Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Sabres Fired Tim Murray

Tim Murray had been relieved from his position of General Manager by the Buffalo Sabres. In the coming months, we will likely learn how much of that decision was made with Jack Eichel's thoughts in mind - but that is not our concern right now.

This morning, I want to take a look back at Murray's three years in charge of the Sabres to see how fucking awful he was. Let's start in the middle of the 2013-14 season, when he got hired:

2013-14 Season

We should begin on January 9th, 2014. The Sabres fired Darcy Regier, the longest-serving and winningest GM in franchise history, and turned the reigns over to Murray. They really bottomed out over the final months of the season, finishing in last place in the Northeast Division (RIP).

But, when you're a new GM, you almost would rather start with a last-place finish so you can take advantage of the better draft position. So Murray also traded franchise cornerstone goalie Ryan Miller to St. Louis for Jaro Halak, some shitty players, and some draft picks.

2014-15 Season

We'll kick off Murray's first full season with his offseason moves. The Sabres picked second in the 2014 Draft, missing out on Aaron Ekblad (he went first to the Panthers). Buffalo selected Sam Reinhart with the number two pick.

I think, in hindsight, Sabres fans would rather have taken Leon Draisaitl (who went 3rd), William Nylander (8th), Dylan Larkin (15th), or David Pastrnak (25th). But it's early in Reinhart's career and he'll probably turn out to be perfectly a decent player. I do not recognize the names of any of Buffalo's later-round picks, but, again, it's early.

The 14-15 season was a drag, and the Sabres finished with just two more points than they had in 13-14. They were in last place in the division again, and this time they were last place in the whole league. Draft picks!

Perhaps the most important piece of the 14-15 Sabres' season was the acquisition of Evander Kane. Kane is now just 25 years old, and he figures to be a key piece of the Sabres rebuild that may or may not be happening.

2015-16 Season

The Edmonton Oilers won the draft lottery and were gifted Connor McDavid. The Sabres ended up with Jack Eichel. Eichel is great (certainly a better 2nd overall pick than Reinhart), but McDavid was the best first overall pick in a decade. Here's how Murray handled the lottery results:

Not great. I can't imagine that Eichel was excited to get the prom invitation only after the cheerleader with the cute dimples rejected our boy Timmy.

Buffalo traded the 21st pick in the draft for goalie Robin Lehner. Colin White, who was selected with that pick, may or may not haunt the Sabres - but Lehner appears to be their goalie of the future.

That summer, Murray also hired head coach Dan Bylsma, who had won a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguinis after they successfully rebuilt after a tank. The team brought in Ryan O'Reilly (who eventually would drunk-drive his car into a Tim Horton's) and made a huge leap from the previous season.

Well, a huge leap in terms of points - from 54 to 81. However, that "huge" jump turned out to be just enough to push them from 8th place in the division to 7th.

2016-17 Season

Boy, this story of Murray's tenure is wrapping up quickly. The Sabres, obviously regretting their 2014 selection of Reinhart and wishing they'd have taken William Nylander, drafted the younger Nylander brother (Alex) seventh overall.

Murray also gave an enormous contract (seven years, $42 million) to Kyle Okposo in the summer. Okposo scored 19 goals and 45 points, which is suboptimal for a guy making $6 million per year.

The Sabres finished with fewer points than the previous season, and didn't have a single player break the 30-goal or 60-point marks. Again, they finished in last in the division.

RIP In Peace

Murray was at the helm for three and a half seasons. In their best season, Buffalo finished second-to-last in their division. In all the rest, they finished last. They used their three top-ten picks under Murray to draft the wrong guy by choice, the wrong guy because of the lottery, and a middle-of-the-road prospect because they overachieved despite not competing. That's why Tim Murray got canned, RIP.

Looking Forward

Here's who Buffalo has under contract moving into next season:

O'Reilly, Okposo, Kane, Moulson, Eichel, and Reinhart are six solid forwards. Zemgus Girgenssons was an All Star. There is a lot of youth in the pipeline, especially Nylander. The defense kind of loses it a bit, but the Sabres should be able to piece together a decent team.

We'll see who Terry Pegula hires to fill the shoes of Murray and Bylsma, but the right GM and coach could push the Sabres into the playoff picture in the weirdly-not-that-good Atlantic Division next year.

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