The Buffalo Sabres joined the list of NHL teams opting for off-season changes to the front office, firing both general manager Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma on Thursday morning.
Team owner Terry Pegula released a statement: “After reviewing the past season and looking at the future of our organization, Kim and I have decided to relieve General Manager Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma of their duties. We want to thank Tim and Dan for their hard work and efforts that they have put in during their tenures with the club. We wish them luck. We have begun the process to fill these positions immediately.”
The moves come within 24 hours of a tumultuous period which saw a report surface claiming franchise player Jack Eichel had no desire to sign an extension with the Sabres if Byslma were to remain as coach, to which Eichel responded in an interview with John Vogl of The Buffalo News.
“When you see that people are writing these things and saying that you said these things, my first thought is where are they getting this information?” said Eichel. “If it’s not coming out of my mouth and I didn’t verbally say it to you or anybody, then where are you getting this information? Second of all, why are you writing it and trying to back yourself up on it?”
Eichel, who just finished the second season of his three-year, entry-level contract, addressed his thoughts on Bylsma specifically in that interview as well.
“As a coach, he asked me about my season,” said the Sabres’ forward. “We go through our meeting, and I thought things went pretty well. By the end of it, I thought we were on the same page. In terms of hockey specifics, we talked a lot about the team, the play and my play and what he thinks I can do better and what I want to work on in the offseason. I think it was a pretty normal exit meeting, and one that you leave saying I want to work on this stuff and this stuff and be better for next year. That’s the way I took it.
“For him, I think I told him some things that I think as a group we can all improve on. He was very receptive. I don’t think what’s being said about the way things ended is accurate in any way.”
During a radio hit on Edmonton’s 630 CHED on Thursday afternoon, NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman was asked about the Sabres’ situation.
“I’ve got to tell you, I think Bylsma was in trouble well before yesterday,” began Friedman. “I have believed that the Sabres have kind of – I don’t know if they’ve directly or indirectly – but I do think that they’ve made some contact with David Quinn, who is the head coach at Boston University and was Jack Eichel’s college coach. I believe there’s still a possibility that could occur. So I do think that that may happen. So I kind of thought Bylsma was in trouble.
“I didn’t necessarily see Murray as being in serious trouble.
“ I know everybody is ripping Jack Eichel today, but I kind of read the tea leaves a bit different. I’m sitting here and I hear this story come out in the morning from a radio reporter in Buffalo. The agent is angrily denying it later in the day. Jack Eichel I think was really smart to say, ‘You know what? I’m going to make myself available and I’m going to answer all of this.’
“I wonder if the team felt Murray leaked that and it caused a problem. That was one of the first things I thought about today. As a matter of fact, somebody suggested that to me last night. So I don’t know if that was the reason, but I could see it being a reason.”
Sabres Owner Terry Pegula will address the media tomorrow at 10 a.m.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) April 20, 2017
Bob Stauffer, the host of Oilers now – on which Friedman appeared – wondered if it was a possibility that the Sabres might consider looking at Brad Treliving as a candidate to be their GM since his contract will be up with the Calgary Flames soon.
“I think so,” contemplated Friedman. “I think it might have just gotten a little bit more expensive for Calgary to keep him.
“I’ll tell you this: I think there’s a lot of interest in the Buffalo job. I do. I’m going to be curious to see what they decide to do. Do you go experience: a Dean Lombardi, a Mike Gillis, a Don Maloney, someone like that. Do you go new: Pegula has a lot of ties to Pittsburgh. Do you plunk someone out of there, like a Jason Botterill or a Bill Guerin. Tom Fitzgerald, who he also knows pretty well. Craig Conroy, who’s a New York guy in Calgary and might be closer to getting something. Mike Futa was a guy that Buffalo interviewed last time when they hired Murray. Now he just got promoted in L.A., but you never know. Would Buffalo want permission to go back to him because he went pretty far down the road there. Paul Fenton. Norm Maciver from Chicago, who you guys know well. They’re going to have a lot of options there.
“The other thing I wonder too is do you go local. Does Terry Pegula, who’s really got the fans there on his back, does he bring back a Rick Dudley-Scott Luce combination, both of whom have long ties to Buffalo.
“I think he’s going to have a lot of options. And I can tell you this: I think there’s a lot of people that would be very happy to have that job.
“So I think that whatever path he’s going to go, he’s going to have no shortage of people breaking down his door saying, ‘I’m interested in being the next GM of the Buffalo Sabres.’ “
Friedman had actually addressed the Sabres in a TV hit last week, noting he thought there was “still a lot gurgling under the surface” in Buffalo.
“If you listened to Tim Murray’s words today, he was very careful,” noted Friedman on April 12. “The best thing about Tim Murray is he’s blunt. He’s going to tell you what he thinks. He criticized himself. He was critical of Bylsma, saying maybe he has to spend a bit less time watching video and talking to the players.
“He said – and I’m paraphrasing here, I’m not using the exact quote – ‘I’m not thinking of firing him today.’ That says to me there’s still a lot gurgling under the surface.
“And I will say this: there’s a lot of people who wonder is Buffalo looking at Jack Eichel’s college coach, David Quinn, at Boston University. I can’t say I know 100 percent sure what’s going on there, but it’s odd and I wonder if there’s a lot more to that situation than meets the eye.”