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Top Shelf: Murray tabbed to lead Sabres out of the dark

By Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - As the newly minted general manager of the Buffalo Sabres, Tim Murray certainly has his work cut out for him.

The Sabres, currently last out of 30 teams in the NHL standings, are committing themselves to a rebuilding project, but that strategy only works if the right people are calling the shots in the front office.

Pat LaFontaine, a former Sabres great on the ice, was hired as the franchise's president of hockey operations in November, and after nearly two months spent mulling over his options, he believes Murray is the man who can deliver this once-proud Sabres club out of its current predicament.

Sabres owner Terry Pegula also hopes Murray's hiring is the beginning of good things to come for a franchise that appears destined for its third straight season out of the playoffs.

Over the last year, Pegula, who purchased the club in February of 2011, has made wholesale changes to the club's hierarchy. First came the firing of longtime head coach Lindy Ruff last February and the installation of Ron Rolston as his replacement. Then, after an awful 4-15-1 start to the 2013-14 campaign, Pegula pulled the plug on Rolston's tenure and also fired general manager Darcy Regier, who, like Ruff, had begun his role with the Sabres in the late 1990s.

The LaFontaine hire was a nod to Buffalo's past, as was the move to replace Rolston with former Sabres head coach Ted Nolan on an interim basis, but Murray's job is to keep his eye trained on the future and to make sure it's a heck of a lot brighter than the present.

Considering the Sabres haven't won a playoff series since making a run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2007, there is nowhere to go but up. However, just because Buffalo has plumbed the depths in recent years doesn't mean fans in Western New York will be patient with Murray. The goal now is the same as it ever was: to bring the first Stanley Cup championship to the city of Buffalo.

At the press conference announcing his hiring on Thursday, Murray made it plain as day that nobody on this Sabres roster is safe.

"This team's in last place. Anybody can be traded," the new GM warned.

Regier already traded one of Buffalo's key pieces earlier this season when he sent sniper Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders for veteran winger Matt Moulson and a couple of high draft picks. Those draft selections will serve Murray well in his rebuilding effort, and he could land additional picks and perhaps a prospect or two if he decides to flip goaltender Ryan Miller before this season's trade deadline.

Miller, one of three goaltenders picked to represent Team USA at the Sochi Olympics, is the biggest bargaining chip left in Buffalo, a team that is mostly made up of young guys still trying to prove their worth as NHLers. Miller, meanwhile, is 33 years old and scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at season's end, so the timing seems right time for both sides to part ways.

Although this is his first NHL GM assignment, Murray has spent the last 20 years working in various NHL front offices, including his most recent job as assistant GM of the Ottawa Senators, a post he had held since July 2007.

Murray served under his uncle, Senators GM Bryan Murray, and the Sabres hope the ability to identify talent is a family trait. Although the Senators also have never won a Stanley Cup, the franchise has successfully rebuilt on the fly under the Murrays in recent years. Ottawa landed players like star defenseman Erik Karlsson and blossoming forward Mika Zibanejad via the draft, and Murray will have to travel the same road to turn things around in Buffalo.

Joining Murray and LaFontaine in the front office is Craig Patrick, a Hockey Hall of Famer who was announced as a special assistant and advisor to the team's hockey operation. Patrick helped build the championship-winning Pittsburgh Penguins teams of the early 1990s. With his first draft pick as the Pens GM, Patrick made the game-changing decision to select Jaromir Jagr fifth overall in the 1990 draft. His knowledge and experience could prove invaluable for a first-time NHL GM like Murray.

Patrick also was the assistant GM for Team USA in 1980 when the Americans shocked the world by winning gold in another frigid New York town called Lake Placid.

Who knows? With the help of LaFontaine and Patrick, maybe Murray and the new- look front office can turn the lowly Sabres into a Stanley Cup champion a few years from now. It wouldn't exactly qualify as another "Miracle on Ice," but considering where the club is right now, it'd be an impressive nonetheless.

01/09 14:21:19 ET

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Schedule

Tuesday, April 22Full Scoreboard
Tampa Bay3Final | Box
Montreal «4Rink Replay
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game Four. Montreal wins series, 4-0.
Boston «3Final | Box
Detroit0Rink Replay
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game Three. Boston leads series, 2-1.
NY Rangers «4Final | Box
Philadelphia1Rink Replay
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game Three. New York leads series, 2-1.
San Jose «4Final(OT) | Box
Los Angeles3Rink Replay
Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game Three. San Jose leads series, 3-0.
Full Scoreboard

