Buffalo Sabres co-owner Terry Pegula says the hockey franchise is in need of improved discipline, structure and communication. At a Friday morning news conference, he explained that is what led to the decision to fire head coach Dan Bylsma and general manager Tim Murray.
Pegula recalled his statement in February 2011, upon taking ownership of the team with his wife Kim, that their reason for existence from that day forward was to win the Stanley Cup. He insisted Friday that it is still their mission.
"We, as members of the Sabres organization, are all responsible for our success," said Pegula in his opening statement. "But accountability starts with me. We are not happy with our season this year and there are no excuses."
He explained that he and Kim Pegula held separate, in-depth meetings with Bylsma and Murray. Deciding the team needed new leadership, the Pegulas opted to relieve both men of their duties.
"I believe that both men did a good job with their tenure with the Sabres. These are difficult decisions," he said.
While Pegula thanked both men for their "hard work," the Sabres under their guidance have continued to miss the playoffs since 2011. This includes an infamous "tank" season during which the Buffalo Sabres finished at the bottom of the National Hockey League standings and set up a guaranteed second-overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft, at which time they selected forward Jack Eichel.
Pegula denied a report published earlier in the week that Eichel had threatened to not renew his contract with the Sabres if Bylsma were still the head coach. He also denied a report suggesting the Sabres have already had talks with former Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks executive Dean Lombardi about a job in Buffalo.
"We haven't talked to anybody," Pegula said. "Put that in the 'Jack demanded his coach be fired' category. It's a pure fabrication."
The Sabres, along with other NHL teams, are two months away from this year's Entry Draft. Teams must also decide which players to expose for possible selection in an upcoming expansion draft for the new Vegas Golden Knights franchise.
When asked for a timeline to hire a new general manager, Pegula replied that the team seeks to move as quickly and efficiently as possible.
"Experience is going to be key in our search," he stated. "Without disclosing specific details about what our plan is - our plan may change as we start talking to people - but the plan is to build a stronger organization from top to bottom."