Banner photo courtesy of BuffaloHockeyBeat.com
After Tim Murray's press conference and interacting on Twitter all day, I felt compelled to pen some thoughts I had about the press conference and how the day went. First, understand I'm not a writer. It has been years since academia, where writing was the equivalent of cleaning a gymnasium floor with a toothbrush.
But I am passionate about the Buffalo Sabres.
After careful consideration toward the events today and listening closely to Tim Murray speak, my blood started boiling when I began to read the reactions and comments on Twitter about Murray and his "inability" to move players.
I'll just start with the opening of the press conference when Murray was asked about Brian Gionta...
Murray: "I took calls (on him). I took calls. I also spoke to Brian Gionta today. I asked (Gionta) a couple questions and...I got answers."
I would venture to say Tim Murray said something like, "Gio, there are no cameras here... nobody's recording us. Don't bullshit me. Do you want a shot at some hardware again? If you do I will make it happen for you."
Gio was honest and that's why he's staying.
Next was Murray's statement on not moving unrestricted free agents and if It delays the rebuild. "It delays it (the rebuild) a little bit, because if you trade UFAs, you get picks. That didn't happen, so we move to the next situation."
Pause for interjection here: Murray loves draft picks, and he knows the draft well. This is why I'm curious about what REALLY happened on his phone today.
Continuing, a reporter (possibly The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington?) asked how surprised he was that he couldn’t move his two defensemen, Cody Franson and Dmitri Kulikov. The reporter asked if it was because they had little value or if it was the price. Murray said, "A little bit. Detroit got a second and a third for Smith, for example..." then said "We have two guys on the back end I thought would create interest."
Thought they WOULD create interest?
This is curious.
Then he underscores that recent and past player value had no bearing on his willingness to move players. He all but said "I would move them for a used puck bag."
The reporter then intimates he should have taken ANY offer (5th rounder). Murray again contends he's not a hard ass in negotiating and is not out to make other GMs look as though they've been duped.
This is where Murray, in my opinion, intimates even more so (without bashing players esteem) that he may never really GOT an offer for Franson. He all but begs to the media, "These players are still (playing) here. I can't say, 'I couldn't get anything for them.' I don't want them to walk in here with their tails between their legs. We still have to play games."
After this, Murray segues into the interest teams had in Kulikov, and made it clear injuries were a deterrent. Part of trade negotiating includes mandatory disclosure of a players' injury record. There is a lot of political weirdness tied to the medical aspect of the National Hockey League (I could write a treatise on that alone).
Then he was asked about Evander Kane. Again, GMTM made it obvious he didn't like any offers for the winger and frankly, I'm glad he didn't bend on this. Kane is having one of the best seasons of his career. Other teams will try to use his off-ice issues as a way to lowball a trade. Darcy Regier may have fallen for it as a public relations move, but Tim wasn't having it.
The next question pertained to the expansion draft. Tim was forthright - like many GM's admitted today - in admitting the expansion draft was a poignant factor. An example he used was how bizarre it was that he had no phone calls on Ullmark. This is a salient point considering the current market. I truly believe he was subtly calling out the league's incompetence here.
Next, the state of the team both on the ice and in the locker room surfaced. Tim initially seemed to take the heat off Dan Bylsma by blaming the players. As he talked more, he distributed the blame evenly amongst everyone. Personally, I think it was smart of him not to isolate the coach. This was not the proper venue for that, and there would been nuclear level fallout.
Lastly, Murray talked about the plan, fan expectations and the media and goes down a weird path talking about relationships and life lessons. Weird, I know.
What the general manager is trying to convey here (other than the patience and commitment required) is that there are things that happen behind the curtain he can't talk about. He can't show his cards about youth on other teams he's evaluating, or navigating around the salary cap, or veteran players he wants to go after, or his algorithms for scouting, or any of the other items that all teams keep quiet. Although Tim Murray recognizes variables will change that plan, I really find it refreshing that we have a GM that actually has a structured plan to get it all to work.
Look at how many names the Detroit Red Wings have on the Stanley Cup. Dynasty is an understatement. Also, look at how many painful years the Chicago Blackhawks were horrible. Eventually, the franchise won through the Cup with a good bit of luck in the draft and making some keen moves when players began viewing Chicago as a destination.
It is very important as Sabres fans to understand that there's a difference between WINNING through the draft and BUILDING through the draft.
Red Wings GM Ken Holland made an interesting statement today. He said, "It starts at the draft table. The teams of the '90s and 2000s were born at the draft table."
Tim's plan has been to patiently BUILD through the draft, and he has made that clear since Pegula hired him. What he may NOT have expected was the difficulty Sabres fans will have understanding that.