Tage Thompson knows the Sabres must change. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres want more accountability from new coach: ‘A little too comfortable’

BUFFALO – Well, now we know. As expected, Sabres players praised Don Granato, their former coach, crediting him for boosting their careers and acknowledging they could’ve done more to help him.

Still, they clearly wanted a different type of leader.

In discussing Granato’s dismissal, Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said his players “are craving accountability, structure,” a sentiment they echoed Wednesday as they held exit meetings in KeyBank Center following a disappointing 84-point finish.

While players respect Granato, who was fired Tuesday, their words say he needed to be tougher on them.

“I know that word gets thrown around a lot,” Sabres center Tage Thompson said of accountability. “I think for me, accountability is consequences and actions. If you’re not doing the right things on the ice, there needs to be repercussions, whether it’s being benched or in the press box if you’re not playing winning hockey.”

Naturally, the new coach the Sabres introduce in the coming days or weeks – Adams wants an established NHL veteran – will likely be the antithesis of Granato.

Sabres winger Alex Tuch said the team “needs and is ready for” accountability.

“Donny did a really good job developing guys in this room, myself included, and helping our games,” he said. “But our next coach will be one that holds us accountable and one that makes sure that we’re performing to our best or you’re not going to perform at all.

“I’m excited for that. I’m excited for the challenge. I think we can do great things in this locker room.”

Thompson, who joined the Sabres in 2018, will be playing for his fourth coach next season.

“Hopefully the response is intensity,” he said of what the change can do for players. “I think comfort can be the death of you and I think we were a little too comfortable this year.”

Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin said the Sabres “have to be pushed.”

“We have a young group, who are hungry, and we need to get pushed hard,” said Dahlin, who acknowledged players did not do enough to help Granato. “And we’re ready for it.”

Some of that push, of course, must come from within. Dahlin mentioned the Sabres must treat practice differently.

“We need to push ourselves,” he said. “We have to understand that the practice is as important as the game. Yeah, I think that’s our main focus moving forward.”

Defenseman Connor Clifton said the Sabres let Granato, each other and the city down.

“We all thought we were gonna have a better year, and I think we were a better team than we showed all year,” he said. “I guess that’s the most disappointing thing about this. And then here we are, we’re gonna watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs.”

If the Sabres showcased more consistency – they never won more than three straight games all season – they possibly would’ve ended their 13-year playoff drought.

“At times you can see that we were a great team and other times we were too casual,” Thompson said. “I think that’s something that has got to be instilled in us, and that kind of goes back to the accountability thing as well. …

“It’s us in here, in the room holding each other accountable if there’s someone not playing the way they need to, and, obviously, needs to come from up top, too. And that’s something I don’t think we had enough of this year.”

The pool of established NHL coaches looking for work is small. Former Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, who was fired by the New Jersey Devils last month, might be the most intriguing candidate. Adams worked on Ruff’s staff last staff in Buffalo as an assistant coach.

Gerard Gallant, who led the Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, could also receive consideration. The New York Rangers fired him following last season.

Craig Berube, Bruce Boudreau and Todd McLellan could also fit Adams’ criteria.

Tuch said Ruff was his favorite coach growing up as a Sabres fan in Baldwinsville.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of his,” he said.

Tuch played for Gallant for more than two years, including during one of the most remarkable seasons in NHL history.

“He was an unbelievable coach,” he said. “I loved him. … That’s another fantastic candidate. If they were looking at those two guys, I’d be extremely happy with both. I think he brings a lot of firepower and energy with him.

“He was great for me. He really held me accountable as a rookie, as a young guy. I wouldn’t be the player I am today without him.”

One thought on “Sabres want more accountability from new coach: ‘A little too comfortable’”

  1. What about accountability from the GM. This team is so soft and undersized. This team would get pummeled in the playoffs. Yeah, the Sabres are close to making the playoffs. But, they’d have no chance of advancing. It’s really that simple.

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