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Sabres Fire Don Granato

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Don Granato Buffalo Sabres head coach fired

The Buffalo Sabres announced Tuesday that head coach Don Granato, assistant coach Jason Christie, and video coordinator Matt Smith have all been relieved of their duties. The news comes after the conclusion of a disappointing season for the Sabres, as playoff aspirations turned into regression. Buffalo finished the season with 84 points, seven less than last season.

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After missing the playoffs by one point last season, the Sabres were a popular breakout candidate by analysts. Instead, Buffalo saw a massive reduction in scoring and a powerplay that was among the league’s worst. This led to fan speculation throughout the season whether or not Granato would be fired.

The firings are a sign that the team is heading in a new direction, as the focus on player development was Granato’s specialty. Kevyn Adams said as much in a statement released Tuesday:

“I would like to thank Don for his time in Buffalo and commitment to the Sabres organization,” said General Manager Kevyn Adams. “He has been integral in the development of many of our players and has undoubtedly been the right coach to bring us to where we are now, but I felt it was necessary to move in a different direction at this point in time. My expectation is to be a consistent contender and unfortunately that goal has not been met.”

Regarding Christie and Smith, Adams also said:

“I would also like to thank Jason and Matt for their contributions to the team. This is not a decision I take lightly but know it is in the best interest of our team moving forward.”

Don Granato’s Sabres went 122-125-27 in his four seasons as interim and head coach. He was largely credited with developing Tage Thompson into a star player after transitioning him to center. Other players have reached career bests under Granato, including Rasmus Dahlin, Alex Tuch, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.

As for what’s next, ownership and management are expected to conduct an extensive coaching search to find the right candidate to push the Sabres into yearly contention. A veteran head coach is likely the preference with some big names available. Among others, the list includes Craig Berube, Todd McLellan, Gerard Gallant, and longtime Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.