There’s been constant chatter from fans all season that the last-place Buffalo Sabres have been getting a short shrift from the NHL’s on-ice officials and when the league extends the long arm of its supplemental discipline law.
General Manager Tim Murray has heard plenty of it and seems to agree. Murray revealed Tuesday he’s voiced his opinion as well, and it hasn’t been well-received in league offices.
“I’ve had some talks with people in the league. We’ve had our ‘pee-pee’ slapped once here so I’ve got to be careful what I say,” Murray said, as laughter filled the press conference room in First Niagara Center. “I’m on notice and I don’t want to have to pay that fine.”
The Sabres were agitated right from the start of the season, months before Murray was hired, as former coach Ron Rolston was hit with a bizarre “player selection” fine for the infamous preseason brawl in Toronto – even though John Scott was already on the ice before the altercation even began.
In October, Patrick Kaleta was hit with a 10-game suspension for an elbow on Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson – who finished the game and actually played 23 minutes. Scott was then nailed with a seven-gamer for an elbow on Boston’s Loui Eriksson.
Scott was a first-time offender, but the elbow was a brutal hit on national television so the penalty didn’t seem too harsh. But the Sabres were furious when a concussion-causing hit by Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo to the head of Chad Ruhwedel during their April 6 loss to the Flyers, also on NBC Sports Network, drew just four games.
And Murray said he was also outraged at the five-minute interference major rookie defenseman Jake McCabe was hit with Saturday in Boston for a clean hit on Daniel Paille.
Murray said Tuesday he spoke to NHL officiating head Stephon Walkom about that play.
“They were in agreement with what I had to say,” Murray said. “We’re not always going to agree.”
Murray acknowledged that Scott is clearly a target of officials and that the staged fight the Sabres’ enforcer specializes in probably needs to be eliminated. The GM, however, said he loved the spontaneous battle rookie Nicolas Deslauriers had Sunday against Scott Mayfield of the New York Islanders, and used that as an example of how the Sabres need to be a harder team to play against.
“We won’t be the best team, but we don’t want a team to come in here and think it will be an easy two points,” Murray said. “Sometimes when you’re the 30th-place team, some calls don’t go your way because it depends who you’re playing against. I don’t think there’s any malice in that or they do it purposely, but you just don’t have the same respect the Boston Bruins have, for example.
“You have to earn that respect on the ice. We will earn that back. I think we’ll earn it back with the league and the officials, and we’ll earn respect going forward next year that we’re harder to play against.”