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Granato 'very comfortable' with coaching search

The interim head coach discussed the process during his end-of-season press conference

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

Don Granato said he is "very comfortable" with the process being conducted by general manager Kevyn Adams regarding the search for the next head coach of the Buffalo Sabres. 

Granato took over as interim coach following the dismissal of Ralph Krueger on March 17. He leaned heavily on young players and guided the Sabres to a 9-11-2 record from March 31 on. 

"In this business you earn it, and you have to re-earn it every day," Granato said. "Kevyn and the organization needs to go through a process and make a decision. I'm going to have talks with him and share more extensively my philosophy and approach."

Video: DON GRANATO

Adams said he was impressed with the job done by Granato and the rest of the interim staff but added that he wants to cast a wide net in searching for candidates. 

"I told Donnie, selfishly, I learned a ton through the coaching search process that we went through in the American Hockey League with Seth Appert ultimately being named," Adams said. "I talked to a lot of different people. Every one of those conversations I learned from and I've said from the beginning that 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. Donnie totally understood and I think he believes he's ready and capable of being a head coach of this team. I understand that he did a very good job, like I said, under challenging circumstances and now we'll go through the process." 

Granato, 53, had not worked as a head coach in the NHL prior to receiving his interim role. He won championships as a head coach in both the USHL and the ECHL, was named AHL Coach of the Year in 2001, and spent five years as a head coach with the U.S. National Team Development Program. 

The latter position familiarized Granato with the young players in today's NHL, including some currently on the Sabres. He leaned on that experience upon taking over in Buffalo, empowering young players with top-end matchups and high-leverage situations on a nightly basis. 

"Behind the scenes, we were challenging these guys very, very much, which is a big part of it, because we need them to be better," Granato said. "And again, I coached as if I would be here next season. Obviously, I wouldn't want to be standing behind a bench in October and not have taken advantage of this opportunity to get these players valuable experience playing against top teams."

The Sabres iced a lineup that included at least nine players under the age of 24 on most nights. Dylan Cozens and Casey Mittelstadt both saw No. 1 center duties at points. Rasmus Dahlin and Henri Jokiharju saw the top-pair matchups, which in the East Division meant nightly doses of Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, or Alex Ovechkin. 

With that experience came the lessons of failure. Granato pointed to Tage Thompson as one example of a player who saw his ice time decreased after a difficult stretch.

"I bumped Tage down a couple lines and had conversations with him, 'Listen, you're going to have to wait for your next opportunity, this is just the way it works,'" Granato said. "And he was ready for his next opportunity, which wasn't until a couple of games later."

In spite of the hard lesson, Thompson came away from the season feeling a genuine belief from Granato.

"I think he challenges everyone," Thompson said. "I think that's what we need. I think that says a lot about him. Obviously, he sees a lot in us and knows what we're capable of and holds us to a higher standard. 

"I think, for me personally, some of the things he was preaching was just being consistent every single night and being able to take over games. I know we both believed that I'm capable of that and now it's just getting to that."

Granato said the young core's willingness to be challenged should bode well moving forward. 

"There's no reason not to be confident and to be excited about the future of what is going on here," Granato said. "I am, and I know our players are regardless of what may happen and transpire over the next few months. I think it'll be great. Whatever happens is going to be great, there's no doubt in my mind."

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