Throughout the Buffalo Sabres' second-half meltdown, little was revealed about how Phil Housley interacted with players during his second season as coach.
Some of those details were revealed Monday during locker cleanout in KeyBank Center, when the Sabres gave their thoughts on seeing another coach dismissed after two seasons behind the team's bench. They described Housley as a "great communicator," with defenseman Zach Bogosian adding that Housley had an open-door policy to every player no matter the topic.
There was almost a consensus among the Sabres that the onus was on the players, not the coach, for what transpired after the team's 10-game winning streak in November.
Goalie Carter Hutton: "I thought Phil was a great communicator. I think he did a really good job preparing us to play. I think a lot of it falls on the players in this room. We go out there and we play the games. For me, I think it was just that inconsistency of what team was going to show up. That was probably the hardest part for everyone involved. There were nights where we could be electric and there were nights where even period by period, some periods we would show up and it was like a different team. That's something we need to figure out because at this level, it doesn't get it done.
"You don't want to see anybody go through it. This is his life and it's tough. You can't fire a whole hockey team, right? It's just the way sometimes it happens. It's frustrating and I hope for us it's a rude awakening we need to improve."
Center Jack Eichel: "It's on us in the room. We're the product on the ice. It's unfortunate that had to happen because Phil is not the one playing the games and I've said this to you guys before. It's on us as players to be better on the ice every night. It hasn't been good enough. The product on the ice hasn't been good enough. It falls on nobody but ourselves."
Winger Jeff Skinner: "I don’t know if the team didn’t respond. I don’t know. You can go through it game by game and there were certain games we didn’t play well enough. We didn’t win enough battles. He’s not out there battling. He’s not out there playing the games. I think as a player any time a coach gets fired it’s tough because it’s on you. You’re playing the games. He puts a structure and system in place and your job is to go out there and execute. I think on certain nights, more nights than obviously we could afford to, we weren’t good enough at executing."
Defenseman Zach Bogosian: "That’s my third coach in my tenure in Buffalo, so it’s never fun to see your coach get let go. You feel horrible for him and his family and, as players, it’s a tough feeling.
"I don’t think it has anything to do with him as a coach. I think over time, I think we played well, and other times we played very inconsistent. That’s on everyone. Our defensive game, there’s five guys out there including the goalie. I don’t know how much you can really put that on the coach. I think we had to do a better job defensively, because essentially that’s what wins hockey games.”
Winger Kyle Okposo: "We just weren't able to string games together. We were consistently inconsistent. It was just kind of a slow death. We couldn't put back-to-back games together.
"I think a lot falls on us. When you see that happen, that's not an easy day. It's not an easy thing because it causes you to look in the mirror. You have to. (General Manager Jason Botterill) did what he felt was best for the organization but all of us as players have to look at your game, what you bring to the table and say, 'Could I have done more?' And I think everybody would say yes."
Winger Sam Reinhart: "It was a shock for sure. It's tough as players when we're the ones out there every night. We as a team feel responsible."
Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin: "We haven't played our best hockey. It's the players who make the decision on the ice. We are playing the hockey."
Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen: "Obviously, it’s tough to see people leaving, but when you don’t reach your goals, changes can happen and should happen."
Winger Jason Pominville: "Obviously Phil was not the guy that plays the game. He has a plan. He gives us his plan and I should think we as players should definitely take full responsibility for this happening. Coaches when things go well get a lot of the credit for sure, but when things don't go as planned a lot of times coaches end up paying for it. Is it right? I guess time will tell but it's definitely not fun to see."