McLel­lan out of mix for Sabres

Re­port says he never got of­fer from team

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS - By Lance Lysowski NEWS SPORTS RE­PORTER

It ap­pears Todd McLel­lan won’t re­place Phil Hous­ley as the Buf­falo Sabres’ coach.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie re­ported Fri­day that McLel­lan, who was fired as the Ed­mon­ton Oilers’ coach in Novem­ber, is no longer un­der con­sid­er­a­tion for the Sabres’ coach­ing va­cancy and never re­ceived a for­mal of­fer from the team.

That ends a wild week of spec­u­la­tion sur­round­ing McLel­lan.

Cal­gary-based writer Eric Duhatschek of The Athletic Todd re­ported Mon­day McLel­lan McLel­lan was could be the “clos­ing in on an new coach agree­ment” with the of the Los Sabres and a deal An­ge­les could be an­nounced Kings. as soon as Tues­day. Re­ports sur­faced through­out the week that McLel­lan had com­pet­ing of­fers from the Sabres and Los An­ge­les Kings, in­clud­ing one that he was to be an­nounced as the lat­ter’s coach Wed­nes­day.

McLel­lan was in Buf­falo this week be­cause his son, Tyson, was com­pet­ing in the NCAA Frozen Four for the Uni­ver­sity of Den­ver, which lost a semi­fi­nal game to UMass on Thurs­day night.

Sabres Gen­eral Man­ager Ja­son Bot­ter­ill told Sport­snet’s El­liotte Fried­man at Tues­day’s NHL Draft Lot­tery that McLel­lan was a “per­son of in­ter­est” to the team. McLel­lan will likely be­come the Kings’ coach af­ter this lat­est de­vel­op­ment, though the Philadel­phia Fly­ers and Ana­heim Ducks could also try to speak to him about their va­can­cies.

A source told The Buf­falo News that Bot­ter­ill has iden­ti­fied a pool of can­di­dates, mostly vet­eran coaches, to re­place Hous­ley, who went 58-8422 in two sea­sons and the team’s his­toric sec­ond-half col­lapse has their play­off drought at a league-high eight sea­sons.

There are dozens of coaches with NHL ex­pe­ri­ence ei­ther serv­ing as as

Sabres

sis­tants around the league or cur­rently search­ing for jobs, in­clud­ing Alain Vigneault, who did not coach this sea­son af­ter he was fired by the New York Rangers last April.

Bot­ter­ill, who is part of Team Canada’s man­age­ment team for next month’s World Cham­pi­onships in Slo­vakia, will have a close look at Vigneault, who will serve as the coun­try’s coach for the tour­na­ment.

Vigneault, 57, has spent 16 sea­sons as an NHL coach, most re­cently a fiveyear stint with the Rangers. It be­gan with a Stan­ley Cup final ap­pear­ance in 2013-14, where they lost to the Los An­ge­les Kings, and ended when they missed the play­offs last sea­son. He also coached the Van­cou­ver Canucks to the Cup final in 2010-11, where they lost to the Bos­ton Bru­ins in seven games. He was also the head coach in Mon­treal in the last 1990s.

Pitts­burgh as­sis­tant Jac­ques Martin, Tampa Bay as­sis­tant Todd Richards, for­mer Ari­zona coach Dave Tip­pett, for­mer Ottawa coach Guy Boucher and for­mer Los An­ge­les coach Dar­ryl Sut­ter are among those with ex­pe­ri­ence who could be of in­ter­est to Bot­ter­ill.

If the Sabres opt to gam­ble on an­other young coach, they have an in­ter­nal can­di­date in Chris Taylor, who has led Rochester to the Calder Cup play­offs in each of his two sea­sons with the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The 47-year-old is a for­mer team­mate of Bot­ter­ill’s but more im­por­tant, Taylor has hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with some of the promis­ing young play­ers who could be asked to carve out a large role with the Sabres next sea­son, in­clud­ing Vic­tor Olof­s­son and Alexan­der Ny­lan­der.

McLel­lan’s can­di­dacy should in­di­cate which qual­i­ties the Sabres are search­ing for, though. McLel­lan, 51, led the Oilers to the play­offs once dur­ing his three-plus tenure there and was fired abruptly af­ter a 9-10-1 start to this sea­son. He also led the San Jose Sharks to the play­offs in six of his seven sea­sons, in­clud­ing back-to-back West­ern Con­fer­ence Final ap­pear­ances.

Al­though McLel­lan had a 123-11924 dur­ing his time in Ed­mon­ton, he led the Sharks to their first Pres­i­dents’ Tro­phy dur­ing his first sea­son in 200809, and he was the fran­chise’s all-time leader in coach­ing wins when his tenure ended af­ter the 2014-15 sea­son.

McClel­lan and the Sharks mu­tu­ally parted ways af­ter the team missed the play­offs by nine points in 2015, and was quickly hired by the Oilers, who would draft Con­nor McDavid that sum­mer.

Ukko-Pekka Luukko­nen, the Buf­falo Sabres’ top goalie prospect who led Finland to Gold at the World Ju­nior Cham­pi­onship, will join the Rochester Amer­i­cans dur­ing their push for the Calder Cup.

Sabres as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager Randy Sex­ton an­nounced Fri­day that Luukko­nen will ar­rive on an am­a­teur try­out for the re­main­der of the sea­son, though Luukko­nen is un­likely to ap­pear in any games since the play­offs be­gin next week­end. The try­out des­ig­na­tion en­sures Luukko­nen’s en­try-level con­tract will not be­gin un­til 201920.

Luukko­nen’s sea­son with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sud­bury Wolves ended with a 58-save per­for­mance in a 3-2 triple over­time loss to the Ottawa 67’s on Thurs­day night. The 20-yearold led the league with 38 reg­u­lar-sea­son wins and six shutouts, the for­mer was also a fran­chise record for Sud­bury.

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