BUFFALO—The Sabres’ dreadful second-half free-fall left general manager Jason Botterill no choice but to fire coach Phil Housley after his second year on the job.
“Today certainly wasn’t an easy day, but the results in the second half were just not there. We were very inconsistent,” Botterill said Sunday, shortly after informing Housley he had been fired. “Our fans expect more. We expect more. In the end, I thought this decision had to be made for our organization to move forward.”
Though Botterill said the blame for Buffalo’s collapse deserved to be shared among the players and himself, he added it became evident the team was not responding to Housley.
“Unfortunately, the message wasn’t getting through,” Botterill said.
Also Sunday, the Florida Panthers fired coach Bob Boughner after, like Housley, two seasons without making the playoffs.
Buffalo went from matching a franchise record in winning 10 straight and briefly sitting alone in first in the overall standings in late November, to closing the season by winning just 16 of the final 57 games and finishing 27th.
As a result, Buffalo became just the second NHL team to miss the playoffs in the same season they won at least 10 straight games — joining the 2016-17 Philadelphia Flyers
Botterill reached his decision to fire Housley a day after a season-ending 7-1 win at Detroit, and informed owners Terry and Kim Pegula of his recommendation during a meeting in Buffalo. Housley had said before the game in Detroit that he expected to return as coach.
The Sabres now open a search to hire their fifth coach in six years since Lindy Ruff was fired amid the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. They haven’t won a playoff round since reaching the East final in 2007, and extended their playoff drought to eight seasons, the NHL’s longest active streak after Carolina qualified this year.
In Florida, the Panthers haven’t won a playoff series since 1996 and will search for the 14th coach in franchise history. GM Dale Tallon scheduled a Monday news conference to discuss the next step.