Sabres new coach Ralph Krueger is still listening to the fans

August 19, 2019 - 4:12 pm

Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - In the three or four times I've been around Ralph Krueger, I can tell you he's always positive. He does not believe in dwelling in the negative and if there is a negative, the only thing he's interested in is how to fix it.

Before Kruger got the job as head coach of the Sabres, he walked around town for two days. He watched playoff hockey in bars talking to fans that had no idea who he was. On Saturday, he got another chance to interact with fans at Fan Fest and he said, "It keeps getting confirmed over and over again from my first walks in the city and today I got a deeper understanding of the fan base because I was able to communicate. We had the season ticket holders coming through the locker-room and I could speak individually with them and it's good to listen to them.

"They're very proud of the history, but they've had some pain and we can tap into both extremes with the team going forward."

Since Kruger spoke with so many fans, I was curious as to what was being said to him, "They're very excited about the season, but what I feel from them is the hunger to feel a team that's working really hard every night," Krueger said. "I don't feel that the end results are the only thing on their mind, but what they want to see is an honest effort and that's first and foremost and the winning will be a byproduct of that.

"Let's not suffocate ourselves with the thought of having to win, but we have to work and we must work all the time."

There has been no movement on the Rasmus Ristolainen front. Both Kruger and Jason Botterill are talking like he's going to be here in the fall. Kruger said, "I had a very long call with Risto early on and all the indications there were to be behind what we're doing here as a coaching staff, so that's my mandate, it's to take the players that are under contract and get the best out of them.

"I really think it's important for me to listen when the players are talking to me and the message I received from him was if I'm his coach, he's willing to do this and that and look for the next level of Rasmus Ristolainen and that's my job and I look forward to coaching him."

Krueger kept Steve Smith on the coaching staff and hired Don Granato and Mike Bales. Kruger said, "I truly am not the type of person that hires friends. I hire people that will challenge me and bring something different to the table."

Kruger talked about each man:

"Steve Smith is fitting, he came in as a rookie coach in the National Hockey League sitting beside me and we spent three years in Edmonton and he was my head assistant and that experience was extremely valuable because he's now worked in other environments and has grown and developed and it's good for me. I needed to bring somebody that has experience over the last year. I need to bring that history with me."

"Don Granato is one of those lifer coaches that I was looking for and he'll be on the bench with Steve and I and his job as a teacher of hockey and a coach that enjoys to develop players in a proper way.

"He a man that communicates well with a lot of respect, but I like when you work in the U.S. Development programs as an example, you do a lot of training, a lot of practicing and we need to run good individual skills situations for the forwards and the D following the main section of practice which will be run primarily by me and that's where Don is going to be very strong."

"Mike Bales was a huge acquisition for us having won two Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh and what he did in Carolina the last few years, it worked out perfectly that he was hungry and is more than a goaltender coach, he's really for me like an assistant already."

"Technology is really important to me and Myles Fee and Kyle Smith are here. Myles Fee had worked with me multiple years in the past. He did the World Cup of Hockey with me and he will be working on all the different sports science information, the analytics, the video, everything will be running through Myles and Kyle Smith who has done seven years in Rochester will be running the video side."

Kruger has a big mandate for anybody on his staff. He said, "All of them are going to challenge me, come in here and challenge what I'm saying, challenge what I'm thinking, so when we leave our coaches room, we come out with one voice, but in that space I'd like to have a positive conflict, I love to put expectations on the table right away and then arguing with the people around me in a good way and I'm open to hearing what everybody thinks and then I have to process it and then my job as a head coach is to make decisions and they're not always going to be popular and not everybody is going to like them, but in the end the only way that I go forward is my decisions will always be driven with what I believe with all the information and experience I have, what is best for the team."

In the next few weeks players will start filtering into town and working out on their own at Harborcenter. The youngsters will have the Prospects Challenge starting Sept. 7.

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