I know. Doing a tank story is probably the lowest hanging fruit in Sabres history to write about. Everyone is doing it and there’s a part of me that feels like a hypocrite for writing about it because I’ve been adamant about how insufferable it is to bring up at every turn. Sabres lose…tanks fault. Jack Eichel scores 2 goals…thank god for the tank. It always circles back to it by the same people and I’m as guilty as anyone with talking about it. Its reaction to the reaction to the other reaction and I’m pretty sure I’m the latter reaction at this point.
As I write this, I’m still in shock Murray got canned. I had to come back after writing my Sabres red wedding piece to write even more because I still can’t believe it. Already I’ve seen things leaked how Murray was the culprit for the Eichel story being leaked to #paulrus and that people within the organization and even other GMs didn’t like his temperament. I’m sure other takes will come out just like it always does whenever someone gets canned, especially when it is as shocking as this. As I’ve repeated on this space and on Twitter, the Sabres missed the playoffs because of what happened after the tank, not during it. I was for the tank, but I wasn’t for the extreme POVs from both factions of it (See: BN and WGR). However, if you want to say the tank got everyone fired, I think there might be some validity to it. Specifically on the PR front.
Before we deal with today, let’s go back to when Darcy Reiger was fired.
Darcy’s plan seemed to be exactly what the Sabres did with Tim Murray and that’s tank for the #1 pick in back-to-back drafts. Darcy had the tank idea before anyone else did. If you remember, Darcy/Ted Black had the press conference from hell where he said there would be suffering. When you look back at that 2013 FA class which was just Tallinder and them playing a bunch of kids (Zadorov/Grigo/Zemgus/Risto), this was going to be a full blown rebuild. Then you factor in the Thomas Vanek trade and I bet dollars to donuts the same fate would have happened to Ott/Miller with them being traded out of town later in the season if Darcy was the GM.
The point is the tanking plan was going to happen with or without Murray. So, why did the Pegulas fire Darcy when it was obvious tanking was his plan and was adapted by Murray? Fan backlash.
Everyone wanted Darcy fired. No way they could pitch the tank for two years with him as the #1 spokesperson and #1 public enemy. I don’t think the Sabres could have sold the tank to the public with him being behind it because there was so much anger towards him. If there’s one thing the Pegulas do tend to do for better or worse, it’s listening to the fans when they are pissed off about the product.
So what happens during the tank? We get WGR and a number of fans acting like this was going to change things over night. Those are the facts and don’t let anyone from that station say this is just a strawman take against them. It was treated like it was a foolproof plan where nothing else mattered. Didn’t matter about the GM…didn’t matter about the other players…didn’t matter about the coach…It was all about Jack being the franchise QB/Guard where it didn’t matter what surrounded him.
Maybe The Pegulas really thought the tank was going to change things over night and when it didn’t, they were pissed off and wanted blood. Maybe if the tank was more discreet like a lot of rebuilds are and not a full blown telethon for ratings and web clicks, everyone would still have a job. Maybe the Pegulas started to believe winning McEichel was bigger than winning the cup like one afternoon host once tweeted and when it didn’t equal that, they were pissed off. Maybe there were people within the organization who wanted more power (See: #Brandonfinger) and used the hype tank train of instant gratification against Murray because the W/L record didn’t change enough. Maybe the Pegulas thought it was going to be easy once they got Eichel. Alas, the easy part was getting Eichel, but the hard work was yet to come and we are still knee deep in it.
Are there other variables for Murray getting canned? Of course. Blue line sucking, depth, coach and all that stuff. But 3.5 seasons as the GM where 1.5 of them were geared at being terrible on purpose…I dunno. That seemed like a VERY short leash for my taste and I feel he should have had another year. But if you go back to what the lunatic fringe of fans and certain media members were saying two years ago about it being a foolproof plan where other factors didn’t matter, it shouldn’t shock us he got fired, especially if people within the organization believed a quick turnaround was supposed to happen. Just like with Darcy, The Pegulas listened to what others were saying about them.
Bottom line: The tank worked to get Eichel, but it didn’t work to save Murray’s job.