Rasmus Dahlin and other veteran members of the Buffalo Sabres met with the media as they cleaned out their lockers at KeyBank Center on Wednesday, in the wake of coach Don Granato and two members of his staff being relieved of their duties.

While change is coming behind the bench, Dahlin said it falls upon the players to take accountability for a season in which they felt they underperformed their own expectations.

“As a group, we have to play better,” he said. “First of all, we have to look ourselves in the mirror. Us players, we weren't good enough. We didn't help Donny at all, honestly.

“So now, we need a good summer. When we get to training camp, we need a really good camp. And we have to be pushed. We have a young group, who [is] hungry, and we need to get pushed hard. And we're ready for it.”

Rasmus Dahlin addresses the media

The Sabres entered the season eager to take the next step as a postseason team after finishing one point shy of the playoffs in 2022-23. While they did work their way into the race following the trade deadline – coming as close as three points out from a playoff spot in March – the Sabres were unable to overcome a sub-.500 mark through their first three months of the season and finished with 84 points.

“I don’t think we deserved the playoffs the way we played, but the promising thing is that we were the ones who didn’t play our game consistently,” defenseman Connor Clifton said. “So, I think you struggled with that because you know it’s in here, and I’m excited to be part of this group and I’m excited for camp next year.

“Obviously, we have a long time to wait and a long time to prepare, and I think that’s just part of the process. We just weren’t good enough. We got to bring that pissed-off mentality after a season like that into September, October next year.”

Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said Tuesday that he will begin an immediate search for an experienced coach who will have a relationship with players but also demand accountability.

Those who spoke Wednesday – including Dahlin, Tage Thompson, and Alex Tuch – invited that sort of presence behind the bench while also emphasizing the importance of player-to-player accountability.

“We have a really tight locker room,” Thompson said. “Guys that are very close with each other. Bonds that are very, very tight. And I think that’s pretty special. That’s not something that a lot of teams can say. But at the same time, when you have those bonds, you don’t want to upset or ruffle any feathers.

“I think we need to be OK with calling guys out. … Obviously it’s coming from a place of love and that underlying belief that you know they have better, and you just want to see the team succeed and you want better from them and better for them. And I think everyone in here understands that and that’s something that we got to be OK with doing.”

Tage Thompson addresses the media

The hunger for accountability stems from a belief within the dressing room that the Sabres are capable of more than what they showed this season. Thompson scored 29 goals despite playing through injuries but still said he has to be better. Tuch tied for the Sabres’ lead with 59 points but felt he started the season too slowly.

“You can point to a lot of other things, but at the end of the day it turns to the guys in the room and myself looking in the mirror, and this year wasn’t good enough,” Thompson said. “I have to be way better, and I think there’s a lot of other guys in this room that have to be way better.”

Tuch said missing the playoffs will drive him through his offseason training, echoing comments Dylan Cozens made following the team’s season finale on Monday.

“It’s going to be stuck in the back of your mind,” Tuch said. “This offseason I’m going to attack it like I’ve never attacked it before. I’m going to try to push myself to limits that I’ve never even come close to, and that’s my mentality going into the summer.”

Adams reiterated his belief in the core of the Sabres roster on Wednesday. Cozens, Dahlin, and Thompson are signed to long-term contracts, as are defensemen Mattias Samuelsson and Owen Power. JJ Peterka and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen are coming off breakout seasons. Jack Quinn was limited by two long-term injuries but was an impact player while in the lineup.

The players, Dahlin said, believe too. And while they know they underachieved, they remain committed to building a winner in Buffalo.

“One-hundred percent, we believe as much as we did, I don't know, a year or two ago,” Dahlin said. “And we're as motivated. We want it even more after this year. Because this team knows what we can do, and, we just couldn't figure it out this year. But, I think, some changes will do good to us.”