Today was the day that Buffalo Sabres‘ President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine finally introduced the team’s new general manager. For months, Sabres fans have been hoping that the new general manager would be a name that everyone would know. Buffalo sports teams have a knack for hiring unknown coaches and general managers which always leaves fans wondering when someone with an established name will decide to take a chance on the city and its reputation.
The announcement of Tim Murray as the team’s new general manager appears to be a decision that flies right in line with the other borderline hires made by the Sabres in the past. To make matters worse, Tim Murray is the nephew of Ottawa Senators‘ general manager Bryan Murray. Most hockey fans in Buffalo have reserved a little spot in the afterlife for Bryan Murray, especially after what Chris Neil did to Chris Drury with the infamous elbow to the head that sparked a brawl on the ice and a rivalry with the Senators that still exists. Bryan Murray was behind the Ottawa bench for that game, and his team’s actions have not yet been forgiven in Buffalo.
LaFontaine actually did execute an extensive search for the team’s new general manager. In his opening remarks at today’s press conference, LaFontaine thanked Bryan Murray (pause for cold chill to waft through the First Niagara Center lobby) and Columbus Blue Jackets general manager John Davidson. In the end, LaFontaine chose the candidate who has general manager experience at the AHL level but only assistant general manager experience at the NHL level. The last time the Sabres took some other team’s assistant general manager and turned him into a general manager was Darcy Regier, and everyone remembers how that ended.
To balance things out, LaFontaine announced that United States Hockey Hall of Famer and former Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Craig Patrick would also be hired as a special adviser and assistant to the hockey department. LaFontaine stressed that Murray retains all of the general manager duties and that Patrick is only an adviser. That distinction may not have done much to calm the nerves of already agitated Sabres fans.
Immediately after the press conference was over, social media was buzzing with Sabres fans on both sides of the fence. Some fans heralded the hiring as a smart move and said that Murray has a history of recognizing great talent. Others bemoaned the notion that Buffalo had a chance to enhance its reputation in the sports world by hiring someone like Mark Messier to be the general manager and said the team missed another opportunity, as usual.
Which side is right? Only time will really tell. Murray was extremely non-committal on the futures of interim head coach Ted Nolan and elite goaltender Ryan Miller. He repeated several times that he was only hired yesterday and he wants to get familiar with the organization before he makes any moves. Unfortunately for Murray, time is running out as Miller’s contract is up after this season and the trade deadline is in early March. He may want to take his time getting used to his new surroundings, but he needs to generate results right now if he wants to retain the players and coaches he will need to build a championship team in Buffalo.