Sabres coach Dan Bylsma isn’t going anywhere, but Buffalo will have a new look behind the bench next season.
It was announced Monday that the Sabres have shuffled the coaching staff ahead of the off-season, sending assistant Dan Lambert to head up the AHL’s Rochester Americans and taking Randy Cunneyworth from his spot as Amerks bench boss to a gig in player development with the Sabres.
“We had a plan in place going into last season to eventually promote Dan to head coach of the Americans and transition Randy back to player development,” Sabres GM Tim Murray said in a release. “With his experience as a Sabres assistant last season, we felt Dan was ready to take on the added responsibility of being a head coach and implementing our organizational philosophy in Rochester.”
Lambert is coming off of his first season as a coach in the professional ranks after six seasons with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets. He will take over from Cunneyworth, who posted a 34-38-4 record as the Americans’ bench boss this past season.
Lambert spent the first five seasons in Kelowna as an assistant before taking over as the head coach in 2014-15, and it didn’t take long for the Rockets to find success under Lambert. In his first season as coach, the Rockets had a 53-13-6 record and lost only three games throughout the post-season en route to their fourth WHL title. Kelowna came one goal short of winning the Memorial Cup under Lambert last season, losing in overtime in the final to the Oshawa Generals.
As for Cunneyworth, he has spent the past three seasons in the Sabres organization and nine of his 15 years post-retirement have been spent as a coach of the Americans. Cunneyworth was a player-coach for Rochester in 1999-00 before moving behind the bench for good in 2000-01. He would remain with the Amerks until 2008-09 when he landed a spot as an assistant with the Atlanta Thrashers. He would spend two seasons in Atlanta before a three-year stay in the Montreal Canadiens organization, but he came back to the Sabres in 2013-14 as a scout before becoming a development coach in 2014-15.
Lambert moving on to a position in the AHL opens up a spot on the Sabres’ bench, and there are a number of candidates who could potentially fill that spot, including a number of recently axed coaches. Free agents on the coaching market include Mike Yeo, Todd Richards, Dave Cameron, Luke Richardson and Randy Carlyle, although the latter may not be open to taking a job as an assistant after so many years as a bench boss.