Four key takeaways from the Terry Pegula presser

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One day after a stunning housecleaning that included the firing of head coach Dan Bylsma and GM Tim Murray, Buffalo owner Terry Pegula spoke to the media on Friday to discuss the future of his franchise.

Some of the key takeaways:

• “Discipline, structure, communication and character.” Those were the four words Pegula constantly re-iterated as the keys, or pillars if you will, of what the Sabres need moving forward. The view seemed to be that, organizationally, all of those areas were lacking under Murray and Bylsma — which can’t come as a huge surprise.

Though candid, Murray had a reputation of being blunt. One wonders if his, ahem, unique communicative style rubbed some people the wrong way. There also seemed to be a major divide between Murray’s preferred approach and the one Bylsma employed. Murray’s ‘cup of coffee‘ remarks largely hinted at that, and perhaps spoke to a bigger chasm between the front office and coaching staff.

• Pegula said he regretted not being more hands-on with the initial Murray/Bylsma hires, which was interesting. Murray, you’ll recall, was brought aboard by Pat LaFontaine, as part of a more structured front office staff (LaFontaine was president of hockey ops, Craig Patrick was special adviser and Murray was GM.)

LaFontaine spent all of four months on the job before resigning.

By contrast, Pegula has been incredibly hands-on with the Buffalo Bills, specifically with regards to coaching. Pegula was very outspoken following Rex Ryan’s dismissal earlier this year, and some suggested that approach led to internal dysfunction. Specifically, that Pegula was the one calling the majority of the shots, as opposed to GM Doug Whaley. That will be another dynamic to watch as the Sabres’ front office is rebuilt.

• Pegula said Jack Eichel had nothing to do with Bylsma’s dismissal, despite what was reported two days ago.

“Let me borrow what Jack’s agent, Peter Fish, said. Peter said ‘I don’t know where those stories come from, that’s ridiculous.’ Jack’s involvement, as it was reported, is a complete fabrication. I defend Jack, just as Peter did. It’s not a true story.”

It was a strong statement, though Pegula said the decision to fire Bylsma and Murray came after their exit interviews, along with interviews from Sabres personnel — and players. Regardless of what was said today, Eichel will remain an important figure in the coming months. Remember, he’s eligible to sign an extension on July 1, and the incoming GM will probably have that atop his priority list.

It would also stand to reason there will be some Eichel-led vetting of the next head coach, if only to avoid a similar situation to the one the Sabres currently find themselves in.

• Pegula emphatically shot down a Sportsnet report that he’d already interviewed ex-LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi to replace Murray.

“We haven’t talked to anybody. Put that in the Jack-demanded-his-coach-be-fired category. It’s a pure fabrication. I’m going to re-iterate what Peter Fish said. Where does this stuff come from?”

That same Sportsnet report claimed future interviews were set for this weekend. There’s been a bevy of names floated on the potential candidate list, though perhaps the most intriguing ones are ex-Sabres players currently in executive positions, like Chris Drury (currently the assistant GM for the Rangers) and Jason Botterill (currently the associate GM in Pittsburgh).

Finally, Pegula said the search for a new GM and coach would begin immediately. That’s not surprising, given what lies ahead — protected and available lists for the expansion draft are due in 58 days, and free agency opens in less than 11 weeks.

Preds proving preseason hype was warranted

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They were a trendy pick to win the Stanley Cup.

And then the season started.

The Nashville Predators never really got rolling during their 82-game schedule. They’d have some good stretches, followed by some bad stretches. They ended up as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Most predicted they’d lose to Chicago in the first round.

Of course, most were wrong. The Preds swept the Blackhawks, and now they’re up 1-0 on the Blues in the second round.

“We come in, we’re supposed to be this awesome, amazing team and we didn’t start so hot,” d-man Ryan Ellis said, per NHL.com. “We started to get better, and then some injuries crept into our locker room. We battled the whole year, losing guys at various times in the year and some younger guys stepped up. But overall, it’s adversity that makes you stronger. This was one of those years we faced a lot of adversity.”

