The Sabres cleaned house Thursday morning, firing General Manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma.
Murray met with owner Terry Pegula on Wednesday to wrap up the season. It's clear the owner didn't like what he heard and saw, announcing both the GM and coach have been relieved of their duties.
“After reviewing the past season and looking at the future of our organization, Kim and I have decided to relieve General Manager Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma of their duties," Pegula said in a statement. "We want to thank Tim and Dan for their hard work and efforts that they have put in during their tenures with the club. We wish them luck. We have begun the process to fill these positions immediately.”
Pegula will discuss the firings Friday morning.
Murray, hired in January 2014, was first in charge of tearing down the roster so Buffalo could secure top draft picks. After getting Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel with back-to-back No. 2 picks, Murray's attention turned toward building a playoff team.
Buffalo made significant progress in 2015-16, but the rebuild stall this season. The Sabres stumbled to a 33-37-12 record and missed the playoffs for the sixth straight year.
Bylsma was in just his second season as coach. Players failed to embrace his style, and Murray last week made pointed comments about Bylsma's failure to connect with players on a personal level.
There are impressive candidates available for both positions. The Los Angeles Kings recently let go of their Stanley Cup-winning duo, GM Dean Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter. Dallas has elected not to re-sign former Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.
Other familiar names include Phil Housley, who is an assistant coach with Nashville, and Chris Drury, who is the assistant GM with the New York Rangers and part of the USA Hockey world championship management team. Rick Dudley is the senior vice president of hockey operations for Montreal. Pittsburgh Assistant GM Jason Botterill is a rising young executive who played in Buffalo.
Former Sabres assistant Kevyn Adams, who runs the Pegula-owned Academy of Hockey, is also well-regarded in the organization. Jack Eichel's college coach, David Quinn of Boston University, could also be interested.
Murray and Bylsma had exit interviews with the players last week. The GM then compiled his notes for the meeting with Pegula. He walked in knowing anything was possible.
"He’s my coach today," Murray said last week. "I’m the general manager today. There’s going to be a review top to bottom. ... I’m sure I’m going to be reviewed. I’m sure I’m being reviewed right now, as I should be.
"I have a book full of notes that I have to compile and be ready to deliver those thoughts to ownership. After that, I will come back if I’m still here and deliver my thoughts to our head coach and our coaching staff."
Asked on Thursday if he'd like to talk or say anything, Murray merely replied via text, "Thanks."
The GM and coach each accepted their share of the blame for the failed season last week.
"Top to bottom in the organization, we understand it was a very disappointing season," Murray said. "I’m the general manager of the team, so I guess that’s top of the food chain when it comes to hockey. So I stand here and take full responsibility for our position, our standings and how it finished."
Bylsma was subdued during his final interview.
"We fell short of where we thought we could be, hoped we could be," he said. "I take full responsibility for that."