The Buffalo Sabres fired both general manager Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma Thursday, in a stunning move by team owners Terry and Kim Pegula.
The announcement was made on Twitter, in a tweet reading "General Manager Tim Murray and Head Coach Dan Bylsma have been relieved of their duties."
The coach's dismissal is not necessarily a surprise to some local hockey pundits and fans. Bill Hoppe, WBFO's Behind the Bench analyst, believed Bylsma would eventually be dismissed but given one last chance to start a season well.
"The Murray thing came as a complete shock," Hoppe said. He just got a contract extension on opening night back in October. He's above the coach. It's his team that he built. You'd figure he had at least another year or two."
The Sabres finished in last place in the Atlantic Division in the recently-concluded season, missing the playoffs for a sixth straight year.
Sabres owner Terry Pegula issued the following statement:
“After reviewing the past season and looking at the future of our organization, Kim and I have decided to relieve General Manager Tim Murray and Head Coach Dan Bylsma of their duties. We want to thank Tim and Dan for their hard work and efforts that they have put in during their tenures with the club. We wish them luck. We have begun the process to fill these positions immediately.”
Murray was hired in January 2014 and orchestrated the Sabres "tanking" effort that led to the ability to draft top prospect Jack Eichel with the #2 overall pick in 2015. Bylsma was named head coach in May 2015.
Hoppe says these latest firings add to what has been a public relations disaster for the Pegulas, who fired Rex Ryan as head coach of the Buffalo Bills back in January. Ryan, Bylsma and Murray will still get paid although they are no longer employees.
"Buying out players like Cody Hodgson and Christian Ehrhoff, it just goes down the line," Hoppe said. "(Former Sabres general manager) Darcy Regier got a big extension before he was fired. They spend a lot of money on people who don't work for them."
Terry Pegula will address the media Friday at 10 a.m. at KeyBank Center.