Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said he will begin an immediate search to fill the team’s coaching vacancy with the intention to hire a candidate with NHL coaching experience.

Adams met with the media Tuesday, hours after the team relieved head coach Don Granato, assistant coach Jason Christie and video coordinator Matt Smith of their duties.  

“I want the next head coach to be someone that has experience and can push this group to the next level and win hockey games,” Adams said. “I have it in my mind exactly what I’m looking for and that will be starting today.”

Adams said he will lead the search with input from others including Sabres owner Terry Pegula, associate general manager Jason Karmanos and assistant manager Mark Jakubowski. He added that conversations would begin as early as Tuesday afternoon.

“It’ll be a process, but I can’t stress enough that my mind is very crystal clear on what I’m looking for and we’ll move as quickly as possible to get it done,” Adams said.

Adams said the Sabres fell short of their own high expectations this season, which ended Monday. The team finished with 84 points and was eliminated from playoff contention last Tuesday.

“We just weren’t good enough this year and we underperformed and that’s not just on the coaches,” Adams said. “That’s on the players, too, and that’s on me.

“… I certainly talked to people that I’m close with and that I work with. I certainly spent a lot of time recently talking to Terry Pegula about this, but this was my decision. I felt this was what I needed to do and what we need to do as an organization to take the next step.”

GM Kevyn Adams addresses the media

Adams reiterated his belief in the core of the Sabres roster, which includes five players under the age of 25 who have signed long-term extensions in forwards Dylan Cozens and Tage Thompson and defensemen Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, and Mattias Samuelsson.

The Sabres general manager said he expects the team’s wealth of young talent to make Buffalo’s coaching vacancy an attractive opportunity. That group also includes forward JJ Peterka and goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, both of whom enjoyed breakout seasons in 2023-24, among others.

“I truly believe, and I do believe others see this as well, that we’re right on the cusp of taking the next step, and if you’re a head coach and you’re competitive and experienced, that’s something to get excited about,” Adams said.

“And this is a hockey city. People that love the game and love the feeling of coming into a rink and feeling the expectation of fans and pressure, you want to be in a city like Buffalo. So, no doubt that this is going to be an attractive job.”

Here are more takeaways from Adams’ season-ending press conference on Tuesday.

1. The Sabres have had the NHL’s youngest roster each of the past two seasons, but Adams said their youth should no longer be a top of conversation as it pertains to competing.

“I understand that and that’s real and that’s part of where I do think the inconsistency and the ups and downs at times have happened,” he said. “But we now have players that have experience in this league and have been through the league a few times. That no [longer] needs to be talked about.”

Adams said he will challenge the players to take the next step entering this offseason.

“It’s go time,” he said. “It’s time to perform on an individual level and a team level. We have to be better.”

2. Adams confirmed that assistant coaches Matt Ellis, Marty Wilford, and Mike Bales; video coach Justin White; and NHL coaching staff assistant Dan Girardi will remain on staff but added that responsibilities will be determined in conjunction with the incoming head coach.

“In my mind, very clear direction of what I see and what I want to have happen,” Adams said. “But those conversations will be happening.”

3. The Sabres finished the 2020-21 season in last place with .330 points percentage. The team improved to 75 and then 91 points during Granato’s first two seasons as head coach while players such as Thompson, Cozens, and Dahlin enjoyed career years under his guidance.

“I can tell you, there’s no doubt in my mind that our locker room, our team, our organization, is in a better place today than we were three and a half years ago when Donny took over as head coach, and I’m very appreciative of that,” he said.

4. Thompson will not be able to participate in the IIHF World Championship due to the lower-body injury he sustained against Tampa Bay on Thursday. The injury is not expected to affect his offseason training or availability for the start of next season, Adams said.

The World Championship begins May 10 in Czechia.