By Brandon J. Koch
Listening to The Nielson Show on TSN1260 in Edmonton, TSN inside Bob McKenzie was on the air talking about the Sabres struggles and Evander Kane.
First off what happened to the Sabres? Wasn’t there reason to be optimistic at the start of the season?
McKenzie: “There is and there isn’t, here’s the thing. It’s not very often that a rebuilding team – and fairly early in the overall evolution of that rebuilding team – decide to make a regime change. Yet that’s what they did with Tim Murray. Now, the Sabres haven’t been a very good team for quite some time. But Tim Murray comes in and they obviously tanked that one season hoping to get Connor McDavid. I’ve never seen another NHL executive be as anxious to get a player as Tim Murray was to get Connor McDavid and he kind of made no bones about it. And then they didn’t win the lottery. And they got Jack Eichel, which is a very nice consolation prize, but it’s not Connor McDavid.”
On the Summer of Babcock
“But in any case, they looked like they were headed in the right direction. In fact, think about this for a moment. At that moment in time, when the Sabres had Eichel and Mike Babcock was looking for a place to work, the reality was that Mike Babcock’s initial inclination was to pick not the Toronto Maple Leafs but the Buffalo Sabres. His initial pick, if you will, was that he was leaning towards going to Buffalo. And at the very last minute there was a very significant change of heart and he decided to go to Toronto. But for a good period of that contemplative period that Babcock had when he was leaving the Detroit Red Wings, he looked as though he thought Buffalo was a better bet than Toronto. And of course what’s happened is Toronto has kind of taken off, led by Auston Matthews, and Buffalo has not – led or not led at times by Jack Eichel. So you end up with a regime change.”
On Jason Botterill and the future
“So now you’ve got Jason Botterill and a new coach in Phil Housley, and in their mind they’re kind of starting all over. But it’s like fans in Edmonton can sympathize with the fans in Buffalo on this one. You get all these regime changes and it’s like, ‘Oh yeah. We’re just kind of brand new and we’re starting all over again,’ and the fans are like, ‘Yeah well, we’re not starting all over. Boy, it’s been 10, 11 years since this team has been any good and we’re fed up.’ And so that’s kind of been where they’re at right now.
On this season
“Now, they did anticipate being better this year. But there’s been a lot of things. Eichel has not played at the top of his game. That’s been one of the things that he’s taken some heat for that. But he’s by no means alone. Okposo and a lot of the veteran players that they filled in in free agency and gave big contracts to have not been productive. And suddenly everything about the organization, the new general manager Jason Botterill is saying, ‘Well, I’m in an evaluation period here. I’m trying to figure out who needs to stay and who needs to go and how we’re going to build this.”
On Sam Reinhart
“So as a result, Sam Reinhart’s name kind of floats out there in trade rumors. Well, wait a second. Sam Reinhart, isn’t he part of that core? A top 3 pick that should be part of that core with Eichel and the other young players? Well, maybe he is, maybe he’s not. Teams are calling on him and Buffalo has got to make a decision – if not between now and the trade deadline, between now and the summer – as to ‘Is Sam Reinhart a piece we want to build around, or is he a piece that we want to move to find other pieces to build around.’
On current status of Sabres organization
“So there’s a lot of that going on right now and it’s kind of a mixed feeling because the fans are fed up with what’s going on and the management is like, ‘Hey, we just started in the fall. We’ve got a job to do here and there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
McKenzie said more likely than not the Sabres do trade forward Evander Kane.
You can listen to the interview here. A lot of information: http://www.tsn.ca/radio/edmonton-1260/audio/mckenzie-more-likely-than-not-that-sabres-will-trade-kane-1.924877