Don Granato was asked about the Buffalo Sabres’ hot start this season. The coach said he immediately thought of the meetings he had with some of his players when last season ended.
“The exit meetings we had, and [general manager] Kevyn Adams, was great,” Granato said on the latest episode of the “NHL @TheRink” podcast. “I was involved in all the exit meetings, just coaching exit meetings with him, and they had a chip on their shoulders. They were excited to come back and at that point after those exit meetings, I wanted to come back. My fate was unknown at that time, but what I was motivated by and inspired by was how aggressively the group of returning players wanted the season to not end last year.”
Granato is back for his first full season with the Sabres after taking over for Ralph Krueger on March 17. The Sabres are 3-0-0 after a 5-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, their longest season-opening winning streak since they won four in a row in 2008-09.
“Even though people from the outside would say it was miserable, these guys didn’t want [last] season to end, and how intent they were about starting the season right this year,” Granato said. “I don’t mean wins; we never know if we’re going to win or lose. Last night, we played a heck of a team in Vancouver and we could have lost that game. It’s more about playing the right way, playing competitive and playing with confidence. Our guys have kind of earned the right to play with confidence because they’ve put the work in.”
Granato said the returning players arrived at training camp this year with a lot of “discontent” with how last season ended. The Sabres were last in the NHL with 37 points, six fewer than the 30th place Anaheim Ducks.
All offseason there was talk about former captain Jack Eichel‘s future in Buffalo and the disconnect between him and the Sabres regarding his neck injury and the best course of treatment.
But Granato said the players arrived fit, ready to compete, and not worried about the situation with Eichel. He said they haven’t allowed it to be a distraction even though Eichel, albeit injured, is still a member of the Sabres, just not visible now.
“It’s not at all,” Granato said. “In fact, ice time increased for every guy.
“Yes, it’s your friend. We have injured guys now and yeah, it’s your friends and teammates who get injured and can’t play. But at the end of the day these guys just want ice time, and they want to play. They can turn to that and they do turn to that immediately. It just won’t affect us. It hasn’t at all. I don’t actually see how it could affect us because these guys are just hungry for more.”
Granato also discussed his coaching style with the Sabres, what he’s learning about himself as a coach, forward Tage Thompson‘s bright future and the importance of forward Jeff Skinner.
Wrapped around the interview with Granato, co-hosts Dan Rosen and Shawn P. Roarke discussed several teams, asking if it’s time to panic or not for some off to slow starts and if it’s time to raise expectations for some off to surprisingly fast starts, including the Sabres.
Rosen and Roarke also touched on Vitali Kravtsov’s future with the New York Rangers after the forward chose to go home to Russia instead of reporting to Hartford of the American Hockey League, and where the Arizona Coyotes could be playing their home games after this season.
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Listen: New episode of NHL @TheRink