After five years in the English Premier League, Ralph Krueger is going back to ice.
The former Southampton Football Club chairman, who started there in 2014, was announced Wednesday as the new head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, returning to the NHL five years after leaving hockey for soccer.
The 59-year-old former Edmonton Oilers head coach replaces Phil Housley, the former Nashville Predators assistant who was fired April 7 after just one season behind the Sabres’ bench. And his return marks a relatively outside-the-box hire by an organization desperate to end a streak of eight straight seasons without a Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance.
Krueger has extensive hockey coaching experience, leading VEU Feldkirch to five straight Austrian championships in the 1990s before taking Switzerland’s national team to three Winter Olympics appearances in the 2000s. He parlayed his international resume into an assistant job with the Oilers starting in 2010 and spent the 2012-13 season as Edmonton’s head coach, overseeing a 19-22-7 finish on a lockout-shortened schedule. But he’s also been away from the NHL for a half-decade, advising at the Olympics and assisting Team Europe at the World Cup while serving as chair and director of Southampton in England.
Krueger was dismissed from his Premier League post this April.
The Sabres, meanwhile, are fresh off a 33-39-10 finish, good enough for 13th in the Eastern Conference, despite an 11-3-1 run in November. They will begin the 2019-20 season under Krueger on Oct. 4.
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