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NHL ‘not worried about tanking for McDavid and Eichel,’ says Buffalo GM

Apr 7, 2014, 1:49 PM EDT

Connor McDavid Getty Images

With so much focus on the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and its two big prizes — OHL Erie wunderkind Connor McDavid and Boston University recruit Jack Eichel — the subject of tanking has arisen lately, especially after CBC’s Elliotte Friedman floated a report that the NHL was considering a change to the draft lottery format.

But one of the GMs expected to be a major player at the ’15 draft says he doesn’t expect any significant changes to occur.

“We’ve all heard that talk of the five-team, five-year rotation, things like that, but there’s been really no appetite to do that,” Sabres GM Tim Murray said, per the Buffalo News. “They don’t think there’s any appetite right now to change it. I believe if there is an appetite to change it, if they’re going to make a drastic change, it has to be something like three to five years out so it doesn’t affect somebody that’s in that position now.

“From what I understand, they’re not worried about tanking for McDavid and Eichel.”

Buffalo, currently the NHL’s last-place team, is expected to struggle again in 2014-15 and be in the McDavid/Eichel sweepstakes next June. What’s more, the Sabres are currently armed with two first-round picks in ’15 — their own, and the one acquired from St. Louis in the Ryan Miller-Steve Ott trade.

Talk of tanking and jockeying for draft position promises to get bigger and bigger as we get closer to next June, as McDavid is considered by many to be the best pro prospect since Sidney Crosby. The 6-foot, 185-pounder won OHL Rookie of the Year last year and had 99 points in 56 games this season; Eichel, meanwhile, drew rave reviews while playing for the U.S. U-18 team, prompting head coach Danton Cole to compare him to Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Los Angeles’ Jeff Carter.

“[Eichel] has the size and scoring, plus the good stick like those two players,” Cole said, per NHL.com. “I think his skating explosiveness is off the charts though.”

  1. lostpuppysyndrome - Apr 7, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    I like to think that, for all the shenanigans some teams pull, NHL organizations as a whole still have enough honor to refuse to tank for the sake of one player, as opposed to certain other leagues that will go unnamed. Plus, one guy doesn’t typically influence a hockey team as much as players in other certain sports, so there’s usually somewhat less of a desire to hit the bottom for the sake of one individual too.

    • upper90cheese - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:44 PM

      Tanking is alive and well. See Pittsburgh Penguins mysteriously grabbing Sid the Kid.

      • killerpgh - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        Are you new to the NHL? There was a lockout the year before Crosby got drafted. Kind of hard to tank the season if there isn’t a season to play. But don’t let facts get in the way of your story.

      • abizzle03 - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:59 PM

        You mean the 2005 draft that took place after the lockout where every team in the NHL had a chance to win the lottery aka the Sidney Crosby Sweepstakes? The Penguins, who apparently “tanked” in a season that didn’t happen, had the same odds as the Blue Jackets, Rangers, and Sabres and even those teams didn’t have a significant edge over the rest of the league. Try again on your tanking evidence.

      • edog9897 - Apr 7, 2014 at 3:24 PM

        Thats wrong…real example is the obvious edmonton oilers.

      • hockey412 - Apr 7, 2014 at 3:33 PM

        hahaha yes…that was mysterrrrrious….

        You, my friend, are a paranoid idiot. And there are at least four others on the site. But, with as many negative comments that come from people on this site about Crosby, it seems like Pittsburgh did you all a favor!

        (PS I don’t really think you’re an idiot, you just made an idiotic statement)

      • chaser44 - Apr 7, 2014 at 3:52 PM

        I wonder where all the below pens supporters who are sticking up for them were when the team was going bankrupt and couldnt sell a ticket. Oh Thats right…

      • hairpie2 - Apr 7, 2014 at 3:55 PM

        You mean Mario. Thats been well established they cheated to get him.

  2. davidbetesh - Apr 7, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    Buffalo probably also own the New York Islanders 1st round pick in 2015. So make that three 1st rounders.

    • pi2000 - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:34 PM

      The Isles have yet to decide whether or not give up their 2014 or 2015 1st rnd pick to Buffalo. They currently sit 4th from the basement. So, do they give up a guaranteed top 5 pick in 2014, or give away their ticket for the McDavid/Eichel sweepstakes in 2015? Tough choice. Buffalo in the catbird seat tho.

