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Jerry Sullivan: If communication is key for Sabres, why are so many questions left unanswered?

Sorry, but I'm not here to applaud Terry Pegula for actually standing in front of reporters for 15 minutes and answering a few questions about firing the general manager and head coach of his hockey team.

That's how low the standard has become. Pegula goes 3-1/2 years without a press conference specifically about the Sabres, then he condescends to give us a brief exchange and we're supposed to feel grateful.

If you see it as a positive sign that Pegula graced us with an audience, fine. Friday morning's session left me wanting a lot more and feeling, as usual, that Pegula has an utter disdain for his critics and feels it's beneath him to have to field questions about his dysfunctional teams.

Pegula didn't feel a need to explain why he fired Tim Murray and Dan Bylsma, except to recite the new Sabres mantra. Repeat after me, kiddies: It's all about discipline, structure, communication and character.

Gee, you would think after six years, the Pegulas would have figured those things out by now. They've had a sudden epiphany on structure and communication? It's more vital than, say, gussying up the dressing rooms?

Pegula did show a little edge, more than his team did on many nights this season. He dismissed the notion that Jack Eichel wanted Bylsma fired as a "pure fabrication," making sure to attribute such a fine choice of words to Eichel's agent, and wondered where such reports originated.

He vigorously disputed the notion that his team lost on purpose to draft high enough for Eichel, lamely criticizing writers for not holding Cleveland (the Browns, I assume) to the same standard. He gave a curt "No" when I asked if he regretted not replacing Pat LaFontaine after pushing him out three years ago, leaving Murray as an all-powerful GM figure in the old Darcy Regier model.

But that speaks to his "structure" idea. When LaFontaine became president, he talked of the Sabres adopting the modern NHL management model, with power and responsibility more diffused and the GM answering to the team president.

Once LaFontaine was out the door, Murray had more power than warranted for a first-time general manager. It's similar to what's happening with Sean McDermott as the Bills' highly empowered, first-time head coach.

See, there's just no consistency to what Pegula does. He makes it up as he goes along. He reaches out to Bill Polian, contemplates having a veteran football "czar" to oversee the Bills, then abandons the idea. He hires LaFontaine, commits to a modern NHL front office, then gives up on it.

Pegula said he will almost certainly look for a new Sabres GM with experience. But he seems to have no problem handing unprecedented control of his NFL team to a first-time head coach. One thing Pegula asserted Friday was that he intends to be more involved in the new hires (now that he's done scouting college quarterbacks).

"Well, I can tell you that I was not involved in the last GM/coach search to a large extent, and I regret that move," he said. "And that's all I'm going to say about that."

That was a clear shot at LaFontaine, who hired Murray. It sounds to me as if Murray's issues had a lot to do with discipline and character. Word is, his style rubbed Kim Pegula the wrong way, and as co-owner she holds a lot of sway in the family sports empire.

Of course, if character is so important to the Pegulas, why did they sign off on the trade for Evander Kane, or the $100 million extension for the Bills' Marcell Dareus?

Kim stood off to the side, as usual, while her husband spoke Friday. Russ Brandon, the titular president of both teams, was alongside her. She and Brandon were whisked away as soon at Terry completed his remarks, rather than make themselves available to the media.

It's regrettable that Kim Pegula, who is one of the few women in major sports ownership and is said to wield at least as much power as her husband behind the scenes, chooses to stand in her man's shadow and defer. This is 2017, not 1957.

Their defenders argue that the Pegulas have no obligation to speak, that they own a private enterprise. Never matter that their teams perform in buildings supported by public money, in front of long-suffering Buffalo fans growing weary of paying good money for inferior teams.

The Bills have the longest playoff drought in sports. The Sabres have the second-longest in the NHL. You'd think the owners, rather than treat the media as a nuisance, would show some humility and see press conferences as a conduit to their customers, a useful inconvenience.

The Pegulas recently hired a talent consultant, Gerry Matalon, to work with the Bills coaches and players on PR. They have instituted a "one-voice" policy with the Bills, which is why McDermott ran the predraft luncheon without GM Doug Whaley on Thursday.

Again, you wonder if they'll be consistent. While interviewing GM candidates for the Sabres, will they inform them that part of the job will be allowing all public comments to come from the coach, or vice versa?

That's one of the many questions that were left unanswered when they cut Pegula's Q&A short after 13 minutes.

Here's a list of questions, compiled with an assist from my News colleagues, that would have been asked if we'd had more time:

What will Brandon's role be in the Sabres' coach/GM search, if any?

Are you considering a hockey man as team president?

Why couldn't he and Kim answer questions?

Are the Sabres working with the PR consultant, or is that restricted to the Bills?

Is Matalon advising Terry, too?

How do you respond to season ticket-holders who say the organization doesn't care about them?

What was up with the plastic sunglasses on Fan Appreciation Night?

Did Murray float the story about Eichel not wanting to sign an extension if Bylsma remained the coach?

Did the Amerks' demise contribute to Murray's firing?

Will the new GM do a radio show?

Did the scouting directors, Rob Murphy and Greg Royce, quit or were they fired?

How concerned are you about scouting just eight weeks from the expansion and amateur drafts?

Are you worried that your perception as a national laughingstock will hurt you in recruiting for coaches, executives and free agents?

Will the one-voice policy apply to the Sabres?

Do you care that you're spending roughly the GDP of a small European nation for people not to work?

Oh, and here's one I'm still awaiting after more than four years: Why did you fire Lindy Ruff?

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