Buffalo Sabres: More patience needed with Phil Housley

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13: Phil Housley head coach of the Buffalo Sabres during the second period against the Arizona Coyotes at the KeyBank Center on December 13, 2018 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13: Phil Housley head coach of the Buffalo Sabres during the second period against the Arizona Coyotes at the KeyBank Center on December 13, 2018 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images) /

With calls growing for Phil Housley to be fired, Buffalo Sabres fans need to take a step back and look at the situation more logically.

Buffalo Sabres fans have had more reason than most to complain and be frustrated in recent years. They’ve missed the playoffs for seven consecutive campaigns and three times finished with the league’s worst record, including being the first ever team to finish 31st in the standing last season.

The problem is that even when things seem to go as planned for the Sabres, something still goes wrong. For example, they purposely tanked for last place in 2014-15, but still missed out on Connor McDavid due to the draft lottery.

No one is denying Jack Eichel is a top-rated talent who should lead the Swords for the next decade. (In this respect he has now fully embraced his position as captain, while taking his game to a new level this season.) However, it doesn’t change the fact most people would still prefer the team had been able to draft McDavid.

This season, the Sabres finally seemed to have turned the corner. In fact, their 10-game winning streak put them at the top of the NHL standings.

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Unfortunately for everyone concerned with the team, since then they have gone into a significant slump which has seen them fall out of a playoff spot. Certainly, their record of 8-14-4 in the 26 previous games makes for unsightly reading.

The last game was particularly ugly, as the Sabres were blasted 7-3 by the Chicago Blackhawks. The fact it came in front of their own fans didn’t help matters either.

However, the ever-growing calls for head coach Phil Housley to be fired need to stop. As tough as it is fan sports fans to do, the Sabres faithful should take a step back at look at the situation logically.

The reality is, the Swords are not as bad as their recent displays would have you believe. By the same token, they were never as good as they seemed during their 10-game winning streak.

The Sabres are actually somewhere in the middle of these two versions of the team. Which is still enough to tell you they are much improved on the product which was put on the ice last season. (At the time of posting they have 56 points, which is just six off of last season’s final total and with 31 games still remaining.)

Now this doesn’t mean Housley is without any faults. For example, recent criticisms relate to him being too loyal to certain players, while at the same time being too quick to give up on others.

However, don’t most coaches receive similar criticism at some point? Further, it’s funny how the Hall of Famer received no blame for preferring certain players during the 10-game winning streak.

Of course, this comes with the territory in the world of professional sports. You receive too much praise when it’s going well and too much blame when it’s all falling apart, with media and fans alike particularly criticizing decisions after the fact, aka with the wonderful benefit of hindsight.

Again though, Housley needs — and deserves — to be given more time. This is his first head coaching gig in the NHL and he’s still learning.

When general manager Jason Botterill hired the former blue-liner, it was with a view to him being around for the long-term in Western New York and providing some much-needed stability. Why would Botterill suddenly go back on that philosophy so soon, especially with the team still challenging for a playoff spot?

At the very least, it’s tough to imagine the Buffalo Sabres not letting the 54-year-old see this season out, before reviewing his position. In other words, the fans — whether justified or not — can complain as much as they want about their head coach, but they’re probably stuck with him for at least another couple of months.

Next. 5 observations from the All-Star break. dark

What is your take on the job Housley has been doing so far this season? How confident are you in him being the long-term answer as head coach for the Buffalo Sabres? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.