Sabres owner Terry Pegula is scheduled to hold a news conference at 10 a.m. today. Here are 10 questions that you, the Buffalo sports fan, may hope to have answered.
1. Why did you fire Lindy Ruff?
Just kidding. Had to do that one. Pegula, the owner of the Bills and Sabres, hasn’t given a hockey-centric news conference in 3 1/2 years, so there are some lingering questions. This one is a favorite of Sabres writer Mike Harrington.
The hell with Rex. I'm still waiting for the Pegulas to explain the decision to fire Lindy Ruff -- who was here eight times longer.
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) January 2, 2017
But while we’re on the topic, might Ruff be a candidate to replace Dan Bylsma? Who else should be considered? Harrington raised the prospect of Ruff after Murray's end-of-season news conference. John Vogl compiled a thorough list of candidates for both coach and GM here:
2. What's the deal with this Eichel business? How much pull does he really have in the organization?
After a report Wednesday that Jack Eichel wouldn't want to re-sign in Buffalo if Bylsma remained the Sabres' coach, Eichel's agent, Peter Fish, went above and beyond the call of duty to deny the report to anyone would listen. Vogl even scored an exclusive interview with Eichel himself, who said he thought his end-of-year meeting with Bylsma went well.
But after Thursday's news, Eichel's role in the situation is at least curious. "As for Jack Eichel and agent Peter Fish? Their denials seem pretty hollow now," Harrington wrote.
3. Will you hire a director of hockey operations? What management structure do you envision for the Sabres?
With the Bills, coach Sean McDermott and general manager Doug Whaley both report directly to Pegula. It was the same way with Rex Ryan. But at the Sabres, Bylsma was under Murray, who reported to Pegula.
Is that the way Pegula sees this working out? Does he plan to hire anyone else to oversee the hockey side of things? ... perhaps an autocratic ruler?
4. What made you fire Murray in addition to Bylsma?
Pegula may not give a straight answer on this, but it's worth asking. Players seemed to tire of Bylsma at times this year, which, along with poor results, brought his job security into question. But firing Murray was a much bigger surprise. What happened?
Bucky Gleason wrote about that topic here.
5. Are you worried about how many people you have fired?
When you're a billionaire, maybe doling out severance pay of a couple million bucks doesn't mean that much to you. But even putting the money aside, the volume of people the Pegulas have cast aside is troublesome. The Bills and Sabres have shown five coaches, two GMs and two presidents the door since 2013, and another coach quit.
Maybe the money isn't important to them, but what about their reputation and the way they're viewed nationally? Terry Pegula usually acts like that isn't an issue, but in a matter of months he has fired two coaches after only two years on the job. That's not a lot of leeway.
Mark Gaughan compiled a comprehensive timeline of the Pegula ownership, and it's not pretty.
6. From your view, what went wrong for the Sabres?
We know Terry is a fan. We may not get a straight answer on this one, either, but it's worth asking him, as the guy who makes the decisions, what issues he felt were the biggest contributors to the Sabres' poor record.
It better be a stronger answer than "injuries." Jobs were lost over this.
Might also be worth asking, were the firings based more on the lack of on-ice success or the way the organization was being run? Pegula's response could be telling.
7. Would a Bills question be out of line?
Sure, this is a Sabres news conference, but Pegula also owns the Bills and has plenty to answer for there as well. He humorously said there was "no dysfunction" with that team after the season. He spoke briefly at McDermott's introductory news conference but didn't take questions.
At the very least, how did Bills GM Doug Whaley outlast Murray?
8. How much weight do you give player feedback and recommendations?
This is broader than the Eichel question. We know the Pegulas have met with Bills players on multiple occasions, including a reported meeting with offensive players right before Greg Roman was fired (a meeting that Ryan apparently wasn't a part of). Do Sabres players have the same access to ownership, and if so, how much weight do the Pegulas give to their concerns?
As a potential follow-up, why is having an open dialogue with players so important to Pegula? Does he feel that's something special his organizations offer? Does he like being around the players? I would imagine some, if not many, professional athletes go their entire careers without exchanging more than pleasantries with the owner. Why do Buffalo players deserve such good access?
9. Who will be involved in the search? What are you looking for? What's your timeline?
Standard stuff ... unless it isn't.
People seem quite perturbed over Russ Brandon's perceived involvement in Bills and Sabres affairs (he became the president of both organizations after the Sabres fired Ted Black in July 2015). Harrington didn't mince words: "Shame on the Pegulas if [Brandon] had any say in Murray's sacking."
10. Are you willing to get out of the way?
This has become an increasingly important question, and it has never been asked. The Pegulas may find more success by putting savvy, veteran minds in charge of their teams and allowing those people space to operate.
Here's Gleason's take:
Terry Pegula has little choice now given the current state of affairs. This entire mess began when he purchased the team, when he was nothing more than a filthy-rich Sabres fan with enough money to fulfill a childhood dream. He has since found out money can't buy expertise and credibility, and it certainly doesn't buy championships.
Now go read the rest of it.