BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Seven months after general manager Kevyn Adams declared the Sabres’ competitive window of opportunity as being open, it slammed shut on coach Don Granato, who was fired on Tuesday.

Expressing his frustration and impatience, Adams launched what now stands as the team’s eighth coaching search in 12 years by targeting someone with NHL experience to inspire a young but underperforming team that extended the franchise’s league-record playoff drought to a 13th season.

“It’s go time. It’s time to perform on an individual level and a team level. We have to be better,” Adams said. “I believe we have a talented group of players that now we need to take the next step, which is obviously getting in the playoffs and going from there.”

Though crediting Granato for developing much of the Sabres' young core during his three-plus seasons behind the bench, Adams believes his players now need a more seasoned voice behind the bench.

“I’m not going to get in the names. I think it’s a challenge to do that and unfair. I think what you need to know is that as I walk out of here, know I have a plan,” Adams said, referring to his list of candidates. “We’re right there and we’re on the cusp and it’s going to be up to us. It’s going to be hard but that’s the best part.”

Granato was fired less than 12 hours after the Sabres closed their season with a 4-2 win at Tampa Bay. The team finished with a 39-37-6 record and had been eliminated from playoff contention last week.

The 56-year-old Granato was a first-time NHL head coach, who took over first on an interim basis during the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2021 season after Ralph Krueger was fired. Granato had two seasons left on his contact and finished with a record of 122-125-27 in Buffalo.

The team also announced the firing of assistant coach Jason Christie and video coordinator Matt Smith.

Potential candidates with NHL experience to replace Granato include former St. Louis Blues coach Craig Berube, former New York Rangers and Vegas coach Gerard Gallant, and 69-year-old Bruce Boudreau, who has been out of a job since being fired by Vancouver last season.

Another candidate who fits Adams' vision is former Sabres coach and player Lindy Ruff, who was fired by New Jersey in March. Ruff, who was fired by the Sabres during the lockout shortened 2012 season, led Buffalo to eight playoff berths — including a Stanley Cup Final in 1999 — during his 14-plus seasons.

The Sabres stumbled through a season in which the team won three straight games just twice and was too often unable to overcome slow starts.

This was not the expectation Adams had following a 2022-23 season in which the Sabres missed the playoffs by two points, and their 42 wins and 91 points were the most since the team last made the postseason in 2010-11.

“It just wasn’t good enough. In my opinion, we underperformed. We were inconsistent and we need to be better,” Adams said.

He also said it was time to eliminate excuses of the Sabres being too young or experiencing difficulty dealing with pressure.

“Look, you don’t get to the National Hockey League without handling pressure. That is the most ridiculous thing I could ever hear someone say,” Adams said. "We just didn’t play well enough. Period."

The Sabres’ playoff drought is tied with the New York Jets as being the longest active drought in North America’s four major professional sports.

This season, the Sabres were undone by injuries to key players, goaltending inconsistencies, a front-office decision to add more youth to what was already the NHL’s youngest roster and Granato making the questionable change in coaching philosophy to have the Sabres switch to a more defensive style.

Adams disputed the switch being a change in philosophy, but acknowledged the focus on being better defensively led to the team playing with a level of hesitancy.

A season after the free-wheeling Sabres finished third in the NHL with 293 goals, Buffalo’s production dropped to currently rank 22nd with 244 with two days left in the regular season. After finishing 26th in allowing 297 goals last season, the Sabres currently rank 11th in allowing 243.

Poor starts played a key factor in sinking Buffalo’s season. The Sabres have allowed a league-worst 97 goals in the first period, while scoring just 67, which ranks 22nd.

Granato declined to address his status following the game at Tampa Bay, by saying he wanted to focus on the outing.

Last week, Granato said, his sole focus every season was improving the Sabres.

“I have to do my job every day. And it’s to help this team and this franchise get better every day. That’s my focus every day. That’s my drive every day,” he said. "So I don’t know, you know, any other way to do things. When I first got in this position, even as the interim, I wasn’t trying to become the next head coach. There’s a job that needs to be done. My focus is on that. It has to be on that.”