Buffalo Sabers coach Granato faces the ‘curse of the Pegulas’

The function of head coach for the Buffalo Sabers has grow to be one of the vital unenviable positions in skilled sports activities since Terry Pegula bought the franchise in February 2011.

Within the 11 years because the Sabers have had six totally different males in cost behind the bench and none of them have lasted greater than two full seasons earlier than being fired. He has been a seemingly countless merry-go-round that has prevented the workforce from attaining sustained enchancment and made him the laughing inventory of the NHL.

In consequence, saying that the deck was in opposition to the seventh and present coach Don Granato when he took over halfway by the shortened 2021 season could be an enormous understatement. Regardless of this, the rookie bench chief guided the Sabers to a much-improved efficiency in his first full 12 months and it appears to be like just like the workforce is headed in the correct route.

Nevertheless, the coach’s job shouldn’t be but assured. If Granato cannot sustain Sabers’ upward pattern subsequent season, he may grow to be yet one more sufferer of the “Curse of the Pegulas.”

Terry Pegula loves firing individuals.

There isn’t any softer technique to say it. Since he acquired the Sabers from earlier proprietor Tom Golisano in the course of the 2010-11 season, Pegula has grow to be maybe the last word hockey participant. most nosy proprietor. Though he set out with the aim of creating the workforce a direct Stanley Cup challenger, his involvement in seemingly each side of his workforce’s operations, in addition to his little persistence with the entrance workplace workers, have made him a reviled determine within the metropolis of Buffalo. .

Buffalo Sabers Jason Botterill Dylan Cozens Terry Pegula
Terry Pegula (proper) has developed a doubtful popularity as an NHL proprietor since shopping for the Buffalo Sabers in 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Golisano has by no means made a managerial change in his eight years as proprietor, however Pegula has been the polar reverse. After Lindy Ruff was the primary sacrificial sufferer in March 2013, Ron Rolston, Ted Nolan, Dan Bylsma, phil housley and Ralph Krueger tried their greatest to make the Sabers right into a contender, however neither may succeed (thanks at the least partially to Buffalo’s perpetual incompetence and organizational overhaul) and all males met the identical destiny. Along with the six coaches, three common managers (GMs) have additionally been let go since 2011, together with Jason Botterill in June 2020 simply three weeks after the group he publicly endorsed it.

Let’s additionally not neglect that conflicts with former common supervisor Tim Murray had been reportedly what led to pat lafontaine voluntarily resign as president of hockey operations in March 2014, a blow from which the workforce in some ways has but to get well.

Pretty much as good as his intentions could also be, the Sabers group as an entire has grow to be a circus below the command of former oil tycoon Pegula. In consequence, each new coach who has taken over has been confronted with attempting to show an especially dysfunctional franchise right into a winner. And it has confirmed to be an not possible job up thus far.

Granato exceeded expectations this season

The work Granato did in his first full season with the Sabers was extraordinary given what he needed to work with. After what was arguably essentially the most disastrous season in workforce historical past and with out famous person Jack Eichel at their disposal, they shocked nearly everybody and completed simply seven video games below a .500 successful share for the 2021 season. 22 (no small feat contemplating they gained simply 15 of 58 video games final season).

Don Granato Jason Christie Buffalo Sabers
Don Granato (left) talks with Sabers assistant coach Jason Christie (Amy Irvin / The hockey writers).

The workforce’s offense improved significantly, led by a breakout 38-goal season from Tage Thompson, heavy rebounding from Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo and an almost one-point-a-game second half from Alex Tuch. Rasmus Dahlin and Henri Jokiharju additionally made large strides defensively, and Craig Anderson had a strong marketing campaign regardless of being the oldest goalkeeper within the NHL. Granato was actually one of many causes for the change and deserves to be credited. The roster appeared to gravitate in the direction of his laid-back, soft-spoken model and it appears the workforce has developed a real identification for the primary time in years.

Regardless of this, Granato’s place behind the Sabers’ bench shouldn’t be but set in stone as he enters his second full marketing campaign. Of the aforementioned six males who preceded him, solely Bylsma and Housley managed to make it to even two full seasons earlier than being fired. Even when a few of these firings had been justified, the actual fact stays that he’s approaching uncharted territory within the pantheon of Sabers head coaches below Pegula.

Can Granato break the curse?

Coming into the 2022-23 season, the Sabers are anticipated to construct on the inspiration of the earlier 12 months and maybe even search for a playoff spot. If that does not occur, the legislation of averages would point out that Pegula may do what he has performed higher than any of his contemporaries and hit the reset button as soon as extra.

Associated: The latest business success of Sabers has led to a serious rebuild

After so many failures, the Sabers (at the least up thus far) appear to have lastly discovered the correct man and it could be greatest for everybody if Garnatus had been saved. A workforce can by no means be anticipated to perform something with out organizational continuity and the Sabers have confirmed that point and time once more during the last decade.

With how far he is taken the Sabers in such a brief period of time, Granato deserves to be the one to lastly break the curse in workforce coaching. With him on the helm, the way forward for hockey in Buffalo appears to be like vibrant. But it surely all relies on Pegula’s skill to interrupt an outdated behavior. For the sake of followers in western New York and southern Ontario who desperately need their workforce to compete once more, let’s hope he can.

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