.”