Hous­ley ex­pects to be back as coach

But Sabres have de­ci­sion to make af­ter another sea­son with­out a post­sea­son spot

The Buffalo News - - WORLD NEWS - By Mike Har­ring­ton

DETROIT – The Buf­falo Sabres wrapped up a lost sea­son Satur­day night in Lit­tle Cae­sars Arena with a 7-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Now the fo­cus shifts to fix­ing the mess of their eighth straight non-play­off cam­paign, and de­cid­ing if Phil Hous­ley will get a third year as coach.

A cou­ple of hours prior to the sea­son fi­nale against the Wings, the Sabres fi­nal­ized plans for their end-of-sea­son in­ter­views. The team is sched­uled to be off Sun­day and an­nounced play­ers will be in Key­Bank Cen­ter on Mon­day for exit meet­ings with Hous­ley and Gen­eral Man­ager Ja­son Bot­ter­ill. The play­ers will also meet the me­dia start­ing at 9 a.m.

The team then an­nounced that Hous­ley will have a ses­sion with re­porters Mon­day at 2:30 and Bot­ter­ill will have one Mon­day at 3.

The fact that Hous­ley is sched­uled for a ses­sion could mean the team is not plan­ning on a coach­ing change. It also could mean noth­ing. The team could hold Hous­ley’s ses­sion and cer­tainly make a move later in the week or, frankly, at any point in the off­sea­son.

Bot­ter­ill, of course, was strongly in Hous­ley’s cor­ner when he last spoke to re­porters in Fe­bru­ary in Tampa. And owner Terry Peg­ula of­fered sup­port when he met the me­dia last month at the NFL Own­ers Meet­ings in Phoenix.

Satur­day’s win gave the Sabres two straight for the first time since De­cem­ber. They played strong in the fi­nal three games, wins over

Ot­tawa and Detroit and Tues­day’s 3-2 loss to Cen­tral Di­vi­sion cham­pion Nashville.

That said, it’s un­likely those re­sults will in­flu­ence Hous­ley’s sta­tus one way or the other.

“It’s a good way to end it,” Hous­ley said af­ter the game. “It’s not where we want to be as a group un­for­tu­nately but I hand it to the guys. They fin­ished it off the right way. It could have eas­ily turned another di­rec­tion but they fought against Nashville, we had a big win against Ot­tawa. Right up and down the lineup, ev­ery­body played well.”

Af­ter the morn­ing skate, Hous­ley was asked point-blank if he ex­pects to be the coach of the Sabres next sea­son, He calmly an­swered, “Yes, I do.”

The num­bers are not in Hous­ley’s fa­vor. The Sabres fin­ished 33-39-10 af­ter go­ing 25-45-12 last year, Hous­ley’s rookie sea­son as an NHL head coach. His over­all mark of 58-84-22 gives him a points per­cent­age of just .421. Af­ter fin­ish­ing 31st over­all last year, the Sabres ended this one at 27th – af­ter sit­ting at No. 1 through 25 games.

The Sabres were just 1-13-2 in their pre­vi­ous 16 games un­til beat­ing Ot­tawa Thurs­day night. They went just 2-12-2 in March. Un­til win­ning Satur­day, they had not won two in a row since De­cem­ber.

“The con­sis­tency within our game (has been miss­ing),” Hous­ley said. “But I am pleased the guys have stuck through this dif­fi­cult March and come into April and they con­tinue to find things to play for and play with pride.”

Hous­ley cracked some smiles af­ter the game, but he was grim in the morn­ing. Whereas he has of­ten joked with re­porters be­fore his ses­sions, there has been none of that in re­cent days. He has just taken his po­si­tion and waited for ques­tions to be asked.

When his sta­tus came up, Hous­ley was vague on whether he’s broached the topic much with Bot­ter­ill.

“We talk on a day to day ba­sis and that hasn’t changed,” Hous­ley said. “Those things will be ad­dressed to­mor­row and Mon­day and we’re just go­ing to be fo­cused on play­ing the game tonight. We’re just go­ing day to day busi­ness right now, just fo­cus­ing on my job and what we have to do to get ready to play Detroit.”

Hous­ley ad­mit­ted it has been dif­fi­cult to have his first NHL head coach­ing job turn into a mas­sive strug­gle and a daily break­down of his job sta­tus. The Sabres, of course, were 176-2 and first over­all on Nov. 28, with Hous­ley a prime can­di­date for the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year.

All of that col­lapsed over the last four months, leav­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion again in tur­moil with a high slot in Tues­day’s NHL Draft Lot­tery and thoughts of a fourth coach­ing change since long­time bench boss Lindy Ruff was re­placed by Ron Rol­ston in 2013.

“It’s def­i­nitely not where I want to be, right?” Hous­ley ad­mit­ted. “As far as where this or­ga­ni­za­tion is and the things that have hap­pened in the past, those things I can’t fo­cus on right now. Those things we have to look at and eval­u­ate af­ter the sea­son. But it has been not the di­rec­tion we wanted to take.”

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