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GMTM: “I’m willing to take the knife”

Sabres GM Tim Murray had plenty to say in his season-ending press conference.

2015 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Buffalo Sabres GM, Tim Murray, gave his season-ending press conference today from the bowels of the KeyBank Center, and as per usual, he had plenty of interesting things to say in his season-ending remarks. Let’s jump right in with the things you need to know.

On the season

Murray put much of the blame on himself for this season, saying that he didn’t build the team well enough to withstand the injuries they suffered this season.

He also said that everyone needs to take more responsibility and demand more of themselves and their peers, whether that’s coaches, players, or management.

On the coaching staff

Murray had a number of very interesting comments on the coaching staff, none of which exactly sounded like a ringing endorsement.

Nothing Murray said today sounded like Bylsma was definitely coming back next year...but he also didn’t outright say Bylsma’s job was in trouble. It’s pretty clear from his comments that there’s a disconnect between the coaching staff and the roster, but the question of whether they’ll get another chance to turn things around next year looms large.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of these owner meetings next week, but should Bylsma stick around, I’d assume that he’d be on the shortest of leashes next season.

Quote of the Year

Murray didn’t use emojis, but I don’t think anyone was arguing with his use of profanity when describing the Sabres defense.

On the goalies

Murray said that there was a question coming in to this season about Robin Lehner, and that Lehner, “passed the test”. Not because Murray drafted him, but just looking at the numbers. As for a contract, Murray isn’t sure he wants to commit long-term because he doesn’t know what Lehner will be asking for.

On Cal Petersen, Murray will be talking with him, “Every day,” but they have to wait a bit because Peteresen still hasn’t decided if he wants to come out of school yet.

Murray had some big-time praise for Linus Ullmark, saying that he was very impressed with the goalie’s development through the Swedish Leagues and into the AHL, saying that many starting goalies had taken the same path. Looking for a backup in Buffalo next year or is this a smokescreen for the expansion draft? You be the judge.

On Jack Eichel and the captaincy

Murray was very pleased with Eichel’s development this season into an (almost, sorry Jack) point-per-game player, saying that Eichel showed he can be a “Top player in this league,” and encouraging him to take more of a leadership role next season.

As far as next season goes, and Eichel’s next contract, Murray will be calling him on July 1, and if not they can’t get in touch, then July 2.

It also sounded a whole lot like Jack will be the captain next season, whether or not Brian Gionta is back or not (and Murray said he’d be interested in bringing Gionta back if the price was right.)

Other new and notes

  • When asked about the Leafs, Murray said that, “We worry way too much about the opposition and we should worry more about what goes on in this building.” Sounded like another indictment of the coaches to my ears.
  • On Kyle Okposo’s injury: “We've said 10 times we're not commenting on it.” Said there could be many reasons why, but also said that the team has always been very forthcoming on injuries (which they have been) and so there was a good reason why they weren’t saying anything. Also wouldn’t comment on whether this would be a long-term thing that could stretch in to next year.
  • On individual improvement: Murray was very pleased with the improvement of Eichel and Ristolainen this year. He also mentioned Reinhart, McCabe, and some of the young guys like Bailey, Baptiste, Nelson, Austin, and Ullmark. Sounds like he’s counting on a few of these guys to step up for next season.
  • On Alex Nylander: “He knows he needs a big summer.” Said the only thing he needs to improve is strength - not skill or hockey sense. Sounds like the kid has a chance to make the team this year.
  • On Brendan Guhle: He has “a great chance” to make the team next year and he’s “exactly what we need”. By that, you mean a smooth-skating, puck-moving defenseman? Also cautioned against getting too excited bout Guhle’s three games, saying that small sample sizes can be deceiving. I bet Guhle starts the season in Buffalo next year.
  • On the team’s construction: Murray says that they want to be a puck possession team, but they’re not built well enough nor do they play enough like that right now. Sounded like equal burns on himself and the coaching staff.

Say what you will about Tim Murray, but he gives the best pressers around. Give us your thoughts in the comments.