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Murray calls season 'completely unacceptable' and says he's not planning on five-year rebuild

By Mike Harrington

The Buffalo Sabres' rebuild starts in earnest tonight with the NHL Draft Lottery in Toronto,  after what General Manager Tim Murray admitted was an "unacceptable" last-place season.

Murray and coach Ted Nolan met with reporters today in a wrap to the Sabres' 21-51-10 trainwreck of a season, the worst by an NHL team in 14 years. And Murray was frank in his assessment of what happened and what he'll do going forward. He said he pulled no punches when he met with his players yesterday prior to the taking of the annual team photo.

"This year was completely unacceptable," Murray said. "I told them it wasn't all on them. It was on management, it was on coaching staff. A lot of it was on injuries where we had to put people into positions that they aren't ready for. So that's out of our hands. As far as coming next year and being ready to battle for jobs, there's going to be competition and we're not going to hand jobs to come in unless they deserve it."

"A lot of nights it was hard to watch," Murray said a few minutes later. "A lot of nights we competed hard and just didn't have enough talent to put us over the top but other nights weren't pretty."

Murray said he's naturally impatient but will do what's best for the organization through the draft and free agency, and expects to sign a couple of veterans this summer to augment the roster.

"Are we going to improve in leaps and bounds or is it going to be increments?" he said. "But we will improve. We have to decide as an organization how we're going to get there. This is not going to be a five-year rebuild. ... When you tear it down, it doesn't happen overnight but I don't buy into five-year rebuilds."

Murray said the Sabres have several players on their draft board -- even Barrie defenseman Aaron Ekblad. The Sabres were the lowest-scoring team in the expansion era but aren't automatically taking a forward whether they draft No. 1 or No. 2. 

The New York Islanders owe the Sabres a top pick either this year or next year. If they win the lottery tonight, they would almost certainly give Buffalo the pick next year, another chance at the Connor McDavid sweepstakes. Would they really give up the No. 1 this year? Murray is pondering all options.

"I want to win the lottery. I want to win something here," Murray said, drawing laughs. "I do want to win the lottery. If I don't win it, I want Garth to win it and so at least there's a 50-50 chance we get that pick."

In other news from Murray and Nolan:

---NHL supplemental discipline: "I've had some talks with people in the league," Murray said. "We've had our pee-pee slapped once here so I've got to be careful what I say." The GM did say the league acknowledged his complaints about the five-minute major for interference Jake McCabe got Saturday in Boston.

---Coaching staff: Nolan said no definitive decision has been made on his assistants although sources maintain that Joe Sacco, Teppo Numminen, Jim Corsi and Jerry Forton will not be retained.

---Buyouts: Murray said it was less than 50-50 the Sabres would use both of their CBA-allowed compliance buyouts this June but pretty much admitted one will be used on goal-less forward Ville Leino. "It's not 100 percent but it's a very good possibility that's one of our buyouts," Murray sid.

---Injuries: Murray said he believes goaltender Matt Hackett needs surgery on his injured right knee while goaltender Michal Neuvirth has been seeing a specialist for a nagging hip problem. Marcus Foligno (shoulder) and Henrik Tallinder (ankle) are pondering minor surgeries.

Click below to hear the full question-and-answer session with Murray and Nolan

Murray-Nolan presser

Quick NHL tour: Murray says lottery won't change, Leafs likely looking at big changes

By Mike Harrington

PHILADELPHIA -- The Sabres skate this morning at 11:30 in Wells Fargo Center so keep it here for the latest updates in advance of tonight's game against the Flyers. Here's a quick tour of some NHL notes.

---In today's Inside the NHL column by John Vogl, Sabres GM Tim Murray says he doesn't expect any radical changes in the NHL draft lottery in future years. That potential has been the No. 1 teeth-gnasher for fans since CBC's Elliotte Friedman speculated a couple weeks ago the league may try to put some anti-tanking measures into the mix for the top spots with Connor McDavid available next year.

But as I remind people EVERY GAME on our pregame chat and seemingly five times a day on Twitter, Friedman was speculating. There has been ZERO chatter about this officially from the league or from anywhere else. He never reported it was going to happen. Major difference.

