Don Granato has been named as the new head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, the team announced on Tuesday.
Granato’s deal with the Sabres is for three years, a source tells ESPN.
Granato, 53, served as interim coach of the Sabres for the final 30 games of last season after Ralph Krueger was fired in March. Granato took over as the Sabres were amid an NHL record 18-game winless streak and captain Jack Eichel was sidelined. Buffalo missed the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season, the longest drought in the NHL.
Granato has a 28-year coaching career but it’s been a winding road. At age 38, while coaching for the St. Louis Blues AHL affiliate, Granato was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. As he took time away from the team to receive treatment, he thought he’d never coach again. “Absolutely I wondered that,” Granato told ESPN earlier this year. “But it was more of a fear of, I need to make it through this.”
Granato is part of one of America’s most prominent hockey families. His brother, Tony, is the head coach of Wisconsin and his sister, Cammi, is a Hockey Hall of Famer and scout for the Seattle Kraken.
The Sabres won the 2021 draft lottery and will be selecting No. 1 overall for the second time in three years.
Among the biggest agenda items for Buffalo this off-season is what to do with Eichel, as the team is at odds with the captain on how to treat a herniated disc in his neck. The team denied Eichel’s request to get a surgery that GM Kevyn Adams said had “never been performed on an NHL hockey player.”
Granato has history with Eichel, having coached the center as a teenager with the U.S. National Team Development Program.
“I got to know him then, and I thought the world of him then. He means a lot to me personally,” Granato told ESPN in April. “I love the fact that he has such strong and visible emotions of the game. I’ve reminded him numerous times that he’s got to make sure he finds the fun in all of this too. Sometimes a lot of these great athletes are so intense, and there’s so much demand on them that they feel like they can’t have fun. It becomes such a business. They’re judged on different levels. I’m speaking generally now, but when you lose that, or you stop being aware of that, it becomes even harder.”