New Sabres coach Dan Bylsma is in an odd position taking the reins as head-man of the team. Bylsma is filling the void left by expectations of Mike Babcock coming to Buffalo, not the job done by former coach Ted Nolan. In some respects Bylsma will be chasing a ghost as Babcock never coached one game for Buffalo, but media hype had him taking this team to the cup.

Dan Bylsma has a fine NHL record and one Stanley Cup while in Pittsburgh on his resume. The high expectations created by that resume is what cost him his job with the Penguins. While Lindy Ruff lasted sixteen years in this town with only one championship finals appearance to his credit, Bylsma was shown the door after just five years and winning more than twice as many games as he lost. Despite his glossy record the knock on Bylsma in Pittsburgh was that his job behind the bench in the playoffs was lacking.

Here in Buffalo fans would be excited just to see the playoffs again, but overall the expectations are much higher. Those expectations are the result of watching the franchise strip the roster of higher paid players and stock piling draft picks in order to tear the team down to build it back up. Now fans want a quick turn around to finally see the rise of Buffalo as “Hockey Heaven”.

Yes, Terry Pegula raised expectations originally when he bought the team in February of 2011, using the “Hockey Heaven” quote and establishing that winning a Stanley Cup was the number one goal. Despite that the team has won 104 games under his ownership and has lost 155, finishing dead last the past two seasons. Pegula’s management team has yet to produce the type of results he craves and promised.

Ted Nolan would have never been Tim Murray’s choice as coach if he did the hiring and not Pat LaFontaine. The Murray/Nolan relationship was toxic as a result of that and Nolan knew his fate long before it came. Now Bylsma knows he was also not Murray’s first choice and has to live in Babcock’s shadow, not Nolan’s.

Should this team not show significant improvement next season fans and media will not be as patient as they have been the last two. The team doesn’t have to make the playoffs, but they can’t be out of contention again before New Year’s.

Bylsma’s performance behind the bench will be compared to what Mike Babcock is doing up north and that is just the hand he has been dealt.

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