Phil Housley began his Hall of Fame playing career in Buffalo. It is also where he will open his NHL head-coaching career after being hired by the Sabres on Thursday.
Housley's hiring completes an off-season overhaul for the Sabres in replacing coach Dan Bylsma, who was fired along with general manager Tim Murray in April. He represents the first significant move made by first-time general manager Jason Botterill, who took over the job last month.
Housley takes over a team that stagnated under Murray in extended its franchise-worst playoff drought to six seasons. With a 33-37-12 record, Buffalo finished last in the Atlantic Division, 26th overall, and with two fewer wins than last season.
Housley has spent the past four years as an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators. He is credited for overseeing a highly skilled and speedy group of defencemen that helped Nashville make its first Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history.
Botterill was forced to place his coaching search on hold to wait for the Predators' season to end, which came with a 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday in Game 6.
"Based on his experience as a player and coach, we think Phil is uniquely qualified to be our head coach and help us achieve our organizational goals," Botterill said in a statement released by the team before a late-afternoon news conference. "His approach to the game aligns with the way we envision our hockey team playing, and we're excited to see where his leadership will take us."
It's a home coming for Housley, who was selected with the No. 6 pick in the 1982 draft by Buffalo and spent his first eight of his 21 NHL seasons playing for the Sabres.
He also had a connection to Botterill from their playing days. Though Botterill was mostly a minor-league journeyman, he and Housley both played for the Calgary Flames from 1999-2001.
Housley has head-coaching experience but not at the NHL level. He was head coach of the gold medal-winning U.S. team at the 2013 World Junior championships.
Starting in 2004, Housley spent nine seasons coaching Stillwater Area High School in his native Minnesota.
As a player, Housley's 1,232 career points (338 goals and 894 assists) rank third among American-born players and fourth among all NHL defencemen.