on March 5, 2014 - 9:50 PM
, updated March 6, 2014 at 12:53 PM
Tim Murray was still coming down from an adrenaline high after wrapping up his first NHL trade deadline Wednesday when he was asked about the day. You would have thought the Sabres’ general manager was a skydiver who walked away without a scratch after his parachute failed to open.
“It was exhilarating,” Murray said. “It was fast and furious. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy 90 percent of it.”
No matter what Murray accomplished in the annual swap meet, it was exactly what people needed to hear. He was a refreshing change from Darcy Regier, who numerous times over the years looked like he was near tears after trading his players. His lips would quiver as he braced for questions about why he didn’t accomplish enough.
After a while, there was a sense Regier was too attached to his players or petrified to make a mistake. You wondered how many potential deals slipped away because he was hesitant or scared to say goodbye. Murray showed nothing of the sort a few hours after trading a good prospect in Brayden McNabb to the Los Angeles Kings.
In fact, it was the opposite.
Sure, there were scouts in the room making a case for McNabb. He’s a big, physical kid who someday could develop into a top-tier defenseman for the Kings. And so what if he does? Murray was too upbeat about what forwards Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Deslauriers could bring to Buffalo than what was walking out the door.
Murray liked the deal, so he made the deal. “I wish him the best,” Murray said of McNabb. “Obviously, that team liked him and wanted him. He’s leaving. I’m not going to worry about what he becomes and what he does. … He obviously helped bring us what we believe are two very good young players, so God bless him. If he becomes a really good player in L.A., it won’t bother me one bit.”
And that was it. No fuss. No muss. No worries. Time for a beer.
“We make lots of mistakes,” Murray said. “But if you get paralyzed because you might make a mistake, then you’ll never make a deal. You do your homework, you scout, you do all the background work that you can do, and then you make the deal. I’m by these two guys now. I’m ready for the next thing. Today is over.”
And tomorrow is waiting.
Sorry, but if you’re looking for approval, or disapproval, of the trades Murray made Wednesday, you came to the wrong place. The final score on his first swap meet isn’t going to be tabulated for years. When it comes to Fasching, I know plenty about fishing. He’s an 18-year-old kid with good size. I’m told he has a high hockey IQ.
There’s no way of knowing with absolute certainty whether most players will have an impact in the NHL until they reach the NHL. Fasching is one among many prospects Murray hopes will be part of the solution. Murray said his stock plummeted going into the 2013 draft, which was why he was taken in the fourth round.
OK, so there’s risk involved. Yeah, and …
It’s the Sabres’ job to develop the University of Minnesota freshman into a quality forward who can help them in the coming years. The same goes for Deslauriers, a puck-mover, and the kiddie corps the Sabres are rebuilding around. If they work out the way Murray believes they can, the suffering will end.
“I have a vision of something,” Murray said. “I think that’s why I was hired. There’s nothing to explain. I see something and act accordingly. What I see” in Fasching “is something that I like. That boat won’t sail for two or three years, then you can praise me or criticize me. I can take either.”
For now, they’re just names, the way Miroslav Satan and Michael Peca were just names when they showed up after getting traded to Buffalo. The community was wild over Mikhail Grigorenko and barely made a peep about Zemgus Girgensons, only to find the latter was miles ahead of the former. If you’re a Sabres fan, you can take comfort knowing Murray’s strength is identifying young players and projecting their potential. Draft picks generally don’t arouse the fan base. Even eternal optimists in Buffalo are jittery about the unknown. They need to see tangible results. They’re left hoping Murray knows what he’s doing. And that, my friends, amounts to an upgrade.
I’m sure people will grouse about the Sabres getting worse Wednesday. In the short term, that’s probably true. In less than a week, they had their franchise goalie, their captain, the player they received for Thomas Vanek and their president of hockey operations walk out the door. When the franchise isn’t in transition, it’s in an uproar.
Murray presented a strong front, if not a stern face, amid the chaos. He showed the foresight to make one deal lead to another. It’s what happened when Murray shipped Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to St. Louis and flipped Jaroslav Halak to Washington for Michal Neuvirth, three years younger and $1.25 million cheaper.
It’s not much, but it’s something.
People are looking for progress in a lost season. As low as it’s been, the team’s descent will likely continue. At times, it looks like the entire franchise is spiraling out of control. The sky isn’t falling. The Sabres have been falling from the sky. They needed a guy like Murray to pull the rip chord and ensure a safe landing.
Based on how he looked Wednesday, it’s his idea of fun.