Buffalo Sabres GM Kevyn Adams faced the media for his season-ending availability on Wednesday and addressed the future of interim head coach Don Granato, the health status of team captain Jack Eichel and what the club will do to respond to a third last-place finish in the last seven seasons.
Granato took over for Ralph Krueger on March 17 and went 9-16-3 in the second half, but was more effective in reaching and instilling confidence in the Sabres young core group of Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Mittelstadt, and Dylan Cozens, but with prominent names like John Tortorella, Rick Tocchet, Gerard Gallant, and Bruce Boudreau available, Adams indicated that the club will go through a process before hiring a new bench boss.
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After the season, (we) quickly discussed where we go from here and we’re on the same page. I told (him that) I learned a ton through the coaching search process we went through in the American Hockey League,” Adams said. “I want to talk to a lot of people with our current situation in Buffalo. I want to learn, I want to ask questions, I just want to talk to a lot of different people with a lot of different backgrounds, so we’re going to do that and Donnie totally understood. I think he believes that he’s ready and capable of being the head coach of this team.”
The Sabres GM also spoke regarding Eichel’s comments that there was a disconnect between himself and the organization regarding the neck injury suffered against the New York Islanders in early March. Adams indicated that Eichel has not requested a trade and stated that there has been constant contact between the club and the player, team doctors and specialists brought in to provide second opinions.
The Sabres prefer a more conservative approach to rehabilitate the herniated disc in hopes of Eichel returning to full health before next season, while the player’s camp is in favor of a more risky surgical solution.
“There’s a high probability that through a conservative rehab approach, you are able to avoid surgery, and able to come back and perform at the top of your game. And that is what everybody agreed upon and that’s the hopes that we all still have.” Adams said. “It’s been speculated and discussed from Jack’s camp about potentially having a surgery that’s never been done on a National Hockey League player before. Our doctors aren’t comfortable with that, but I think we all are in a position where we want the same thing and hope that when we reimage this in the timeline that I laid out, Jack will have made steps and strides to be in a position where we’re in a better spot.”
The questions are not only limited to Eichel’s future, but to two other members of the core group assembled over the last decade, defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and winger Sam Reinhart. Ristolainen has been with the Sabres eight seasons and missed 20 games with a severe bout of COVID-19. The 26-year-old has one year remaining before qualifying for unrestricted free agency. Reinhart (the second overall pick in the 2014 Draft) led the Sabres with 25 goals but is a restricted free agent with a year to go before qualifying to be a UFA.
Both players indicated that they were open to staying in Buffalo, but were also open to moving on if the club were to go through another rebuild, hardly a ringing endorsement for the franchise that has not made the postseason since 2011.