BUFFALO – Tim Murray has thought about how an NHL team could tank a season. The general manager even discussed some scenarios with the media. But he has no intention of keeping the Sabres at the bottom of the league.
With a couple of franchise-altering talents available in the 2015 draft, plenty of teams could purposely field less-than-stellar lineups next year.
The Sabres, whose previous regime played for draft picks, won’t be among them.
“I don’t know how to do it properly, I don’t think,” Murray said about tanking Tuesday during a memorable end-of-season news conference inside the First Niagara Center. “I can do it blatantly and get in big trouble.”
Murray can’t put a timetable on the Sabres’ rebuild. But don’t expect him to drag it out.
“When you tear it down, it doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “I don’t buy into five-year rebuilds. I think when you use terminology like that as a GM you’re really setting yourself up for a long run if your owner buys into that. I could sit here and say it’s a seven-year rebuild and hopefully I get 10 years out of it. But that’s not reality and not what I want anyway.
“I want to rebuild here properly, which takes time. But it doesn’t have to take years.”
Murray bluntly discussed the Sabres’ current state and took some not-so-veiled shots at the team’s old regime Tuesday during a 28-minute chat beside coach Ted Nolan that will likely become part of local lore.
The 50-year-old is nothing like his predecessor, the vanilla Darcy Regier.
“If anybody thinks that there’s a message of tanking being sent from upstairs, I would suggest they put a camera on me for 60 minutes of the game when we’re losing and you’ll know that tanking is not what I want,” Murray said. “I want to play properly. I want to be competitive. Are we going to lose a lot of games because we’re not there talent-wise? Sure.”
He said he addressed his players Monday and talked about higher expectations, the culture he and Nolan want to produce and how the wretched 21-51-10 season “was completely unacceptable.”
“What we’re going to do with the standards, you can compete,” Nolan said. “You don’t have to have a whole lot of skill to compete. You don’t have to have a whole lot of skill to come to training camp in the best possible shape you can.”
Murray also laid some blame for the 30th-place finish on coaching and management.
Many nights, he said, watching the Sabres “was hard.”
“A lot of nights we competed hard and didn’t have enough talent to put us over the top,” Murray said.
More on the Sabres’ offseason and some other items:
– Murray said using a compliance buyout on forward Ville Leino, who scored zero goals in 58 games, “is a possibility” and would be “a tool we can use to improve our team.”
“Has everybody thought about that? Of course,” he said. “It’s a very good possibility. It’s not 100 percent, but it’s a very good possibility that’s one of our buyouts.”
Leino just completed the third season of a six-year, $27 million contract.
There is “a better than 50-50 chance” the Sabres will only use one of their two compliance buyouts, Murray said.
– Nolan said he hasn’t decided the future of his assistant coaches. One recent report said the staff he inherited from Ron Rolston will be dismissed.
“It’s one of those things you want to make sure you evaluate properly,” he said. “Tim and I had some discussions the last couple weeks. It’s hard to address during the season.”
– Murray wants to sign a couple of veterans to provide more than just leadership.
“The whole great-in-the-locker-room thing I don’t care about,” he said. “You got to be great in the locker room and be able to play the game. I think that we can use two guys that are strong both on the ice and in the locker room, and strong on the ice may be a third- or fourth-line role. I hope it’s better than that.”
He added: “They have to approach us and decide if they want to come here.”
– Murray said he has discussed supplementary discipline and some on-ice incidents with the league. He wouldn’t reveal too much about those talks, however.
“We’ve had our pee-pee slapped once here so I got to be careful with what I say,” he said. “I’m on notice, and I don’t want to pay that fine. I had a talk yesterday with (director of officiating Stephen) Walkom about the (Jake McCabe) hit. They were in agreement with what I had to say.”
McCabe was ejected Saturday for what appeared to be a clean hit.