Terry and Kim Pegula obviously didn't believe in Tim Murray's plan. But what plan do these owners have to fix this hockey team now?
The Pegulas keep showing over and over again they don't have a clue what it takes to run a professional sports franchise and now they're left to pick up the mess from the botched tank that was sold to them as the quick-fix plan to a Stanley Cup.
You want to say the tank worked because it brought Jack Eichel and you can have a case. But it also created a culture where losing was acceptable, where the fan base was irreparably torn asunder and where the key players knew they had all the leverage because the franchise had mortgaged its very soul of 45 years to get them here.
It's no surprise Dan Bylsma was sent out the door. He was a flawed coach who didn't seem like he was magically going to change his ways by having a few cups of coffee with the boys. The firing of Tim Murray is the real stunner, but the bespectacled tankmaster seemed to indicate last week that he knew things were not being looked at kindly in Pegula Tower.
Hopefully Russ Brandon is nowhere near this situation. Still, he is the president of the team. Tell him to do something -- anything -- to make the season ticket-holders feel appreciated and then stay away from the rest of the operation.
Which leads us to this: Job one for the Pegulas is to fix what they botched when they fired Pat LaFontaine just over three years ago. It's time to get a real president of hockey to run this operation because the owners have no business picking a general manager or coach. Maybe it's deposed Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi, maybe Lindy Ruff wants to get out of coaching, maybe it's time for Chris Drury to move up from his assistant GM slot in New York.
Whoever. Get somebody in here and let them do the hiring. It's the Pegulas' team but they have shown they should be doing nothing more than writing the checks. Or, in Terry's case, keep chasing quarterbacks.
As I wrote last month, the players should have no say in this either and they clearly have. Big mistake. Denials aside, the owners now put a huge amount of blood on Jack Eichel's hands with this situation. You have to feel bad for the kid now. He's deserved criticism for some of his actions, but he took a lot of responsibility for them Wednesday and now he's going to be labeled as a coach killer for a long time. Whether he is or not. And that's on the owners, who have never shown any understanding of optics since they showed up six years ago.
This franchise is in complete disarray now. Anyone who says otherwise is simply blabbing a ridiculous company line. They are a laughingstock in the NHL. They are not simply a product of losing a lottery. They are a product of bad ownership, bad hockey decisions, bad coaching and too many bad players.
The Sabres were too stable in the Darcy Regier-Lindy Ruff years, but now they've gone the other way and are a revolving door. You have Ruff, Ron Rolston, Ted Nolan and Bylsma. LaFontaine and Murray. Ted Black. Whatever happened to Ken Sawyer, Craig Patrick and Joe Battista?
So while the Oilers and Leafs forge on in the playoffs, the Sabres forge on as an embarrassment. Good luck fixing this mess now.
Terry Pegula speaks on it Friday. For the first time in a long time. He better be prepared to sit in his chair and face the music for quite a while. He's got a lot of explaining to do.