A day after the Buffalo Sabres finished dead last out of 30 teams in the NHL standings, coach Ted Nolan was fired by general manager Tim Murray. The Sabres finished 23-51-8 this season and are guaranteed no lower than the second pick in the draft where they will select Conor McDavid of the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League or Boston University’s Jack Eichel who won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player.
Normally, one would expect a coach to be fired for finishing last in the league standings during his two years at the helm. However, the Sabres have practically traded away any talent they have had over the last two seasons as they looked ahead to the 2015 draft.
Let’s take a look at some of the talent Murray has traded away since he took over as general manager. At this year’s deadline, Murray dealt three unrestricted free agents. Forward Chris Stewart went to Minnesota for a 2017 second-round draft pick. Goalie Michal Neuvirth was sent to the New York Islanders for a 2016 third-rounder and backup goalie Chad Johnson while forward Torrey Mitchell was traded to Montreal for a 2016 seventh-round pick and low-level prospect Jack Nevins. The Sabres also sent forward Brian Flynn to the Canadiens for a 2016 fifth-round selection.
In March 2014, Murray dealt defenseman Brayden McNabb, right winger Jonathan Parker and 2014 and 2015 second-round draft picks to Los Angeles for forwards Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Deslauriers. A week before, Murray really shook up the Sabres lineup by trading away longtime netminder Ryan Miller and center Steve Ott to St. Louis for goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, forward William Carrier, a 2015 first-round pick and a 2016 third-round pick.
Most of these trades brought in draft picks, prospects, or average players except for a blockbuster trade the Sabres made with the Winnipeg Jets this past February. Murray sent defenseman Tyler Myers, right wing Drew Stafford, prospects Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux, plus a 2015 first-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets for right wing Evander Kane, defenseman Zach Bogosian and goaltending prospect Jason Kasdorf.
This was a great trade for the Sabres future. Kane is a proven score with 109 goals and 113 assists in 361 NHL games, but did not play at all for the Sabres after recovering from shoulder surgery. Bogosian was drafted third overall in 2008 and Kasdorf could be the Sabres’ goaltender of the future as he just completed his junior season at RPI.
Last year’s number one draft pick, Sam Reinhart appeared in only nine NHL games for the Sabres this year, but should be ready to make the jump to Buffalo full-time next year. He is a center who is an elite playmaker with the ability to make his teammates better.
With another strong draft this June and in 2016, the Sabres could have enough talent to jump start the rebuilding process and get back to a yearly playoff entrant. Yet, I feel like Nolan deserved to be given the final two years of his contract to see what he could do with a lineup infused with much more talent.
Murray insinuated their was a chemistry issue between him and Nolan although he admitted there were no big fights or arguments. He just felt it was best to start the rebuilding process with a new coach. Simply said, Murray wanted to bring in his own coach since Nolan was already in place when he joined the Sabres in January of 2014.
I will have to agree to disagree with Murray because Nolan has proven to be an energetic coach who can get the most out of his players which is what I think he did with the sorry excuse of a team that didn’t need to tank to finish last. Their lack of talent was evident on a nightly basis.
And that’s as I see it!
Follow As I See It at http://Scottdm71.com
Like As I See It on Facebook
Twitter handle: @Scott_AsISeeIt
Internal photo courtesy of www.nhl.com
Cover photo courtesy of www.sabres.nhl.com
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Scott D. Mikulski