It seems the Buffalo Sabres had their next head coach right in front of them all along. After an exhaustive search, Sabres GM Kevyn Adams has announced that Don Granato will lose his interim tag and become the next full-time head coach of the Sabres, signing a three-year contract.
Granato, 53, has actually been with the Sabres since the beginning of 2019-20, coming over from the Chicago Blackhawks after Joel Quenneville made his exit. It wasn’t until partway through this season that he got his first opportunity to serve as head coach in the NHL though, taking over when Ralph Krueger was fired in March. The Sabres were on a 12-game losing streak at the time, and though they certainly didn’t turn things around completely, there was far more competitiveness out of the group under Granato down the stretch.
In 28 games behind the Buffalo bench, Granato posted a 9-16-3 record, still not good enough to come anywhere close to the playoffs. But it’s the way the players seemed much more engaged that is encouraging, at least for a franchise that will grab onto any grain of hope at this point.
This isn’t Granato’s first time as a head coach overall. He led the USNTDP for several years and was a head coach of both the Worcester IceCats and Chicago Wolves in the AHL. He has led several junior-aged iterations of Team USA internationally, leading the U18 squad to gold in 2015. He’s also part of quite the hockey family. His brother Tony Granato played 773 games in the NHL and is now the head coach at the University of Wisconsin. His sister Cammi Granato is in the Hockey Hall of Fame after an incredible playing career that included Olympic gold, and her husband, Ray Ferraro, scored over 400 goals in a 1,258-game NHL career.
There is certainly a lot of encouraging signs with the hire of Granato, but that doesn’t mean it comes without risk. Once again, the Sabres are going with a rookie head coach to try and bring together a group that has had zero success over the past decade. Once again, it’ll mean his biggest task will be developing the top-end prospects that litter the organization, turning them into real difference-makers at the NHL level. There is certainly no guarantee he can accomplish that, even if the last few months of the season were better than under his predecessor.
Darren Dreger of TSN was first to break the news that Granato would get a multi-year deal.