BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Sabres have wrapped up another season, but many fans will argue that this offseason feels a little different.. because there is a lot of optimism about the future of this organization and where they're headed.
Sabres General Manager Kevyn Adams and head coach Don Granato spoke to the media on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the season and their future goals. You can watch those full conferences above.
Here are five takeaways from today's press conferences:
Sitting back and listening
At the end of every season, the Sabres front office meets with each player individually to discuss the past season. Sometimes the conversations revolve around what the players need to do better, while other times it surrounds the team as a whole and what they want to accomplish. This year Granato took a different approach and instead of talking about this or that, he brought up topics and then sat back and listened.
"I didn't feel I had to tell the guys anything," Granato said. "I more wanted to learn from them to feel what they felt. So it was open discussion for them to lead the way. I gave them points, and they just ran with it."
Belief inside the locker room
Despite missing the postseason for the 11th straight season, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The Sabres scored more goals in a season than they have in a decade and saw nine players or more capitalize with 10 or more goals in a season. The guys have been saying for weeks that they didn't want this season to end because they were having so much fun, and the front office feels the same way. They know there's still a lot to work on and improve, but the belief - for the first time in a while - is there and alive.
"What I feel good about is you look at our team now and the continuity within the staff and the players, and you're building. We want really good players and really good people that love being here," Adams said. "When that comes together, and I think we feel it's starting to, it can be special. It can be powerful and the players now believe and that's a big deal."
"Guys are not afraid to be themselves and they have a vision and clarity of how we should be as a whole," Granato added. "The real essence of it is they see the way they can win through their identity. That is a big nugget. When you hear that as a coach, that's what it's all about."
Dahlin's emergence as a leader
Rasmus Dahlin has continued to show signs of progress and this season, the former 1st overall pick emerged as the leader this team has desperately needed. On offense, Dahlin recorded 53 points in 80 games played and was even more aggressive on defense, finishing with 91 blocks and 121 hits. Surrounded by young defensemen, Dahlin has stepped up in more ways than one and with new guys like Owen Power starting to get acclimated to the NHL, his leadership will only help this roster get better.
"I give Rasmus a ton of credit," Adams said. "His work ethic is 'I wanna get on the ice early and work on my game'. It sends a message to everybody in the locker room and that's really impressive progress."
Excitement surrounding Owen Power
Following a loss in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals, last year's 1st overall pick Owen Power made the decision to sign and join the Sabres toward the end of the regular season. His first on-ice practice was in Toronto on April 11th and made his NHL debut the next night against the Maple Leafs in which he broke up a huge 2-on-1 opportunity. In eight games played, Power recorded two goals and an assist. Despite his lack of NHL-level play, Power looked like he fit in right away and while he still has things to work on, showed a lot of promise while skating alongside Henri Jokiharju.
"He has all this hindsight now going into the summertime," Granato said. "I'm not surprised with how he did because I have so much respect for his game. The value of integrating with our team, he came in and he was like a little brother to them and then some. That was nice to be part of."
Captaincy talks will happen
At the start of the season, Jack Eichel was stripped of his captaincy and in the weeks that followed, Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons were both named "alternate captains". Wearing the letter 'C' means a lot to this organization and they don't just give it to anyone. It's why talks are ongoing when it comes to naming a captain next season. Adams and Granato both said they don't have a "bad guy" in that locker room but did praise both Dahlin and Okposo for their leadership and embodying what it means to be a Sabre. No decision has been made and they haven't put a timeline on naming a captain, but Adams did say those talks will happen.
"Something Donny and I have already spent time talking about is how we're in a different place than where we were last season," Adams said. "We feel we're in a pretty good spot."
"We feel we have incredible leadership and are in a really good position," Granato added. "We're really excited where we're at in that regard."