---The Leafs are just about toast in the Eastern Conference race after losing their home finale,  4-2,  last night to Winnipeg. They were outshot, 39-15,  at even strength in a must-win game! Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun called the loss "Fan Depreciation Night." Good one. Randy Carlyle has to be toast. Wonder what they do about GM Dave Nonis? Phil Kessel or Dion Phaneuf? 

The Leafs are just one point behind Columbus for the final wild-card but have only three games left -- and the Blue Jackets have two games in hand. The Leafs are tied with New Jersey and the wild-card race would already be over were it not for the Devils' incredible 0-11 record in shootouts.

Statue---The Tampa Bay Lightning put up a new statue on the plaza of Tampa Bay Times Forum, and it's an image of Sabres Hall of Famer and ex-Tampa captain Dave Andreychuk holding the Stanley Cup aloft after the team's Game Seven win over Calgary in 2004.

The ceremony outside included Scotty Bowman, Andreychuk's first coach in Buffalo after he was drafted in 1982. In the picture at the right from the team Web site, Andreychuk is at the podium addressing the crowd as his family looks on. You can click on the picture for a bigger view.

---The Wild beat the Penguins, 4-0, as old friend Cody McCormick got his first goal and first two points with Minnesota. Here's the video of the goal:

Continue reading "Quick NHL tour: Murray says lottery won't change, Leafs likely looking at big changes" »

Murray, Nolan share common vision to improve Sabres now that coaching job is stable

By John Vogl

The finalization of Ted Nolan's contract today is more of a start than a finish. It allows the Sabres and their fans to know that an important position -- head coach -- is stable after a wild year of uncertainty and down times in Sabreland.

“I’m really excited about going with the next step,” Nolan said this afternoon during a joint news conference with General Manager Tim Murray. “Hopefully, one day we’ll battle for a championship.”

Nolan will be on board for the next three seasons after signing a long-awaited contract extension, which removed his interim status. Murray didn’t have a “Eureka!” moment when came to deciding Nolan should stick around. Rather, the GM saw a talent-lacking squad respond to its coach on a daily basis.

“Every day has been a trying situation,” Murray said in First Niagara Center. “There’s been very few games we haven’t been competitive.

“From the players, all I’ve heard is positives.”

Dealing with the players is the next step. Murray and Nolan, a pair of midseason replacements, are aware the roster will need an overhaul for Nolan to do the best job possible.

“We have to get him better players,” Murray said.

The full news conference is available below.

After four moves on deadline day, Sabres' Murray can't wait to keep building at NHL draft

Tim Murray, a 20-year vet#3
By John Vogl

Tim Murray had barely hung up the phone on his last trade call when he started looking ahead. The NHL draft is in June, and the Sabres’ general manager can’t wait.

He hopes the next chance to wheel and deal is as productive and exciting as his first one.

Murray, as expected, was a busy man on trade-deadline day today. Buffalo's new GM made three multiplayer deals and a waiver claim, continuing the reshaping of the organization he began Friday by trading Ryan Miller and Steve Ott.

I’m not done,” Murray said in First Niagara Center. “There’s a lot of building to do.”

Continue reading "After four moves on deadline day, Sabres' Murray can't wait to keep building at NHL draft" »

Sabres looking at 'couple names' on waiver wire, getting calls on 25 percent of roster

By John Vogl

The trade deadline could feature more than trades for the Buffalo Sabres.

General Manager Tim Murray says he and the scouting staff are looking hard at a couple of players on the waiver wire, and he's doing so while fielding calls on about 25 percent of his roster.

"There’s a couple names there that we feel can help us," Murray said in an interview with Sabres.com "We’re trying to tie that into what may happen going forward here. We don’t want to end up 27 players here on our roster. That would make it tough for our coaching staff to keep everybody happy, but we’re definitely with our scouting staff in the room talking about a couple guys who are on waivers. There’s at least one or two real possibilities."

Among the notable names are waivers are Cory Conacher (the Canisius College grad) and goalie Scott Clemmensen. The others are defensemen Joe Corvo, Corey Potter and Derek Smith, and forwards Scott Gomez, Trevor Smith and Jake Dowell.

But today is mostly about trades, and the Sabres are open for business.