Standings

2013 - 2014 NHL Eastern Conference Standings
 
Atlantic Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
p-Boston 54 19 9 117 261 177 31-7-3 23-12-6 18-9-3
x-Tampa Bay 46 27 9 101 240 215 25-10-6 21-17-3 19-8-3
x-Montreal 46 28 8 100 215 204 23-13-5 23-15-3 18-8-4
x-Detroit 39 28 15 93 222 230 18-13-10 21-15-5 17-8-5
Ottawa 37 31 14 88 236 265 18-17-6 19-14-8 14-9-7
Toronto 38 36 8 84 231 256 24-16-1 14-20-7 14-13-3
Florida 29 45 8 66 196 268 16-20-5 13-25-3 13-16-1
Buffalo 21 51 10 52 157 248 13-21-7 8-30-3 7-18-5
 
Metropolitan Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Pittsburgh 51 24 7 109 249 207 28-9-4 23-15-3 20-8-2
x-NY Rangers 45 31 6 96 218 193 20-17-4 25-14-2 16-11-3
x-Philadelphia 42 30 10 94 236 235 24-14-3 18-16-7 15-11-4
x-Columbus 43 32 7 93 231 216 22-15-4 21-17-3 16-13-1
Washington 38 30 14 90 235 240 21-13-7 17-17-7 12-15-3
New Jersey 35 29 18 88 197 208 21-11-9 14-18-9 16-9-5
Carolina 36 35 11 83 207 230 18-17-6 18-18-5 15-13-2
NY Islanders 34 37 11 79 225 267 13-19-9 21-18-2 10-16-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
2013 - 2014 NHL Western Conference Standings
 
Central Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Colorado 52 22 8 112 250 220 26-11-4 26-11-4 19-6-3
x-St. Louis 52 23 7 111 248 191 28-9-4 24-14-3 21-6-2
x-Chicago 46 21 15 107 267 220 27-7-7 19-14-8 13-13-3
x-Minnesota 43 27 12 98 207 206 26-10-5 17-17-7 14-12-3
x-Dallas 40 31 11 91 235 228 23-11-7 17-20-4 13-11-5
Nashville 38 32 12 88 216 242 19-17-5 19-15-7 12-13-4
Winnipeg 37 35 10 84 227 237 18-17-6 19-18-4 9-15-5
 
Pacific Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
z-Anaheim 54 20 8 116 266 209 29-8-4 25-12-4 22-4-3
x-San Jose 51 22 9 111 249 200 29-7-5 22-15-4 18-7-3
x-Los Angeles 46 28 8 100 206 174 23-14-4 23-14-4 16-10-3
Phoenix 37 30 15 89 216 231 22-14-5 15-16-10 14-9-6
Vancouver 36 35 11 83 196 223 20-15-6 16-20-5 12-13-4
Calgary 35 40 7 77 209 241 19-19-3 16-21-4 11-15-3
Edmonton 29 44 9 67 203 270 16-22-3 13-22-6 8-17-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
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Scoreboard
Local
Final
CHR 4
DUR 8
 
11:05am Today
CHR
DUR
 
7:00pm Tonight
MIA
CHA
Final
PIT 1
CIN 4
Final
CLE 2
KAN 8
Final
WAS 2
ANA 7
Final
TOR 9
BAL 3
Final
DET 8
CWS 6
Final
ATL 0
MIA 1
Final
TAM 7
MIN 3
Final
BOS 3
NYY 9
Final
NYM 0
STL 3
Final
CHC 9
ARI 2
Final
MIL 1
SDP 2
Final
COL 2
SFG 1
Final
OAK 4
TEX 5
Final
SEA 2
HOU 5
Final
LOS 2
PHI 3
12:10pm Today
ATL
MIA
 
2:20pm Today
CHC
ARI
 
3:10pm Today
COL
SFG
 
3:35pm Today
OAK
TEX
 
3:40pm Today
SEA
HOU
 
7:05pm Tonight
PIT
CIN
 
7:05pm Tonight
CLE
KAN
 
7:05pm Tonight
WAS
ANA
 
7:07pm Tonight
TOR
BAL
 
7:08pm Tonight
DET
CWS
 
7:10pm Tonight
TAM
MIN
 
7:10pm Tonight
BOS
NYY
 
7:10pm Tonight
NYM
STL
 
8:10pm Tonight
MIL
SDP
 
10:10pm Tonight
LOS
PHI
 
Final
IND 101
ATL 85
Final
TOR 100
BRK 95
Final
CHI 99
WAS 101
7:00pm Tonight
MIA
CHA
8:00pm Tonight
SAN
DAL
9:30pm Tonight
HOU
POR
Final
MON 4
TAM 3
Final
DET 0
BOS 3
Final
PHI 1
NYR 4
Final
LOS 3
SJS 4
7:00pm Tonight
CLB
PIT
8:00pm Tonight
DAL
ANA
9:30pm Tonight
CHI
STL
Final
CHR 4
DUR 8
 
11:05am Today
CHR
DUR