The whole affair, including some badgering and obnoxiousness from the press present, took less than fifteen minutes. At the end of the day we didn’t learn too much about why the Buffalo Sabres really fired former General Manager Tim Murray and Head Coach Dan Bylsma, nor who will be replacing them and when it’ll happen.
“As you all know, I have informed General Manager Tim Murray and Head Coach Dan Bylsma that they are no longer members of the Sabres organization. I believe that both men did a good job in their tenure with the Sabres. These are difficult decisions. I want to thank both of them for their hard work and dedication.
“We as members of the Sabres organization are all responsible for our success, but accountability starts with me. We are not happy with our season this year and there are no excuses.
“Six years ago I stood here and told the Buffalo Sabres fans that the reason for our existence was to win the Stanley Cup. That is still the truth. One team wins the Cup. We expected more this season.
“Kim and I spoke in depth with Tim and Dan, separately, and decided that our organization needed more discipline, structure and communication in order to be successful.
“We will move forward with new leadership and compete in the National Hockey League for the coveted Cup.”
The first question to come in was regarding Jack Eichel, and if he was involved in Byslma (and possibly Murray) being let go.
“Let me borrow what Jack’s agent Peter Fish said. I don’t know where those stories come from, that’s ridiculous. Jack’s involvement as it was reported was a complete fabrication. I defend Jack just as Peter did, it’s not a true story.
“Are our players unhappy? Absolutely, we’re standing here today, not competing in the Cup race.
“That all goes back to the discipline, structure and communication.”
Regarding the accountability that he previously mentioned, and if owning a team was not as enjoyable as he first thought.
“Oh it’s enjoyable. Not winning is not enjoyable. Losing is not enjoyable. Mistakes, we’re not in the playoffs, I can tell you that probably leads to us needing to get better in the future.”
What decisions would he be happy to take back?
“I can tell you that I was not involved in the last GM & coach search, to the full extent, and I regret that move.”
Then came the inevitable Sabres-Bills comparisons, with the obligatory I know you said Sabres questions only but here’s a Bills question, just because.
“We’re not talking about football here. Again, our organization needs more discipline, structure and communication. We need to get better at that in the future.”
He was also asked about the Pat LaFontaine hiring and what his philosophy was about the structure of a sports franchise.
“Without disclosing specifics on this search, we are going to get the best candidate(s) that we will bring into our organization to achieve our goals. The structure will land depending on the first person we bring in, what his attitude is and how we should work together. “
Pegula then answered with a curt “No!” when asked if he regretted having an all-powerful GM with no one for him to answer to.
If his reputation as an owner was affected by the turnover in both his sports franchises.
“There is a lot of turnover in professional sports. Tim Murray is the 14th longest tenured GM in the NHL. There have been a lot of GMs that have changed jobs in the last three years.
“These things happen in sports.”
On how he came to the conclusion about his three tenets - discipline, structure and communication.
“That’s how you win. All of that stuff goes together with character. Gotta have character through the organization, and on the ice. They have to be in a disciplined structured environment where everybody knows what everybody is doing and everybody is talking.”
Day-to-day decision-making will be handled by Jeff Crisp on the amateur side and several people in the organization handling decisions on the professional side for now.
Will the GM be hired first before the coach, and will an experienced GM be coming in?
“I would say that is a safe assumption. Experience is going to be key in our search. Without disclosing specific details about our plan, and our plan may change as we start talking to people, but the plan is to build a strong organization from top to bottom.”
Would he want to not be involved in the day-to-day running of the team at some point?
“We don’t like to be in situations like this. I enjoy, and Kim enjoys, both teams. We enjoy talking to our players and being involved in their lives and communicating with each other. That’s a healthy environment.
“Today’s athlete is a little different than years ago, they are much more complex.
“(To avoid this kind of turmoil) I keep going back to discipline, structure, communication, character. We have to have character.”
Had he already decided to let GMTM and DB go before he met with them?
“No. The detailed conversations with Tim, Dan, others in the organization. Yeah we talked to players, put it all together, and the decision was made.”
On the tank years and if they ‘damaged’ the team, and how the Sabres ‘hoped to lose’.
“I don’t want to talk about the past. A lot of teams go through rebuilds. Hope to lose? We do not hope to lose. We went through a rebuild.
“I don’t understand why I’ve read an article from one of you gentlemen, how Cleveland is going through a rebuild, but the Sabres tanked. One city can rebuild but we tank - you can’t have it both ways.
“No. We rebuilt.”
What went into the extension Murray got last year, and what changed?
“What happened a year ago is not important. We’re looking forward, I don’t need to.. I don’t want discuss that.”
On the rumors that Dean Lombardi interviewed for the GM post last night.
“(Laughing) We haven’t talked to anybody. Put that in the ‘Jack demanded his coach be fired’ category. It’s a pure fabrication.
“I’d like to know where some of this stuff comes from.”
Regarding the timeline of filling the vacancies.
“We’re going to move as quickly and efficiently as we can. Sometimes you talk to half a dozen or so people and you need to talk to more people. It’s all a function of how our meetings go.”
What has the learn-as-you-go process taught him so far?
“I go back to my four words again discipline, structure, communication, and character. Those things are all something you need in your leaders, so they are able to judge and look for the same characteristics in players, and employees who work for the organization.”