A quick glance at Nashville’s roster and it’s not hard to understand the preseason hype. The Predators have a No. 1 center in Ryan Johansen, a tremendous goal-scorer in Filip Forsberg, and one of the more underrated wingers in the league in Viktor Arvidsson.

But the real jewel is their blue line. Roman Josi is the No. 1 defenseman, paired with puck-mover Ryan Ellis, a former 11th overall draft pick. On the second pair is a former Norris Trophy winner, P.K. Subban, who skates with the dependable Mattias Ekholm.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better top four than that. And to think, the Preds also had Seth Jones, until they traded him to Columbus for Johansen.

The wild card heading into the playoffs was Pekka Rinne, the 34-year-old goalie who was spectacularly inconsistent during the regular season. He had a .949 save percentage in November, followed by an .875 in December. It was .933 in January, down to .888 in February, then back up to .923 in March.

So far this postseason, it’s .962.

Tonight in St. Louis, the Preds can make it six straight wins in the playoffs. More importantly, they can take a 2-0 lead over the Blues back to Nashville.

“Throughout the year, I think we’re a little bit inconsistent,” winger Colin Wilson told reporters. “But when we played our game, we were always unstoppable. We have a lot of talent, great D, great goaltending, all-around strong team with a lot of depth.”

Stream Predators-Blues

Rangers won’t let Drury interview for Sabres GM gig

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As a former player and well-regarded young executive, there was a fit for Chris Drury in Buffalo’s front office.

Of course, there’s the exact same fit with the Rangers.

That’s why today’s news can’t come as a huge surprise. Per Sportsnet and TSN, New York has turned down Buffalo’s request to interview Drury for its vacant general manager gig.

Drury, 40, has spent the last two years climbing the Rangers’ executive depth chart. He was brought aboard in 2015 as the club’s director of player development and, a year later, was promoted to assistant GM under Jeff Gorton.

The Rangers aren’t the only ones enamored by Drury’s front office skills. Recently, USA Hockey tabbed him — along with Bill Guerin — as the braintrust responsible for building Team USA’s entry in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

As mentioned above, it was easy to see why the Sabres were interested. Drury played three seasons in Buffalo, served as team captain, and the club appears primed to make a splash with its next hire after dismissing Tim Murray.

Drury, of course, spent four seasons with the Rangers and also wore the “C.”

Should Erik Karlsson’s game-winning goal have counted?

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We’re only one game into the Sens-Rangers series, and we already have a little bit of controversy.

Ottawa won Game 1, 2-1, thanks to Erik Karlsson‘s game-winning goal from a seemingly impossible angle (seriously, he scored from the corner).

But should it have counted?

There’s no issue with the Karlsson shot going off Henrik Lundqvist‘s mask and in, but the Rangers felt that the referees missed an icing call moments before the goal happened.

Karlsson is standing near his own blue line when he sends a pass in Jean-Gabriel Pageau‘s direction. Did Pageau get a piece of it? It’s hard to tell from the angles we have at our disposal, but Alain Vigneault seemed to have had a good look at the play.

“We felt on their game-winning goal it should have been icing,” Vigneault said, per Sportsnet. “When we look at it, and look at the angles we get, I think it should have been icing. But at the end of the game you gotta play and you gotta do more than we did tonight to win.”

Challenging icing calls isn’t permitted, so when the officials decided that Pageau touched the puck, there’s nothing more the Rangers could do to reverse the call (except get the puck out of the zone when they had the chance).

 

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Friday, April 28

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Two games on the schedule tonight, as the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks look to avenge their losses to the Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers in Game 1.

Here’s what you need to know:

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues (Preds lead 1-0)

Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Check out the highlights from Nashville’s 4-3 win in Game 1.

Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks (Oilers lead 1-0)

Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Check out the highlights from Edmonton’s 5-3 win in Game 1.