"Twenty-two guys, I’d say approximately 25 percent we’ve gotten calls on," Murray told the team website. "Some aren’t realistic at all, but we have got calls on guys that we’re not going to trade and listen to, and said no thanks."

Murray said his man focus is dealing unrestricted free agents, a list that features Matt Moulson, Jaroslav Halak and Henrik Tallinder.

"You get anxious," Murray said, "whether you’re buying or selling, if you know you’re going to be involved. You get anxious and you think it’s going to be like Christmas morning and you find out every year it’s not that way. It’s reality and it takes time and it takes homework, and you’ve got to be very patient."

Murray scores with his first trade as Sabres' GM

By John Vogl

Go big or go home, right?

Tim Murray couldn't have gone much bigger with his first trade as the general manager of the Sabres. He dealt the face of the franchise and the team captain in a package deal.

"It’s a fair-size one," Murray said with a slight grin tonight.

Ryan Miller and Steve Ott are off to St. Louis. Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, William Carrier, a first-round pick in 2015 and a conditional pick that could be a first-rounder this year are in Buffalo's pocket.

That's a win for Murray, it says here.

"A couple high picks, a couple players that can play for us right now and help us," Murray said.

Miller and Ott were both going to go to St. Louis, but it was originally two separate transactions. For the sake of argument, let's break it down as Ott for a 2015 first-round pick and Miller for Halak, Stewart, Carrier and the conditional pick. That's a fantastic haul for the Sabres' GM.

It's a win for the Blues, too. St. Louis was already tied for second overall in the NHL. The Blues might be the Stanley Cup favorite now.

Murray can walk around with a smile after his first trade. He should also walk around with his phone charged because it was the first of many.

On the Air: Miller talk on Sirius

By Mike Harrington

A reminder that tonight's game against Boston is a 7:30 faceoff on the NBC Sports Network, which will be airing a one-hour pregame show starting at 6:30. The peacock folks will have plenty to talk about in the wake of last night's 3-2 win over Carolina, and the game itself was obviously irrelevant.

The talk of the town -- and the talk of the league -- is GM Tim Murray's pregame press conference, where he confirmed the Sabres are actively shopping Ryan Miller. And Miller's postgame admission that a trade would probably be best for all sides was the first time the veteran goaltender definitively came out with that stance.

In my column for today's editions, I wrote that the Sabres should immediately shut Miller down and not risk an injury that could derail a deal. Apologies to folks who have tickets for Friday's game against San Jose but Miller took quite a shot early last night when Marcus Foligno dumped Carolina's Riley Nash right on top of him. Those are the kind of plays where goalies get hurt and that can't happen now.

I talked about Miller some more earlier today on SiriusXM's "Hockey This Morning" with Mike Rossy and Mick Kern. You can hear the audio of that interview by clicking the file below.

Sirius XM Hockey This Morning

Roster freeze is on: No major moves made as NHL teams stand pat at Olympic deadline

Freeze
Nice snark from the Sabres Twitter feed, using this picture to announce the NHL's Olympic roster freeze was on.


By Mike Harrington

We've hit 3 p.m. Eastern time on Feb. 7. The Olympic flame is lit in Sochi and the NHL roster freeze has gone into effect with basically no moves of any consequence taking place.

The Sabres tweeted the above picture to announce the freeze and essentially confirm that the likes of Ryan Miller, Steve Ott, Matt Moulson and Henrik Tallinder will remain on the roster through the Games. It's the same elsewhere: Old friend Thomas Vanek remains an Islander and Ryan Callahan remains a Ranger.

The lack of activity was completely foreshadowed by new Sabres GM Tim Murray in an interview yesterday in Ottawa and by many other NHL executives. No reason to pay somebody over the Olympic break to not play for their new team.

In case you missed it earlier today, the Sabres put Linus Omark on waivers and sent Chad Ruhwedel and Phil Varone back to Rochester so they could play in the Amerks' six games during the NHL's Olympic break.

Rosters are now frozen until 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 23, which is the day the gold medal game will be played in Sochi. Teams cannot return to practice until Feb. 19. The Sabres play the league's first game after the break, the Feb. 25 makeup game with Carolina.

