Press Briefings - 5 Key Takeaways
Wednesday morning, Sabres head coach Don Granato and general manager Kevyn Adams, conducted their season ending press conferences. Although they might not have the eyebrow raising bluntness of a Tim Murray press conference, here are 5 key takeaways from the current Sabres managers:
1) Granato’s Unwavering Belief
Don Granato’s press conference was a shining example of why he is beloved in the Sabre locker room. He is relentlessly positive when talking about each player and does his best to defend them from external scrutiny. For example, when asked about Victor Oloffson being a healthy scratch down the stretch, Granato first praised his skill, noted they want him to utilize his talent to get to high danger areas, and concluded by referencing Thompson’s injury necessitating a need for additional center depth. Other coaches might just put out the tired cliché of wanting to put out the lineup he thought gave them the best chance to win. Instead, he went out of his way to highlight a positive part of Oloffson’s game and give an explanation that doesn’t put all the blame on the player. He believes in his players and never misses an opportunity to emphasize the positive regardless of a players’ struggles.
2) Gained Opportunity
The press conference became slightly contentious when AP reporter John Wawrow asked Kevyn Adams if this season was a missed opportunity of sorts. Adams vehemently disagreed and went on to highlight the growth the team showed and the “gained opportunity” of playing in pressure situations down the stretch. Adams emphasized that they were disappointed with missing the playoffs but refocused the attention on the season being another positive step towards sustainable success. Sabres fans can certainly feel as though there were individual instances of missed opportunities, but a season in which Buffalo was in the playoff race until game 80 would meet any reasonable preseason expectation from last September.
3) Upcoming Contracts
Adams has proven to be proactive in extending players identified as core pieces. Two are eligible for extensions this summer beginning on July 1st. Adams stated that they have spoken with the agents of Owen Power and Rasmus Dahlin and begun preliminary contract discussions. Locking up the twin pillars on the back end will be a high priority this offseason. Adams gave some insight on their plans to sign a few Sabre prospects:
Ryan Johnson – Adam said they have made their pitch and they’re waiting on Johnson’s camp. He can become a UFA August 15th. If he doesn’t sign, Buffalo will receive a compensatory 2nd round pick in 2024 (62nd overall).
Nikita Novikov and Viktor Neuchev – Both are eligible for entry level contracts this summer and Adams stated they are going to try and get them signed. In particular, Novikov could bolster Buffalo’s organizational blue line depth and would have a great chance to earn minutes in Rochester next year.
Prokhor Poltapov – The Sabres 2021 2ndround pick is still signed to his KHL team which prevents Buffalo from negotiating an entry level deal.
4) Respect for their elders
There has been speculation about the potential return of pending UFA forwards and current captains Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons. Some argue that Buffalo should move on from the veteran duo to provide opportunities to their younger prospects. Adams reiterated their value to the young Sabres roster and managements willingness to resign them. Both have been great role models and voices in the locker room, particularly Okposo who has been the more vocal of the pair. Their contract status will be a storyline heading into free agency but don’t be surprised if we receive clarity before July 1st. Adams signed Craig Anderson before free agency started last summer. He’s not one to leave veterans twisting in the wind like former Sabre General Managers did to Brian Gionta and Jason Pominville in the recent past.
5) Just for Kicks
One of the lighter moments of the press conference when Make Harrington of the Buffalo News asked if any conversations were had after the Hudson Fasching FIFA World Cup worthy goal against Buffalo. This brought a smile to Adams’ face as he said that he did have conversations with the league. Adams feels as though the explanation by the league was insufficient, but he ultimately understands the gray area involved, or, at least, the gray area the league believes there is with the rule. Although there is not much Adams could have done, it is reassuring the Adams will advocate for Buffalo and make his displeasure with the league’s decision known.