The Buffalo Sabres hockey department grew by two people.
And they’re a pair of pretty impressive hires.
While it had been reported that Tim Murray would be named the team’s new general manager, the organization also hired Craig Patrick as a special assistant and adviser to the hockey department.
Patrick served as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1989-2006 and helped build a team that won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992.
“It’s great to be part of this family,” Patrick said. “I’ve had many rebuilds in my career. I was a GM for 23 years and rebuilt a lot of teams. This is going to be fun and I’m anxious to get started.”
Murray comes to Buffalo after seven years as the assistant general manager in Ottawa.
“These are pieces to the hockey department,” said Pat LaFontaine, the Sabres’ president of hockey operations. “We’re growing. We want to be the best hockey department, the best hockey team and the best coaching staff. We want to be the best in all areas. You bring in great people with great talent and character not with an agenda and ego. Those don’t work together. When Craig Patrick took the job he couldn’t be more excited. When Tim Murray took the job, he couldn’t be more excited. We all work together as a team.”
And right now, Ted Nolan is still the coach of this team.
Murray said that Nolan is his guy for the immediate future.
“He’s the coach of this team,” Murray said. “I got the job last night. I’m going to try and get to know him but he’s the coach right now. Whatever happens going forward will determine everything else. There’s no preconceived notions.”
As for the unrestricted free agents on the team – notably Ryan Miller, Steve Ott and Matt Moulson – Murray was looking at the market but moving forward with purpose. Don’t expect a big trade just for Murray to make a trade. But on a team that’s dead last in the NHL everything seems to be on the table.
“I can’t go out and tell you right now I’m trading all pending UFAs if there’s no market to trade them,” Murray said. But “if there’s a market and it makes sense,” trades could happen. “This team is in last place right now. Everybody can be traded.”
Trades can also include draft picks, something that Murray said could be packaged for other picks in the draft or a quality young player.
The emphasis for Murray is on developing younger players and he noted that there already are solid pieces in place in Buffalo.
“My goal here is to put an emphasis on the development of the people already here,” Murray said.
“There are pieces here. The cupboard’s not bare. There are a couple of positions we have to improve on.”
The only player on the Sabres who has experience working with Murray is Zenon Konopka, recently acquired off waivers from the Minnesota Wild. Konopka played for the Ottawa Senators while Murray was assistant GM there.
“He’s a great person to begin with,” Konopka said. “A really good hockey mind. I think one of the best things about him is he has a pulse on everything in the organization. In Ottawa he understood the players from the young guys to the older guys. To the management to the coaches. He’s a real sharp individual and we’re extremely lucky to have him."