Ralph Krueger joined Howard Simon and Jeremy White on WGR 550 Monday morning to discuss the signing of Taylor Hall, who joined the Sabres late Sunday on a one-year deal worth $8 million.
Here are some takeaways from the Sabres coach.
On what he told Hall about Buffalo
Krueger and Hall have a relationship dating back to their shared time in Edmonton, where Krueger coached Hall for three seasons (one as head coach). They had multiple conversations since free agency opened Friday, during which Krueger told Hall about life on and off the ice in Buffalo.
"Well, number one is the culture that we worked so hard on last season," Krueger said. "Here we are a few months later and we still have to admit we're not happy with where we ended or the final results. But there was an amazing evolution within the group, within the team. I know that culture means a lot to Taylor, what's going on in the room, what's the relationship between the coaches and the players and the spirit. Our core spirit is strong.
"We all knew we needed to strengthen our lineup to take that next step. The opportunity for him to play with Jack Eichel, who is an absolute unique centerman in this league, and also just the environment here in Buffalo, the historic hockey town that is hungering for that next level and playoff hockey and the opportunity that's within that, what would happen."
On what Hall brings to the Sabres
Krueger said the 2018 Hart Trophy winner has a competitiveness that matches his All-Star skill set.
"There's very few players in the world who can decide games on their own in the National Hockey League," Krueger said. "If somebody wins the MVP as he did a couple years ago, then he's quite clearly an impact player and one of the elite forwards in the National Hockey League.
"What he has, very similar to Jack too, is this drive to make a difference especially when games are on the line. The competitiveness that he brings on a day-to-day basis. Of course, he can match it with his skill set, which is unique. He has a speed and a power in him which very few players have. The Sabres fans are gonna love it. It's a powerful addition to our lineup."
Video: Sabres GM Kevyn Adams on signing Taylor Hall
On how Hall fits into the lineup
Krueger acknowledged that lines change based on a number of situations: whether you're at home or on the road, where you're at situationally in a game, etc.
That said, it is safe to expect seeing a healthy dose of Hall playing alongside Jack Eichel.
"You of course have to see us often in that setup," Krueger said. "… There is a really good chance that the speed and the skill set that these two have will synergize for something extremely exciting. I've got sheets in front of me right now where it looks something like that."
Krueger also touched on the wealth of left-shot wingers the Sabres currently have on their roster, with Hall joining a group that also includes Jeff Skinner, Victor Olofsson, and Zemgus Girgensons. The coach said Olofsson and Girgensons are among the candidates who can play the right side.
"Olofsson is definitely a candidate for the right side," he said. "Girgensons can play the right side. Even if we start with a Dylan Cozens with his skill set and overall ability to read the game, he has a chance too. There are multiple options. We're not afraid of that.
"The way we play with Sabres hockey and the forechecking and the constant pressure that we're looking for, often a winger will end up first back or a center will end up on the other side. So, it's not as stuck in stone as it used to be in the old days. We want to play a very high-speed pressure game defensively, but also offensively give the players freedom to change lanes."
On the potential for a long-term fit
Krueger echoed general manager Kevyn Adams in expressing optimism that the relationship with Hall can extend beyond his one-year deal.
"I really know Taylor very well," he said. "He is extremely competitive, but he wants an environment that's working, and he wants an environment where he is also enjoying every day at the rink. Of course, the winning needs to be a part of that equation. But I am extremely confident that things going well and the experiences that he will have here very quickly once he gets to know Buffalo, he'll get to see what a great city this is to live in, the high quality of life that's available to anybody here that opens their eyes.
"He is more of a small-town guy. I think he will embrace this versus the big city life. … He's coming into an environment that I believe really suits who he is as a person. So, I'm optimistic that this has potential long-term legs."