Sabres' Housley said don't blame the system

October 8, 2017

Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - I’ve been saying since April that it’s going to take time for the players to get used to a new coach and a new system. Many of the players realize that, but Phil Housley is not buying it, “I think the guys understand what we’re trying to do and you can see it in the games that when we play the right way, we’re very effective, but when we take things into our own hands and try to make plays through the neutral zone against a left wing lock forecheck, you’re just inviting disaster.”

The main question is why is that a disaster? Housley said it causes wasted energy, “You’re just turning it over to the other team, they’re quick countering, they’re coming back at us and now we’re spending energy defending and we’re getting worn down just trying to get pucks out and that’s a victory.”

Now don’t take that as he doesn’t want players like Jack Eichel carrying the puck, Housley said, “I’m not going to take creativity away from our players. They’re going to be allowed to make plays, but we’ve got to make the right plays.”

Housley is like all coaches, he changes lines when things don’t work. On Sunday he had,


Girgensons  O’Reilly  Griffith

Kane  Eichel  Pominville

Pouliot  Reinhart  Okposo

Larsson  Josefson  Moulson (Nolan)


The defense didn’t change. Zach Bogosian is skating on his own, but not with the team.

Getting back to the lines, it occurred to me that in Housley’s system, having two of the slower forwards on the team, Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo together wouldn’t be a good idea. Housley disputed that those two are slow, “I wouldn’t say they’re not our fastest players, I mean they’re very, very good players, but sometimes when you make a change, you’re just trying to give them a fresh linemate, you know, a new line to maybe spark them in some way. It’s just sometimes it doesn’t work out, so you try to change something.”

Housley said he hasn’t decided on his goalie for Monday.

Sunday's practice was short, but to the point. Assistant coach Davis Payne was all over them to treat every part of the play important. It seems like in two games, the team loses focus and lets down on certain plays.

Okposo made no bones about it. He said players, including himself are not putting forth the proper effort, "Anytime you put a new system in, sure it's going to take some getting used to, but there was things in that game last night that had nothing to do with the system, it was just our decision making and our lack of battle."

"It's effort I think, that's on us. We have to come with the mentality that we're going to outwork them. Myself, I've had a couple of games that weren't up to the standard of play that I want to play at."

I asked Okposo if he's still feeling effects from his summer illness. He said, "I'm fine, I'm ready to go, I just didn't play very good games."

Join Brian Koziol and Pat Malacaro Monday at 2:00 for the pregame against the Devils. They’ll be joined by Phil Housley, Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo.