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Sabres Looking for NHL Experience in Next Coach

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Kevyn Adams press conference Buffalo Sabres coach

Buffalo Sabres General Manager Kevyn Adams held his end-of-season press conference Tuesday in the wake of the news of the firing of Don Granato as head coach of the team. If one message was to be taken out of the presser, it’s that the Sabres are looking to replace him with someone who has experience coaching in the NHL.

Must Read: Sabres Fire Don Granato

“I want the next head coach to be someone that has experience and can push this group to the next level,” Adams said. “Previous NHL head coaching experience, pedigree is important.”

Although Adams led with that he believes the Sabres organization is in a better place than it was when Granato took over, missing the playoffs was a letdown they could not get past. He downplays pressure and being a young team as excuses and, if he has one message to the players, it’s that “the time is now”.

Previous NHL experience brings up a lot of candidates recently fired from head coaching positions, including longtime Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. The former bench boss is on a list with Craig Berube, Todd McLellan, Jay Woodcroft, Dean Evason, D.J. Smith, and Lane Lambert as coaches who lost their jobs this season.

Other prominent candidates could include Bruce Boudreau and Gerard Gallant, who both have had success in the NHL.

When asked about the potential interest in the job, Adams responded, “I have a lot of voicemails.”

Coaching Search

The search for a new head coach will involve Adams, his staff, and team owner Terry Pegula. The committee has previous experience in hiring coaches, including Granato and Rochester Americans head coach Seth Appert.

Regarding Appert, he remains in Rochester. The Sabres want him to focus and lock in on a playoff run with the Amerks. Rochester has clinched a playoff spot. They’re a point out of first place in the North Division with three games remaining.

The timeline for finding a new coach isn’t set in stone, but Adams believes when the right candidate is found they’ll move swiftly to hire. He also shook off any notion that the Sabres will be on a budget in hiring.

“There’s never been a time that I haven’t been given any resource that we need here to win. Period.”

Other Notes

  • Adams confirmed that the organization had decided to move on from Granato before last night’s game. He said it was a continual evaluation throughout the season. The group felt an in-season move was not the right time.
  • The rest of the coaching staff apart from Granato, Jason Christie, and Matt Smith have all been retained, but not necessarily to continue in their current roles with the team. The specific name that comes to mind is assistant coach Matt Ellis, whose powerplay units have struggled this season. Ellis is regarded as a good developmental coach and could be an asset elsewhere in the organization.
  • Tage Thompson left Monday’s game with an injury. Adams confirmed it will prevent him from representing Team USA in the upcoming World Championships. The injury isn’t serious enough to affect offseason training and preparation for next season, according to the Sabres GM.
  • The players making up the team’s core regressed as a whole, but Adams cautioned evaluating based on this season’s numbers. He alluded to injuries playing a part, and the goaltending and JJ Peterka taking big steps forward.
  • As for adding to the hockey operations department, Adams said he’s always looking for talent. “We’ll sit down and have conversations and really go over our [organizational] chart and structure,” the GM explained. “I want people that challenge me….I do think we’re well positioned from a hockey ops [point of view] but…if we think there’s a reason to add we will.”