      • jb8588 - Apr 7, 2014 at 3:33 PM

        If I were the Isles, I’d give it up now and pass up on the 2015 sweepstakes. As a Bolts fan, I am thrilled that we’re in similar position as Buffalo when it comes to having two first rounders in 2015. Having watch McDavid play twice this season in-person, I am praying the Rangers have a few key injuries next season and have a bad enough season to help us land McDavid. Then trading Marty St. Louis would of been a huge blessing in disguise.

      • jb8588 - Apr 7, 2014 at 3:34 PM

        *NOT pass up

  3. mega1480 - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    I do not expect the Sabres to tank, nor do I expect them to make huge FA signings. If all things remain the same, the result should too. Hopefully no league rules will change and the Sabres should get one of the top two picks next year as I believe that is the current plan.

  4. pigpen1013 - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    Not making the playoffs is bad enough for a team full of guys who have always dreamed of being the best, I don’t think anyone is gonna go out there and purposely lose games to try to pick up one player who may or may not pan out in the next 2-3 years. Also, if draft picks were so important the Edmonton Oilers would be the best team in the league and guys like Henrik Zetterberg never would have cracked the lineup.

  5. pi2000 - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:39 PM

    Buffalo also receives STL first round pick in 2014 if the Blues make it to the WCF, or if Ryan Miller re-signs. So that’s potentially 5 first round picks over the next 2 years for the Sabres. 2 of their own, 2 STL, and 1 NYI.

    • flash8910 - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:51 PM

      Murray made some great moves since he took over. Same can’t be said about the likes of Snow or Gillis.

      • elemeno89 - Apr 7, 2014 at 5:58 PM

        Most of those picks came in from Regier trades. Just an FYI.

      • elemeno89 - Apr 7, 2014 at 6:00 PM

        nvm, brain fart. Murray did pull a good trade with St. Louis. I forgot the he sent the second rounders Regier cultivated to LA for Fasching and Delauriers.

  6. mdobrasz - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    Anyone who has watched a few Sabres games the past few months would see that this team is playing as hard as any team. In fact, they’ve pulled a few upsets, and near upsets, of some of the best teams in the league.

    • hockeydon10 - Apr 8, 2014 at 9:15 AM

      Their coach has their guys playing for a roster spot. Guys are showing they can play hard no matter the consequences for the season and showing they can learn the coach’s system. That makes the Sabres a little unpredictable leading to some close games with good teams and spoilers on rare occasions.

  7. killerpgh - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    I wouldn’t be against the NHL going to a system were all team that miss the playoffs have a chance at the top pick or just improving the draft pick. Have a lottery with all 14 non playoff teams having a chance at improving. 14 lottery balls for the worst team all the way through 1 ball for the team that finished 14th. 1st ball that pops up gets the 1st overall and continue that with the next ball until all 14 non playoff teams a pick. Teams like the Flames that weren’t good enough for the playoffs, yet were bad enough to get high picks got stuck in that just below average rut for a while before committing to a rebuild.

    • bullwinkle88 - Apr 7, 2014 at 7:49 PM

      They already are using that system! All 14 teams that do not make the playoffs ARE in the lottery. Good grief! Wake up!

      • killerpgh - Apr 7, 2014 at 8:55 PM

        If you think the NHL uses the lottery I listed above you need to “wake up!” and learn the game before typing in CAPS like a hard ass. In the current system teams can only move down one spot from with they finished in standings and only one team can win the lottery and move up. What I said was use the lottery to fill out the entire 1-14. NOT THE SYSTEM THEY ARE ALREADY USING!!!!!!!!!! (typing in all caps is fun)

  8. joeyashwi - Apr 7, 2014 at 3:00 PM

    Sometimes being bad is what teams need. Chicago was horrible but ended up drafting high for many years and are now a powerhouse. My Wild have been consistently mediocre and haven’t had that same opportunity to improve with high picks. I can see Buffalo being a very stacked team in five years. Be patient Sabres fans.

