CM Punk is a UFC fighter who had a long career in professional wrestling. He’s lived sporting chaos.
The die-hard hockey fan couldn’t believe what he was seeing Friday as he watched a broadcast of Terry Pegula’s news conference.
“I’m fascinated,” Punk tweeted. “I just picture the Buffalo Sabres room being like ‘Lord of the Flies.’”
It wasn’t that bad in KeyBank Center this season. The Sabres didn’t crush each other with boulders or commit the other acts of savagery outlined in the legendary novel.
Still, there was way too much lawlessness for Pegula’s taste.
“I keep going back to discipline, structure, communication, character,” the owner said in the arena atrium. “We have to have character.”
Pegula repeatedly made it clear the Sabres lacked those core values, which led to Thursday’s firing of General Manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma.
“Those things are all something you need in your leaders so they are able to judge and look for the same characteristics in players and employees that work for your organization,” Pegula said. “You’ve got to have character throughout the organization, on the ice, and they have to be in a disciplined, structured environment where everybody knows what everybody’s doing and everybody’s talking. That’s how you win.”
The Sabres did not win this year, missing the playoffs for the sixth straight season. It prompted Pegula and his wife, Kim, to remove the hockey bosses.
“Kim and I spoke in depth with Tim and Dan separately and decided that our organization needed more discipline, structure and communication in order to be successful,” Pegula said. “We will move forward with new leadership and compete in the National Hockey League for the coveted Cup.”
As he did during his first day as owner, Pegula said the Stanley Cup remains the goal.
“Six years ago, I stood here and told the Buffalo Sabres fans that the reason for our existence was to win a Stanley Cup,” Pegula said. “That is still the truth. One team wins the Cup. We expected more this season.”
Buffalo stumbled to a 33-37-12 record and finished 26th in the 30-team league. There was a disconnect between Bylsma and the players. Pegula reiterated his belief that the players’ opinions are important.
“The detailed conversations with Tim, Dan, others in the organization – yeah, we talked to players – and put it all together, and the decision was made,” Pegula said. “Were players unhappy? Absolutely. We’re standing here today. We’re not in the Cup race.”
He vehemently denied a report that said Jack Eichel would not sign an extension with the Sabres if Bylsma remained behind the bench.
“Jack’s involvement as it was reported – and I don’t know the exact words of how that was reported – but is a complete fabrication,” Pegula said. “I defend Jack.”
While the firing of Bylsma was a probability heading into this week’s meetings – Pegula said no decisions had been made prior to the talks – the dismissal of Murray was surprising. Apparently, it shouldn’t have been. The owner implied he might not have even hired Murray in the first place.
“I was not involved in the last GM-coach search to a large extent, and I regret that move,” Pegula said.
However, Pegula authorized a three-year extension for Murray last fall. What went into the extension decision, and what changed this season to make him regret the original move?
“You know, what happened a year ago is not important,” Pegula said. “We’re looking forward. We don’t need to discuss. I don’t want to discuss that.”
The owner also declined to get into specifics about his next hires or what the Sabres’ hierarchy would look like. While he’s interviewing a potential general manager, he may decide the person is more suited to be president of hockey operations.
“We are going to find the best candidate – candidates – that we will bring into our organization to achieve our goals,” Pegula said. “The structure will land depending on the first person that we bring in, what his attitude is and how we should work together.
“We’re going to move as quickly and efficiently as we can.”