The Buffalo Sabres finished their season in dead last, but if you think GM Tim Murray was happy about giving his team a top pick, think again.
"This year was completely unacceptable" was Murray's message to his players, and it was the way he began the organization's season-ending press conference. The Sabres GM bristled every time he was asked about finishing last or the concept of tanking. "We want to be competitive. If anybody thinks there's a message of tanking being sent from upstairs, I would suggest they put a camera for 60 minuets of the game when we're losing, and you'll know that tanking is not what we want," Murray responded after a long pause to think. "I know that tanking is a word that's used a lot, but I don't know where the tanking would come from if the GM doesn't want to lose, and coaches don't want to lose, and the players certainly don't want to lose their jobs."
Oddly enough, while denying that the Sabres were tanking, Murray hypothetically described the way that a team might tank - you know, if they were going to do such a thing. "We're not going to do this, but to me I've thought about it, how our team's going to tank next year - you're going to put all your young talented players in the minors, and you're going to sign a bunch of fourth line players to play on your second, third and fourth line. I can't figure out any other way to do it." Nope, no tanking here, officer, move along.
When asked about the draft, Murray repeated what he said earlier, that the team would take the highest rated player on their board, even if that means drafting a defenseman first overall in Aaron Ekblad. He also let slip that should the team draft Ekblad (or any other offensive prospect) he'd most likely spend next season still in juniors - no tanking here, fellas, no-sir-ee.
As for what the team will look like next year, Murray wouldn't predict how they'd finish, saying "Are we gonna improve enough next year to not finish last? I can't make that prediction right now, I don't know." Murray knows that Ted Nolan likes a certain type of player, but said that he (Murray) values a guy who has talent on the ice, not just a good locker room presence. The Sabres will be looking to add at least two free agents in the offseason along those lines, guys who play properly and lead by example.
When it was all said and done, there weren't any bombshells dropped, as is usually the case with these types of conferences, but the thing that stood out most was the forthrightness of Tim Murray, so different from his longtime predecessor. He said what was on his mind, even when that meant revealing potential draft strategies or thoughts on uncomfortable subjects. If you didn't listen to the entire press conference, we've collected some of Murray's best one-liners:
- (On the draft lottery) Anything that makes Garth Snow's decision harder is OK by me.
- I wanna win the lottery. I wanna win something, here.
- The whole great in the locker room thing I don't care about. They gotta be great in the locker room and able to play the game.
(While dancing around a question on supplemental discipline) We've had our pee-pee slapped once, so I want to be careful what I say. I don't want to pay that fine.
- (Waffling back and forth on pronunciation) TALL-inder, Tall-INder, he's got a big bulge on his ankle, we're gonna cut that off. Not sure if that's the proper term.
Tell me you ever thought you'd hear an NHL GM talking about "pee-pee slaps" and openly addressing how he'd tank if that was his plan - which, we must remind you, it is most certainly not.
And with the revealing of a few final injuries (Hackett will need knee surgery, Neuvirth has a nagging hip, and Foligno might have shoulder surgery) the Worst Season Ever is in the books. Did we miss anything important, or did anything else stick out to you, Sabres fans? Let us know in the comments, and come on back for the draft lottery tonight at 8pm.