Tim Murray looks for quick rebuild
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Tim Murray's vision of rebuilding the Buffalo Sabres involves several things.
And the rookie general manager doesn't expect it will take long to accomplish.
Murray outlined his intentions Tuesday, two days after the Sabres closed one of the worst and most tumultuous seasons in their 44-year history.
Murray was direct in calling the Sabres' last-place finish "unacceptable."
And he was blunt in laying the blame on everyone from management to the coaching staff and on down to his players.
"A lot of nights it was hard to watch," Murray said. "A lot of nights we competed hard and just didn't have enough talent to put us over the top. But other nights, it wasn't pretty."
Murray also made a point of steering clear of using the word "suffering," which his predecessor, Darcy Regier, had used several times a year earlier.
Regier, who was fired in November, was criticized for suggesting fans might have to suffer through a lengthy rebuilding process for a team hasn't won a playoff series since 2007.
Murray interrupted a question at the mere mention of Regier and suffering.
"I wasn't here. I'm not using that word," he said. "This is not going to be a five-year rebuild, not for me anyway. That's not what I want."
That doesn't mean he expects the turnaround to be immediate.
"When you tear it down, it doesn't happen overnight," Murray said. "I want to rebuild here properly, which takes time. But it doesn't have to take years."
Murray is essentially starting from scratch after spending the past two months purging much of what was left of the team's veteran core.
Buffalo (21-51-10) set a post-NHL-expansion-era low by scoring 150 goals and a franchise record for losses.
The team's front office also underwent an overhaul with coach Ron Rolston fired along with Regier. Pat LaFontaine then abruptly stepped down as president of hockey operations in March, 3½ months after taking over.
That leaves Murray in charge and Ted Nolan staying on as coach after signing a three-year contract extension last month.
Nolan purged most of his staff of assistants on Wednesday. Goalie coach Jim Corsi will not return, and assistant Teppo Numminen's contract will not be renewed, the Sabres announced. Two other assistants, Joe Sacco and Jerry Forton, have a choice to stay with the Sabres after being offered jobs within the team's hockey department.
Former NHL goalie Arturs Irbe is regarded a potential candidate to join Nolan's staff. Irbe is from Latvia and has previously worked with Nolan, who has spent the past three years coaching the country's national team.
Corsi was the Sabres' longest tenured assistant after completing his 16th season in Buffalo. He played a role in mentoring former Sabres' great Dominik Hasek and then Ryan Miller, who was traded to St. Louis on Feb. 28.
Numminen, a former NHL defenseman, completed his third season in Buffalo after being first hired by former Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.
Sacco, the former Colorado Avalanche head coach, and Forton were hired by Rolston last offseason.
The first step of the rebuilding process will start in the draft in June in Philadelphia, where the Sabres will hold the No. 2 pick after losing out on the No. 1 pick to Florida in the NHL draft lottery Tuesday night.
It was yet another loss for Sabres this season, after they entered the night with the best shot at getting the No. 1 pick.
The result dashed Murray's hopes that the Sabres' fortunes might be changing.
"I want to win the lottery," Murray said before traveling to attend the lottery in Toronto. "I want to win something here."
The Islanders, who have the No. 5 pick, have until June 1 to determine whether to give up their first-rounder this year or next year. The Sabres will land the Blues' first-round pick if St. Louis reaches the Western Conference final.
On other issues, Murray called it "a very good possibility" that the Sabres will part ways with underperforming forward Ville Leino by buying out the three remaining years of his contract in June.
A series of injuries and lack of consistency have led to Leino being a major disappointment in Buffalo since signing a six-year, $27 million contract three years ago.
He has managed just 10 goals and 46 points in 137 games with the Sabres.
Murray termed the chances of Buffalo using its second and final contract buyout option as being less than 50 percent.
Murray expects to be active in free agency this summer with an eye on targeting veterans to add experienced on-ice depth and provide leadership on what will remain a young roster.
On the injury front, Murray said goalie Matt Hackett likely will require surgery after hurting his right knee in a 4-1 loss at Boston on Sunday. Newly acquired goalie Michal Neuvirth could require surgery to repair a nagging hip injury that forced him to miss the final month.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.