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Oilers forward Gaetan Haas has an admirer in Ralph Krueger

Buffalo coach Ralph Krueger is a big booster of Gaetan Haas, who played 10 years in the Swiss League and now is in his first year with the Oilers.

“He was the best player in that league with a Swiss passport last year. By far and there wasn’t even a close second. He’s played with my son Justin in Bern and I have a lot of respect for him. He’s an extremely good player with a huge upside,” said Krueger, who knows it’s a major learning curve for Haas in the NHL.

“You have to look at Gaetan as if he’s three or four years younger than a North American. He played in a different station over there. The Swiss Hockey League is a completely different game with a much lower, physical component and with the size of the rink in Europe you never have the contact. But if Gaetan puts in the work, it’ll come out.”

Haas has lots of time for Krueger’s son, who has played in Switzerland for eight years but just two with Haas in Bern.

“He’s a defensive defenceman playing a North American style. Good in the corners and in front of the net. He’s heavy, not the fastest player but he’s tough to play against. Great guy, always a smile on his face,” said Haas.


Krueger had several offers from English Premier League clubs to be their chairman after leaving Southampton FC this past spring, but the lure to coach hockey was too strong.

He’s known Sabres GM Jason Botterill for years, back to when Botterill worked for Penguins as Jim Rutherford’s assistant GM. Back to when Rutherford offered him the head coaching job in 2014 that he turned down.

The Southampton team has fallen hard on the pitch since Krueger left, third from the basement in the 20-team Premiership. Watford is last, Norwich second last and Southampton is tied with Aston Villa.

The three worst teams are relegated every year.

“The British Premier League is a lot scarier than the NHL. When you’re near the bottom of the league you don’t get a draft pick, You lose $100 million pounds in revenue (relegated to a lower league). Different kind of pressure,” said Krueger, who would sit in the stands at soccer games as chairman, far away from the action on the field.

Krueger, who talked to the Rangers about their team presidency position this spring, was also offered the same job with another Eastern-based NHL club two years ago but declined.


Buffalo captain Jack Eichel has evolved into a real leader according to Krueger.

“Jack is completely comfortable with the responsibility he has. He’s embraced over and over what the team needs from him. When he doesn’t have the puck, it’s what he’s doing to lead the group and bring physicality or defensive positioning. He’s giving up offensive production and that shows his maturity,” said Krueger.


Krueger brought in former Oilers video coach Myles Fee to do the same job with the Sabres, but with more responsibility.

“He’s grown a lot since he was in Edmonton. He’s more than a video coach. He’s like an assistant coach now. He’s my go-to guy on the pre-scouts and rankings of other teams,” said Krueger.

Fee left Oilers in 2016 after seven years here and was working for Charlotte Checkers, Carolina’s farm team.

“I just got my ring,” Fee said of last year’s AHL championship team.


While Krueger was head coach of Team Europe at the World Cup in 2016 and had a large hand in working with Leon Draisaitl, Krueger said Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice was the real teacher in this equation.

“Paul took Leon on as a pet project and Edmonton should send Paul some flowers or something. Paul did a really good job making Leon understand what it meant to play against the best players and teams in the world,” he said.


Three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Oilers Steve Smith is also on Krueger’s Buffalo staff as he was when Krueger was Oilers head coach. He looks after the Sabres defence. “Our history is very strong,” said Krueger … The Oilers sent extra forward Colby Cave back to Bakersfield with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Kassian cleared to play after being hurt. Sam Gagner and Patrick Russell didn’t dress against Buffalo … Krueger, who has been a speaker at the World Economic Forum in his adopted Swiss home Davos for years, won’t do it this January, obviously.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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