Be sure to read Sunday's editions of The News, as John Vogl and I will have dueling columns on the status of Miller: Should he stay or should he go?

Sabres GM Murray: More a matter of 'if' than 'when' for a Miller trade

By John Vogl

OTTAWA -- Based on talks so far, Sabres General Manager Tim Murray says it's more a matter of "if" than "when" in regards to a Ryan Miller trade.

The goaltender is Buffalo's biggest bargaining chip as the NHL heads into Friday's Olympic break trade freeze. But Murray said this evening nothing is imminent and he said he doesn't expect much action league-wide heading into the break.

Part of the reason is teams have to pay players during the break. For teams near the salary cap, it doesn't make sense to pick up Miller now and pay his $6.25 million salary for days in which he's not even part of the team.

Murray is entering his first trade period, and he says that like on-ice rookies he's being tested by veteran GMs. He's content that he knows players and knows other general managers well enough that he knows what he's doing.

His full interview is below.

As far as the Sabres' game against Ottawa tonight, coach Ted Nolan said Marcus Foligno and Linus Omark will sit. Ville Leino and Zenon Konopka will return to the lineup.

Tyler Myers will miss his second game with a leg injury. Jhonas Enroth will start in goal.

Nolan's chat is also below.

Tim Murray

Ted Nolan

Murray says he's willing to listen to trade talks for any player, confirms teams calling on Miller

By Mike Harrington

New Sabres GM Tim Murray got out of town yesterday before the bad weather hit so he could take a trip home to Ottawa and be at the Sabres-Senators game there tomorrow night. Then he's off on a scouting mission for the Olympic break. But his phone is apparently ringing with trade offers. A lot of them. And he's listening.

In the wake of Ryan Miller's comments yesterday that he's still waiting on a definitive stance from the organization, Murray pretty much confirmed that he's in limbo on dealing Miller as well.

"His status at this point is that he's a Buffalo Sabre," Murray said today in his weekly appearance on WGR Radio. "I've had talks with a couple of teams. They've showed some interest. They haven't done anything yet to change that scenario. Talks are going on for a lot of players. There's a lot of ideas being thrown about here the last few days. As of right now, nothing has changed with Ryan."

Murray said the Sabres are studying options all over their roster but the scuttlebutt around the league is they're getting plenty of inquiries on pending unrestricted free agents Miller, Steve Ott and Matt Moulson, as well as interest in defenseman Henrik Tallinder.

"There are players on the team we're certainly going to go forward with, young guys that they fit what we want to do," Murray said. "In saying that, if a team calls and they absolutely knock your socks off, then I guess I've told a fib by saying we're going to go forward with a certain player and I've traded him. It doesn't look right, but that's my motto. I'm willing to listen on every single player, so I'm certainly listening on Ryan. Is that our plan? I guess we'll see what other teams have to say."

Continue reading "Murray says he's willing to listen to trade talks for any player, confirms teams calling on Miller" »

Murray on trades: 'For me, it's all about return'

By Mike Harrington

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- New Sabres GM Tim Murray is on his first road trip with the team, starting tonight in Nationwide Arena and I just had a good update chat with him in the press box prior to warmups for the game against the Blue Jackets. We talked about a lot of topics for just 10 minutes time but I know what most of you want to ask. So here's the answer on pending UFAs Ryan Miller, Steve Ott and Matt Moulson:

Murray has talked to all of them casually. He's getting a lot of "introductory" calls from other GMs but he's had the same message to each player.

"I've told them the same thing really and it was like, 'It's unfortunate you're going to see your name in the paper. That's just the nature of the game.' They're not young players. They've been around. They know the game. They know that this is part of it.

"I told them not to believe everything they read or everything they've heard on the sports channels. But certainly their names are in play and we'll see what happens but it doesn't guarantee they'll be moved at all. For me, it's all about return. These are good players. So if the return was up to a certain point and not great and we then decide we want to talk to them about staying, then that's an option too."

Continue reading "Murray on trades: 'For me, it's all about return'" »

Murray Mania: All the chatter from a huge day in Sabreland

Sabrestrio
Craig Patrick, Tim Murray and Pat LaFontaine are the centers of attention on a big day for the Sabres front office. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)



By Mike Harrington

We've got all the angles covered in today's Buffalo News about the hiring of Tim Murray as the Sabres' new general manager and Hall of Famer Craig Patrick as a special assistant. Check out these links.

