The Buffalo Sabres officially announced today that Don Granato has been hired as the next head coach of the team. The move tabs him as the 20th head coach in franchise history. The hiring officially ends the Ralph Kreuger chapter as one that all Sabres fans would love to forget.
With the interim head coach tag officially removed, Don Granato is able to continue the work he started after taking over for Kreuger on March 17th. Following a disastrous tenure that saw players throughout the lineup suffer, Granato was able to get the club back to playing respectable hockey. Players like Casey Mittelstadt who seemed destined for “bust” status responded the most registering 17 points over the 28 games Granato held the interim tag. The prioritizing of getting experience for the youth players was evident in the lineup deployments and the system has led to a development of trust within the players.
While starting off his tenure winless in his first six games was not ideal, the Sabres were free falling off a cliff with 12 straight losses prior to Kreuger’s firing. After the early roadblocks, Granato was able to stop the bleeding and finish the season 9-11-2. While there is no jumping for joy with those stats or for missing the playoffs for the 10th straight season, there were some positives to take away from the way the season ended under his guidance.
The team’s young players overall responded positively to Granato’s promotion up to the head coach role. Without Jack Eichel or Taylor Hall in the lineup, the team played some of it’s best hockey that the club has seen in quite some time. The run included victories against the New York Islanders, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Boston Bruins. In the 28 games prior while under Krueger, this team did not pick up a single win against either of those clubs.
Granato who has a hockey career spanning three decades across various levels of the sport had joined the Sabres as an assistant coach for the 2019-20 season. Prior, he spent five seasons as head coach with the U.S. National Team Development Program. During his tenure he coached several top American-born players that are currently in the NHL today including Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Quinn Hughes just to name a few.
He also won a USHL championship with the Green Bay Gamblers in 1996. Moving up the ranks to the ECHL, he won the Kelly Cup with the Peoria Rivermen in 2000. After, he was promoted to St. Louis’ AHL affiliate the Worcester Ice Cats to be their head coach. In 2014, as head coach for Team USA at the U-18 World Championship he collected a silver medal before following up the next year and winning gold.
It goes without saying that Granato certainly knows a thing or two about coaching and most importantly coaching young players with star qualities. This will certainly be key in moving forward for the Sabres as the inevitable shift in development and growth is sure to become heightened with the players left and those incoming from whatever the front office decides to do with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.
For once it seems that the brass for the Buffalo Sabres got something right. After the situations with Eichel and Reinhart are straightened out, let’s just hope this is the new trend going forward.Embed from Getty Images