The Buffalo Sabres just finished the worst season in their history and next year doesn’t promise to be much better, but I’m counting Ted Nolan and Tim Murray to surprise us. Neither Nolan or Murray had anything to do with the position the franchise is in right now. That was the doing of Darcy Regier with the blessing of Terry Pegula and his group of confidants and consultants. Yet I believe Nolan and Murray are capable of having this team perform better than expected next season.

Ted Nolan came back to Buffalo with a team already in last place. Then his best goaltender and veteran leadership was traded away. In the end Nolan barely had a full bench to even finish the season, but his team still showed up most nights. That was the big reason Tim Murray chose to sign Nolan to a three year deal even after Pat LaFontaine left the franchise.

Ted Nolan can flat out get players to play. Nolan did that back in the 90’s as a rookie coach in Buffalo and he has done that with the undermanned Latvia team. Nolan has his detractors in the league and his reputation has suffered because of inaccurate rumors and falsehoods, but the man has again overcome the odds and is back in the NHL.

Tim Murray will never be mistaken for the coordinator of the neighborhood welcome wagon, but I’m told he can judge talent. I respect the opinion of Steve Manson, aka “The Hockey Man” and he tells me Tim Murray is a rink rat who knows young players inside and out. Manson is confidant that Tim Murray will draft the right p[layers to make the Sabres better soon.

For whatever reason the Sabres turned away from using free-agency to improve the team. The collective wisdom of the Sabres hockey hierarchy was to tear down and build back up. The problem with that strategy is that it takes several years for drafted NHL prospects to grow into contributing players on the ice. Fans witnessed that early in the season when the team started several teenagers and eventually sent them all back down.

The current Sabres roster offers little hope for improvement, but if Murray can snare one or two difference makers I believe Ted Nolan can get this team better, faster than expected. I have to believe that becauseĀ  if I didn’t then the alternative is at least two more years of watching this team at the bottom of the standings.

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