Phil Houlsey’s Buffalo Sabres finished dead last in the NHL standings last season.
Changes have been made to the core player group. Ryan O’Reilly was traded to St. Louis on July 1. Jason Botterill has added by trade Conor Sheary, Patrik Berglund, and Vlad Sobotka.m
When teams sink to 31st place overall in the standings, the coaching staff is immediately under review.
Today, Housley added a veteran to his coaching staff.
Steve Smith is Housley’s new assistant coach.
Housley and Smith were defensemen teammates in Calgary Flames for three seasons from 1998 to 2001.
Chris Hajt was Housley’s D coach in Buffalo last season. Does the Smith hiring signal the end of Hajts employment with the Sabres?
A nine-year NHL coaching veteran, Smith joins the Sabres one day after resigning his role as assistant coach of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Smith spend the last four seasons with the Hurricanes, where he oversaw the defensemen and penalty kill.
Smith is a no nonsense tactician who preaches and drills the fundamentals of defending in all three zones of the ice. Housley wants to give youngsters Rasmus Dahlin, Brendan Guhle, and Jake McCabe the best opportunity to succeed in their own end of the rink this season. Smith will also help fix the bad habits of vets Rasmus Ristolainen, Marco Scandella, Zach Bogosian, and Nathan Beaulieu.
The Hurricanes allowed the second-fewest shots on goal per game (28) of any NHL team during his time in the Research Triangle.
With two new goalies, Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton, in the Buffalo crease in 2018-19, Housley is looking to reduce shot attempts against. Lastvseason, Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson were combined 3.39 GAA (29th in NHL).
Smith will no doubt be getting to work today cleaning up the Sabres breakout. The Sabres D have been brutal the past few seasons in failing to make 5-7 foot passes to their forwards who are moving north. Another area Smith will have to scrub the tarnish off of is Sabres D have fallen victim to aggressive forecheck pressure which leads to turnovers, getting hemmed in one’s own zone, shots on goals against and goals against.
Prior to joining the Carolina coaching staff, Smith was assistant coach for the Edmonton Oilers from 2010-11 to 2013-14 and for the Calgary Flames in 1997-98. His off-ice NHL experience is rounded out by two seasons as a scout for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008-09 and 2009-10.
During his 16-season NHL playing career, Smith won three Stanley Cups (1987, 1988 and 1990) and appeared in one NHL All-Star Game as a member of the Oilers. In 804 total regular-season games as a defenseman with the Oilers, Blackhawks and Flames, Smith totaled 375 points (72+303). He added 52 points (11+41) in 134 career Stanley Cup Playoff games.