Jeremy White alluded to it yesterday and today was most definitely a day of reckoning. Firing Tim Murray and Dan Bylsma, along with Director of Amateur Scouting, Greg Royce, and Director of Pro Scouting, Rob Murphy, is a bold move for a team that has lacked any consistency since their playoff runs in 05-06 and 06-07.
It’s a move that left me shocked and has had me reflecting about the situation all day. I reflected on this past season but it goes back further. Bylsma had his shortcomings as a coach for sure. We could feel the disconnect between him and the players. We had constant reminders from Penguins fans of Bylsma’s rocky end in Pittsburgh and they could sense it was close in Buffalo too. Murray had his questionable moves or lack thereof. The defensive core was flawed and was the achilles heal for a young team struggling to find the answers.
I couldn’t see this coming though. Cleaning house in the middle of a rebuild seems odd. I can understand firing Bylsma. Maybe you think the team needs a new voice in the locker room. Give Murray a chance at heading the search for a new coach and give him another offseason to fix the holes that were left open. If things don’t work out we can restart.
We’re two years removed from back to back seasons that will go down as two of the worst in NHL history. We stripped it down to the bare minimum to guarantee ourselves McDavid or Eichel. I was on board with the plan and still think it was the right decision but I think, for myself, maybe I had a little bit of blind optimism. I trusted in the Pegula’s when they bought the team in 2011. They brought a new energy that took the city by storm. Their investments downtown, and saving the day when the Bills were on the market, gave a feeling that they really cared about this city. Six years later and that feeling is long gone. We’ve had four head coaches, two general managers, and three different presidents if we’re counting Pat Lafontaine.
I thought, maybe Murray will be the guy. He had a plan, he had a vision for the franchise. Four years later and the Pegula’s didn’t let Murray finish the plan. Instead they made a decision based on what exactly? Jealousy of Toronto? If the Pegula’s want to find that type of success then they should take a page out of the Leafs book. In 2014, the Leafs brought in Brendan Shanahan as President of all hockey operations. Soon after they hired a young hockey mind in Kyle Dubas, then a year later they brought in legend Lou Lamoriello as GM and Mike Babcock as Head Coach. The Leafs are a team that actually has structure in their hockey department. They have a management system set in place and that’s something that the Pegula’s have lacked in both organizations. Reports going as far as to say they are dysfunctional. To a certain extent I believe it. Only in Buffalo can a president of a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in almost two decades now get promoted to the same position in the other organization.
Right now, I’m looking for answers. My patience is being tested and patience is dwindling for Sabres fans desperate for a playoff team right now. If the Pegula’s want to win back fans and want a winning product then they have to start at the top. They need to hire someone that can run the Sabres hockey operations. Someone who will bring some structure to the management department. They need to hire the right guy, then just sit back and let them handle it.
An interesting name that a few people have brought up is Ralph Krueger. Krueger is currently a chairman of Southhampton of the English Premier League. He was last the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers in 2012-2013 and just this past fall coached Team Europe to the finals at the World Cup of Hockey.
Other names coming up for the Sabres are Dean Lombardi, who was recently fired as GM of the LA Kings, Julien BriseBois, currently the Assistant GM in Tampa Bay, Jason Botterill, Assistant GM in Pittsburgh, and Norm MacIver, Assistant GM in Chicago.
Head Coaching candidates will become more clear once a GM is hired but Phil Housley, Sheldon Keefe, Kevin Dineen, and Darryl Sutter have all come up in reports.
The Sabres will have to make a decision soon with the NHL Draft coming in just nine weeks. The Pegula’s will be holding a press conference tomorrow morning at 10 AM. I know some of my questions will be answered but moving forward they’ll have to prove they can put their trust into the right hands.
As always, thank you for reading!