The Buffalo Sabres have fired head coach Ralph Krueger and assistant coach Steve Smith in the midst of a 12-game losing streak, the team announced on Wednesday.
According to Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News, Don Granato has been named the team’s interim head coach and will be joined behind the bench by development coaches Matt Ellis and Dan Girardi.
Ellis played for the Sabres from 2008 through 2015 and was captain of the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Rochester Americans, in 2013-14. In 2005-06, Ellis also served as captain while playing with the Detroit Red Wings affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. He was serving as the Sabres’ player development coach. Girardi was hired in December as a development coach and played in 972 games in the NHL for the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Granato began coaching in the United States Hockey League in 1993. He spent a total of seven seasons as head coach in the AHL for the Worcester Ice Cats and Chicago Wolves between 2000 and 2010, a span that was interrupted briefly by a short stint as an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues in 2005. From 2013-16, he was the head coach of the United States National Team Development Program’s under-17 and under-18 teams. Before joining the Sabres, he was an assistant coach for the Chicago Blackhawks under Joel Quenneville.
Sabres Lost Season
In a season that began with some promise after bagging a free agent prize in Taylor Hall this offseason to join veteran Eric Staal, captain Jack Eichel and a host of developing talent, the Sabres have been mired in an abysmal streak that has seen the team win only two games in the last 17 since returning from a COVID-19-related pause.
Before the pause, the Sabres had four wins in their first 10 games of the season.
As the season slipped off the edge in February, many fans called on general manager Kevyn Adams to make a move. In early March, Adams held a press conference where he voiced his displeasure with the team’s performance, calling it “unacceptable.” The general manager also made it clear that he had full authority from team owners Terry and Kim Pegula to do whatever was necessary to fix the problem.
After Adams’ press conference, the team continued to lose. Everyone in the hockey world was wondering when the other shoe would drop and what kind of move would signal the GM’s intentions to either wait out the season or begin the team renovations this year.
Some pointed towards money being a factor in holding onto Krueger for the rest of this season. Others wondered openly if Adams was waiting for the right coach for the job to become available in the offseason. The Sabres have yet to explain why the decision was made this week.
Providence Friars coach Nate Leaman has been linked to the Sabres by Buffalo-area journalist Paul Hamilton. Leaman has a .612 winning percentage over 10 seasons with the Friars and coached Team USA to a gold medal at the World Juniors in January. Aside from naming Granato as the interim head coach, the Sabres have not announced when the search for a new full-time head coach will begin.
Mike Carter is a freelance writer and contributor for the Buffalo Sabres with The Hockey Writers and NHLTradeRumors.Me He is @mikecarterlives on Twitter. Mike has been writing professionally since 2012, with stints as a reporter in northern British Columbia and Edmonton, Alberta. He now calls Salmon Arm, B.C. home.