    • jb8588 - Apr 7, 2014 at 3:37 PM

      Very right about this. Chicago didn’t get Seabrook, Kane & Toews from being good. Washington didn’t get Ovi, Backstrom, Alzner, etc from being good. Pittsburgh the same deal with them getting Crosby, Malkin, Fleury. With the way the salary cap is set up these days, it’s the best way to keep a competitive team out there for years to come.

    • killabstingz - Apr 7, 2014 at 4:54 PM

      Thanks, I need that after enduring last night’s embarrassment in person in oh so friendly philadelphia.

      The shear number of high 1st round picks and even top 2 rounds the sabres have amassed is quite silly and should pan out soon enough. Also, it helps Murray was handed one of the top current prospect systems already in place by Regier. For as much as he was booted out at the end, he certainly set us up for long term success.

      Is this truly a GM’s wet dream job? I’d say so.

      • bullwinkle88 - Apr 7, 2014 at 7:51 PM

        It’s nice to see some positive things about Darcy Regier. He was under appreciated.

  9. djshnooks - Apr 7, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    No Pitt didn’t tank for Crosby, but it’s the point they drafted high…Malkin, Fluery, etc.

    The league gave Lemiuex the star, like they will try to do next year. Bettman doesn’t want all these amazing prospects making Buffalo a powerhouse…ever.

    He’d rather put a McDavid in Brooklyn (opening next year)…and an Eichel in a Florida or a Phoenix, to stop the struggle.

    As do Edmonton…they will be fine. They were thrown into the fire with no leadership or quality coaching/managing.

    Buffalo is doing it right…let these young kids go to junior or college and dominate for a couple/few years, then bring them up.

    Then again, you also have a team like Detroit…never drafting below 19th or something…and never missing the playoffs.

    It’s all a crapshoot.

    • beergold - Apr 7, 2014 at 3:36 PM

      With the Detroit organization it is anything but a “crapshoot” – First class hockey people from top to bottom and they know their po-op so to speak!

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Apr 7, 2014 at 4:40 PM

        As a Canadian college professor, David Tingling, has noted, the draft, especially after the first dozen picks or so, is a total crapshoot and no team is better at it than the others. However, some teams, such as the Wings, are better at developing and retaining their picks.

      • killabstingz - Apr 7, 2014 at 5:04 PM

        There was a study I heard the Sabres president citing where they counted all NHL goal scoring and charted vs the players draft position. Very interesting to see how valuable top 2 rounds end up being, then getting into top 15 picks, to 10 picks to 5. They have a plan for sure.

        “With tonight’s trade, the Sabres will now have a combined 17 first- and second-round picks over a four-year span from 2012-2015 – the most in the 43-year history of the Sabres’ franchise.”

        That was right after the Vanek trade, so the trade deadline has inflated that total even more with possibly 2 more 1sts.

      • killerpgh - Apr 7, 2014 at 5:16 PM

        I’ve made that argument about the Wings being better at developing as opposed to being great at drafting. Not many agree with it tho. If the Red Wings scouting department was so great that the knew Zetterberg would be as great a player as he turned out to be wouldn’t it of been stupid for them to wait until the 7th round, 210th pick to pick him up? The rest of their picks from that year played a total on 32 NHL games and a total on 3 points (they didn’t have a pick in the 1st-3rd rounds). Getting lucky, having the guys help develop talent and not having the need to rush picks before the are ready are strength of the Red Wings, imo.

    • bruins4ever - Apr 8, 2014 at 10:47 AM

      Pitt didn’t tank for Crosby, but since they tanked the years before and picked Malkin 2nd behind Ovi the year before, then had the lock out, it meant that they had the 2nd best chance in the lottery for Crosby. It had been reported that there were some shananigans behind the curtain to put Crosby into Mario’s lap and save the Pittsburgh franchise that needed a new arena and had very few fans going to games.

