The Sabres wrapped up their weeklong development camp Sunday, and Tim Murray liked what he saw from the prospects. The general manager loved what he saw in the stands.
Fans flocked to First Niagara Center for skates, scrimmages and testing, with the highlight being a crowd of 17,115 for Friday’s scrimmage. There were usually more than 1,000 people in the seats every day.
“That’s the biggest thing, isn’t it?” Murray said. “We can do this at the HarborCenter with the doors locked. We wouldn’t get the exact same results because the players certainly take notice of what’s gone on here.
“It’s an unbelievable hockey market. I call it the eighth Canadian market, and I think we’ve surpassed a lot of Canadian markets when it comes to this type of thing. The response from the public and the press and everything has been outstanding. Our players notice that, obviously, but the most important thing is what we get done here in a week.”
Murray, who is overseeing the camp for the second time, saw improvement from the returning players.
“I don’t want to bring up names because I’m going to forget names, but the guys who were here last year for the first time versus coming in for their second time this year, we saw great improvement,” Murray said. “I go back to last year, and I judge from there on because I don’t know exactly what they did before they got here. So I’m going from last year forward, and I like what I see.”
The GM still isn’t done changing his NHL roster. He remains on the hunt for a left-handed defenseman, with Johnny Oduya a top target. The blue-liner would like to stay in Chicago, but the team’s salary situation hasn’t made that possible yet.
“He hasn’t signed anywhere yet, so I haven’t moved on,” said Murray, who is examining other players. “We’ve looked at everybody we feel are going to need waivers. We’re still talking trades with teams. We’re still talking about a couple guys that are still out there, but there’s no hurry.”
Murray may, however, pick up the pace on his search for an Amerks coach.
“I’ve gone through 1,000 different scenarios, but it’s starting to get to the point where I have to quit experimenting with ideas and different scenarios and just get to it,” Murray said. “In saying that, I thought we signed a lot of good depth – guys that can play games up here when we have injuries, guys that are going to be really good players down there – and they never had a question about who’s coaching. I think they trust the fact that what we’ve done so far here that we’ll have a good guy down there. We’ll have a competitive team.”