Buffalo Sabres: Major network gets it right about Don Granato’s assistants

In turbulent times like these, the buck often stops with the head coach, but the Buffalo Sabres are in a more unique situation.

Dec 30, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA;  Buffalo Sabres interim head coach Seth Appert on the bench
Dec 30, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres interim head coach Seth Appert on the bench / Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

In a shocking twist of fate yesterday, Buffalo Sabres general manager called up Rochester Americans coach Seth Appert to coach the team in head coach Don Granato’s absence in Saturday night’s win over Columbus as opposed to leaving the job to one of the assistants in Matt Ellis, Jason Christie, Mike Bales, or Marty Wilford, all of whom should know the team better than Appert. 

So it raises the burning question: Why would Adams roll with an AHL head coach as opposed to one of the assistants? It seems like Tim Graham of The Athletic has a theory, and given the way things have gone for the Sabres this season, it shouldn’t shock us as to what the well-respected writer had to say. 

Here’s an interesting quote from such a theory that pretty much sums up how poorly the assistants have fared this season:

"“But what the maneuver also suggests, with New York Rangers assistant Michael Peca already generating buzz as a future head coach six months after leaving the Sabres organization, is that Granato’s aides have exuded no such NHL-head-coach-material vibes after all this time. Three days ago, Granato said he was taking a more active role in correcting Ellis’ aggravating power play. Saturday, the entire staff was leapfrogged by a greenhorn.”"

Tim Graham

Source: Graham: Seth Appert coaching Sabres shows how inexperienced Don Granato’s assistants are

Are the Buffalo Sabres assistant coaches the real problem here?

Understanding that success is a journey full of pitfalls along the way as opposed to steady progression, I’m all for keeping things intact for another season as far as the head coach and general manager go. But that doesn’t mean I’m not for making tweaks and changes along the way, especially if it’s for the betterment of the team.

And none of the aforementioned coaches have seen much success at the pro level of hockey, as Jason Christie was nothing more than a high-level ECHL player. Marty Wilford spent three seasons as an assistant in Anaheim and saw marginal success, while Matt Ellis’ had no real experience in the NHL besides playing in 356 NHL games and four playoff games. Mike Bales is the only one who has seen what true success looks like in the NHL, and perhaps it’s best the Buffalo Sabres go in that direction. 

At this point, Sabres fans would probably be willing to have given a lot just to get someone like Michael Peca back. Peca knows what it’s like to win in the NHL, and as Graham’s quote above reads, it’s clear the former Sabre is doing a fantastic job with the Rangers. 

While continuity is key for success in the NHL and in any sport for that matter, surrounding Granato with assistants who boast better resumes is the way to go. Unfortunately, they had Peca in the system, but lost him to New York, and the Blue and Gold would do well to find a coach or two like Peca to compensate for that loss.