In John Vogl's main story on the day's activities, there's a closer examination of why the straight-shooting Murray was Pat LaFontaine's pick from a field that grew to 10 candidates.

My main assignment was a look at what Murray and Pat LaFontaine think of Ted Nolan and Ryan Miller, now that a GM is in place. 

Bucky Gleason's column talks about the arrival of Craig Patrick, a hockey lifer who became emotional because he gets reunited with Pat LaFontaine.

I had an interesting chat with Zenon Konopka yesterday about Murray, the only current Sabre who has played while Murray was in a front office. He was effusive in his praise.

What about the game? Not a great effort at all in a shootout loss to the Florida Panthers. But, as Amy Moritz notes, the bigger story was the return of Mikhail Grigorenko from Sweden. But how long does he stay? 

What's being said about Murray around the Web?

Yahoo's Puck Daddy blog says the new GM is no "Dawdling Darcy." Ouch.  

Sports Illustrated's Allan Muir calls the hirings of Murray and Craig Patrick "genius" decisions by LaFontaine.

In the Ottawa Sun, Bruce Garrioch has the reaction from the Senators on Murray's departure.

And be sure to scroll through previous entries on this blog for plenty of video from Thursday's press conference as well.

Murray to be introduced as Sabres' GM this morning

By John Vogl

The Sabres have made their choice for general manager.

The team has called a news conference for 11:30 this morning, and they will introduce Tim Murray as their next GM in First Niagara Center.

Murray has worked in the NHL since 1993, ascending from scout in Detroit to assistant GM with Ottawa. He has also been the general manager for the Senators' minor-league club in Binghamton since 2007.

“There’s no one I’ve ever met that knows players as well as Tim and can analyze their strengths and weaknesses," Cory Clouston, Murray's first hire in Binghamton, said in today's editions of The Buffalo News. "He’s very good at projecting players.”

Managing a team is the next logical step for Murray. He went to Florida in 1994 and worked his way up to director of amateur scouting before being hired as director of player personnel for Anaheim in 2002. His three-year stay with the Ducks included a Stanley Cup finals appearance.

Murray served as the assistant director of player personnel for the New York Rangers for two seasons before joining Ottawa.

Praise for Murray’s evaluating skills has been universal. The Sabres are rebuilding through the draft, so getting picks right is crucial.

"He’s a tremendous judge of talent, and that goes back to his scouting days," former Binghamton coach Don Nachbaur told The News. "He put together a great group of scouts. They worked hard and had good insight all the players that were available in the draft."

Murray will be the Buffalo's seventh GM and the first hire since 1997, when Darcy Regier took over the post. The Sabres fired Regier in November.

The 50-year-old Murray is from Shawville, Quebec, an English-speaking town in the French province. He is known as an edgy guy who isn’t afraid to challenge the opinions of others.

“He’ll smile a little bit. He’ll be grumpy often,” said Kurt Kleinendorst, another former coach in Binghamton.

"Highly organized, really understood the players," Nachbaur said. "You couldn’t bring up the name of a player whether it was in the American League or the National Hockey League that Tim didn’t have a book on."

Tim Murray's former coaches praise the evaluating skills of Sabres' GM candidate

By John Vogl

When Cory Clouston interviewed to become coach of the Binghamton Senators, he knew General Manager Tim Murray only in passing. It didn’t take long for Clouston to see how much Murray knew about hockey and its players.

“He’s a very, very smart hockey man,” Clouston said by phone today. “There’s no one I’ve ever met that knows players as well as Tim and can analyze their strengths and weaknesses. He’s very good at projecting players.”

The rebuilding Sabres have plenty of young players who need to be analyzed. Murray’s skill at doing it is why he’s favored to become Buffalo’s next general manager.

Murray, according to a source, is in town tonight to meet again with the Sabres’ brass. He’s one of two finalists for the vacant GM job, and it’s possible his hiring could come Thursday.

Continue reading "Tim Murray's former coaches praise the evaluating skills of Sabres' GM candidate" »

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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