BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Sabres finished last season with the worst record in the NHL. Over the summer, they lost more than they gained. But despite the inexperience of the roster, head coach Don Granato is taking his philosophy to the next level.
"If some of the last place teams in the league have a winning percentage .500 to .600 when they score the first goal of the game, why would you spend so much time on defense?" Granato asked. "I don't want to be conservative. There's lots of games and lots of winning that depends on the ability to come back."
No player experienced more of a turnaround after last spring's coaching change than former first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin. Instead of staying in his own end, the Swedish blueliner was able to join the offense and make plays at both ends of the ice.
This season, without Jake McCabe or Rasmus Ristolainen, Dahlin has become one of Buffalo's more experienced defensemen. He's also in line for more minutes this year than ever before.
"Obviously I've been working on my body the whole summer, but I think it's a mindset," Dahlin said. "You've got to work hard every day, be patient, and trust yourself, because you have to be a guy you can trust."
Mistakes are bound to still happen, especially with a team as young and inexperienced as the Sabres. But the team knows they can't shy away from it, play conservative, or play on their heels.
"Mistakes are inevitable. Everyone makes mistakes; the best of the best make mistakes," Sabres forward Dylan Cozens said. "You have to just forget about it, learn from it, and think positively."
"Our sport is entertaining. We need to play it that way. We need to play with passion and energy," Granato said. "You have to earn respect and it has to be re-earned every single day. And we want players that know that, accept that, and love that."
Buffalo's 2021-22 campaign begins against one of the biggest surprises of last season; the Montreal Canadiens finished as Stanley Cup runner-ups last spring. They'll come to KeyBank Center for the first time since January 2020 for a 7:00 p.m. puck drop on Thursday night.