When Tim Murray was introduced as the new Buffalo Sabres general manager just a few days ago, he was very stoic in his presentation. His no-nonsense approach to answering questions from the Buffalo media was something Sabres fans had not seen in a very long time. When longtime Buffalo media antagonist Jerry Sullivan tried to engage Murray in the kind of nonsensical back and forth exchange that he would get into with former general manager Darcy Regier, Murray shut Sullivan down quickly and moved on to the next question.
There was also some question as to how Murray, interim head coach Ted Nolan and new adviser Craig Patrick would work together when it came to roster decisions. Those questions were answered immediately when Sabres’ forward Mikhail Grigorenko refused to report to his junior team in Quebec. Grigorenko put a passionate explanation on his social media pages that outlined his feelings for doing what is best for his career, and he hopes that the team will work with him. The answer from the team came swiftly and decisively, and it came from Nolan and Murray.
The day after Grigorenko refused to report, Nolan and Murray held a press conference where the Grigorenko situation was only a very small part of the information covered. Murray made it clear that Grigorenko will report to Quebec and that is the end of it. Nolan was quoted as saying “the tail can’t wag the dog, the dog wags the tail.” The next day, Grigorenko announced that he was reporting to Quebec.
When Terry Pegula bought the Sabres and gave former general manager Darcy Regier free reign to create the kind of staff he needed to build a winner, Regier instantly went soft. At press conferences, Regier would answer the tough questions with company-line cliches. Player roster moves seemed to be more dictated by the fans and the players than the front office. The indecision from the front office and the bad decisions that were often made contributed to creating a chaotic atmosphere within the organization that led to the poor product on the ice this season.
After less than a week on the job, Tim Murray has made three things very clear. The first thing he has made very clear is that Ted Nolan is involved with the personnel decisions and has a huge say in what this team will look like going forward.
Murray has also made it clear that the front office runs the team — not the players and not the fans. Grigorenko should have been sent to Quebec when he was drafted three years ago, but Regier saw a chance to sell tickets by putting one of the hottest prospects in years in a Sabres’ uniform, so he made some bad decisions that have affected the team and Grigorenko directly. Murray’s confidence and no-nonsense approach gives fans the feeling that the general manager is in control and the team dictates its player moves.
The final thing that Murray has made very clear is that there will be no prolonged and useless confrontations with the media. Darcy Regier had a habit of allowing the media in Buffalo, especially Sullivan, to persist on useless questions that had already been answered several times previously. Murray has indicated that he will have none of that, and his press conferences will contain the information he wants to the media to have — nothing else.
After years of indecision and bad decisions from the Sabres’ executive offices, the team finally has a decisive and focused general manager. Now it is just a matter of watching to see what kind of team Murray can put together and how long it takes him to lift the “interim” tag off Ted Nolan’s title.