BUFFALO, N.Y. (WROC) — As the Sabres introduced Don Granato as the team’s 20th head coach in franchise history, it was clear the former interim head coach wanted to make Buffalo his permanent home.
“This is the position I wanted to be in, I hoped to be in. Nothing else interested me in the interim,” said Granato on Thursday. “I wanted to make that clear. I didn’t even think of pursuing anything else. I didn’t feel that was right. This is something that excites me.”
He stressed how important he feels it is to reward the Sabres fanbase, which hasn’t seen their team make the playoffs in a decade, with a winning team.
“This is an opportunity for me. But I really feel that it’s more than an opportunity, I feel it’s an obligation,” said Granato. “I feel I have an obligation to all the people that follow the Sabres, that care about the Sabres, to the players that walk in our room and have to battle for us. I really do feel that this is an obligation.”
The Sabres showed new life at the end of the season under Granato, despite only fielding a 9-16-3 record. The team showed new energy and the young core stressed how much they enjoyed playing for him to GM Kevyn Adams.
“In the exit meetings, it was really clear our players absolutely respect and bought into the message Don and the staff was bringing every day,” said Adams. “You can be the greatest coach in the world but if you don’t have the buy-in for the players it can be a real challenge. That was clear as well.”
The team will look drastically different next season than the one that left the ice at the end of the 2020-21 campaign. The team won the NHL Draft Lottery and has the number one overall pick in this month’s draft. Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainene, and Jack Eichel all could be traded, with Eichel almost certainly being on his way out the door.
Adams said on Thursday that their stance on Eichel’s injury remains unchanged and that they do not want a surgery to be performed on his neck that has never been done on a professional hockey player. Adams did not specifically say whether he is still in communication with Eichel, but said he had a long, productive conversation with his agent on Wednesday.
Adams opened the press conference saying that he wanted to build the franchise with people that truly want to be here for the right reasons and was asked later if that was in reference to Eichel.
“We need to establish a culture here of people on the ice, staff, across the organization, that are proud. That this is something really special, they get up every day and have this opportunity to be a Buffalo Sabres,” said Adams. “That’s a really important piece. We got energized at the end of the year by the young core of players and their commitment and their passion and their maturity. So that’s what I’m specifically talking about, but we won’t compromise on that.”
Any franchise-altering trade will likely be done before the draft which starts on Friday, July 23rd. That will begin yet another rebuild, one that will hopefully finally produce results under the team’s new head coach.