Capping off a tumultuous week filled with reports of internal dysfunction and animosity, the Sabres have made sweeping changes.
GM Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma have been fired, the team announced on Thursday. The news comes just one day after a report from WGR radio in Buffalo claimed star sophomore Jack Eichel, who’s eligible to sign a contract extension on July 1, wouldn’t ink if Bylsma was still the club’s head coach.
“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,” owner Terry Pegula said in a release. “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.”
Murray was brought aboard as GM in 2014, taking over from longtime executive Darcy Regier. After nearly one year on the job, Murray fired head coach Ted Nolan and replaced him with Bylsma, who’d previously led Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup in 2009.
Bylsma went 68-73-23 over his two years in charge of the Sabres, but was roundly criticized this year for regressing. Buffalo went from 35 wins and 81 points in his first season to 33 and 78 in his second, and there were reports of discord within the dressing room.
At his end-of-year media availability, Murray dropped his now-infamous ‘coffee’ line about Bylsma.
“The video that they do and the preparation is exhausting,” Murray explained. “I do have an opinion, and think that sometimes maybe they’re stuck in that room preparing and working hard, but maybe they can put a coffee in their hand once in a while and do two hours of video instead of three, and get out and get to know our players and talk to our players.
“It’s about coaching individuals a little more and coaching system a little less. That’s my opinion and I believe that’s the right way.”
Murray’s tenure as GM was marked by some of the worst seasons in franchise history, all designed for a massive rebuild. While the plan worked on some fronts — Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Alex Nylander were all acquired in the draft — Murray’s roster was incomplete, especially on the back end. That resulted in Buffalo lagging behind Toronto in the rebuild race, which was visibly frustrating for all involved.
Murray also pulled off some massive trades during his time as GM. Ryan O'Reilly was acquired in a blockbuster move with Colorado, and Evander Kane was pried out of Winnipeg. Both have put forth some good campaigns for the Sabres, yet haven’t been able to pull the team far enough out of the Eastern Conference basement.