Murray takes ‘full responsibility’ for Sabres’ dismal season

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It was an animated and candid Tim Murray today in Buffalo, where he met with reporters for over half an hour, expressing great frustration over his team’s season.

The Sabres missed the playoffs for a sixth straight year. And despite much higher expectations, they actually finished with fewer points (78) than they did last year (81).

“I just want everybody to know that, top to bottom in the organization, we understand it was a very disappointing season,” said Murray. “I’m the general manager of the team, so I guess that’s the top of the food chain when it comes to hockey. I stand here and take full responsibility for our position, our standings and how it finished.”

For those wondering, the plan right now is for Dan Bylsma to remain as head coach. The only way he might not be is if ownership says otherwise.

“There’s going to be a review, top to bottom,” said Murray. “I have to meet with ownership next week in Florida. I’m sure I’m going to be reviewed. I’m sure I’m being reviewed right now, as I should be.”

When asked to clarify, Murray said he hadn’t had “any thoughts of firing” Bylsma, who still has three years left on his contract.

Murray also has three years left on his contract. Assuming he’s still the GM after meeting with ownership, the one thing he knows he’ll have to address this offseason is the defense.

“I’m not trying to (expletive) on the defensemen that are here by any means,” he said.

But whether it’s via trade or free agency or drafting, Murray intends to explore “any avenue” to improve the blue line, which he blamed for surrendering too many scoring chances and failing to transition the puck well enough.

“Give me an option and I’ll listen,” he said.

Finally, there’s the matter of the Sabres’ culture and commitment to winning, something Jack Eichel called into question a few days ago.

For Murray, it’s about demanding more from everyone, from the GM to the coaches to the players.

“We have to make more demands,” he said. “So I have to make more demands of Dan, Dan has to make more demands of the players, I personally have to make more demands of myself. And we intend to do that.”

Related: Major roster holes remain in Buffalo

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.