  10. mydoglouie - Apr 7, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    Ya, this isn’t the nba

  11. muckleflugga - Apr 7, 2014 at 7:32 PM

    killerpgh

    i’ve been able to observe how fans supporting teams who play like shi te and who benefit from draft lotteries and high draft picks accordingly are unable to come to terms with detroit’s superior scouting … dog in the manger, wot

    detroit’s head of european scouting is håkan andersson … mining europe for all its gold and hiding nuggets from pretenders … this while understanding wings are a team of choice for europeans for reasons that go beyond a superior system

    of datsyuk, filpulla, franzen, holmström and zetterberg among others, only filpulla and holmström played for adirondack and grand rapids for single seasons before coming into detroit … delayed by simple lack of room on the big club

    all these guys only needed a season or two to adjust to the nhl’s hatchet and hitting game … then they began to dominate at their positions … why

    detroit’s first priority in scouting is skill irrespective of size … detroit’s second priority is a skill set that meets the general team skill set … they get players other teams overlook simply because they’re small … but small players become strong while skill grows in proportion to strength

    when they arrive red wings european picks are sufficiently advanced to play in the from the get go … but if those players are not on anyone else’s radar, why burn an earlier pick when needs elsewhere demanded a move … typically in goal or on defence

    and missing in shallow assessments of detroit scouting is the fact wings zeroed-in on many of the best players including the likes of peter forsberg and markus näslund but simply drafted too late to win at the table … wings were penalized for excellence

    poorly run teams on the verge of bankruptcy and under threat of move to friendlier cash-rich cities while abandoning and outright black-mailing fan bases are rewarded for incompetency through high draft picks and draft lotteries … wings continue to be penalized for excellence

    the argument detroit’s north american development system underpins its success is naïve and simply ignores bona fide superstars who came straight into the big club from europe

    detroit may well make the playoffs yet again with a record extending over a period when the bulk of other teams in the league have foundered several times, choosing rather to build through draft rather than organizational excellence

    wings scouting is acknowledged to be the best in hockey by people in the know … if professor tingling knows why isn’t he working for an nhl club making real money

    lmao professor tingling

  12. hockeydon10 - Apr 8, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    killerpgh, Detroit’s success is multi-faceted.

    They do scout and draft extremely well. There is no denying that. Not sure how this will be affected with Jim Nill now in Dallas. Some reports are that he took some of the Detroit scouting staff with him. I’d be curious how much of their scouting takes into account other things than on-ice ability. Stuff like genealogy (late development, physical traits) or the intellect level of their parents (Detroit really likes “hockey smarts” type of players).

    The Red Wings have complete managerial oversight of the Grand Rapids Griffins. This means they dictate what system the Griffins employ, who is the coach, etc. Day-to-day stuff may be handled by the Griffins staff, but they do work closely with the Wings’ front office so everyone is on the same page. Some teams simply don’t have this arrangement and it shows. It’s one of the many problems that affected the Atlanta Flames; no say in their minor league team, including what system their prospects were taught.

    They season their prospects for longer than a lot of clubs. Nyquist is 24 with 91 games played. Part of that was cap crunch, but a lot of it was getting him trained the way they want to see their players play the game.

    The Wings, like a lot of successful teams, maintain a sort of air of confidence. They don’t get rattled easily. They stick to their system through thick and thin. They’re not the type of team to ride a guy for making a “rookie mistake”. In 24/7 one of the young guys was leaving the bench for intermission hanging his head because they were losing. Babcock said “Don’t hang your head. That’s bad body language.” That says a lot about the culture in the Wings. Other teams know this too. Toews was asked about the Wings at one point and answered that they just don’t get rattled and that makes them dangerous to play against.

    On the coaching front everyone knows how good a coach Babcock is. Other coaches have mentioned how difficult it is to coach against him in game. While Babcock is of course one of the top coaches in the league a lot of people forget that he wasn’t just handed a great Detroit team for the 2005-2006 season and made a success out of it. Scotty Bowman was still with Detroit through the end of the 2007-2008 season. Having that sort of mentor on hand was certainly helpful.

    So, Detroit isn’t just a team that scouts/drafts extremely well. They’re an organization that thought out a plan where every facet meshes with each other and would lead to continued success and stuck with it.

  13. cliffatola - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    Nolan got ran out of town because he didn’t coddle Hasek or other stars for that matter. They did the right thing by sending Grigorenko back to juniors albeit a little late and burning a year of his ELC was stupid but they were a team in a weird transition at that time. It is going to be fun to see what happens as a hockey fan but they are definitely headed in the right direction finally. As for the lottery, I don’t think teams tank as much as they don’t try to improve in a quicker time frame, I’d think giving the team that finishes 3rd worst overall the weight in the lottery would encourage teams at the bottom to stay competitive rather than lay down for the lottery.

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