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Did Mike Babcock lead the Buffalo Sabres to believe they had a deal for him to become their new head coach? Some in the organization say yes, but general manager Tim Murray isn’t one of them, at least publicly.
Appearing on WGR550 radio with Schopp and The Bulldog Thursday afternoon, Murray refuted the claim that Babcock lied to the Sabres.
“[I]t was a great process for me,” Murray said. “This is my first real shot at doing interviews and hiring my coach. He was the first guy that we looked at and it was a great process. To have a guy of his ilk, considered one of the best coaches in the National Hockey League, available and taking a real good, hard look at us in Buffalo after a 30th place finish, I thought the process was great and certainly great for my experience.”
With Babcock stating he would make his decision on Wednesday, he and Murray were in negotiations on a contract, which would make sense. If you’re going to decide your future, you’d like to know the salary and term you’re getting beforehand. But in the end, Babcock chose Toronto, with the Sabres GM never believing there was a deal in place.
“We were quite a piece down the line,” he said. “We were in negotiations of a contract, knowing full well that at the end of the day there’s no deal done until he says 'I’m coming to you'. He told us that he’d call us on Wednesday morning at 11:30, so he wasn’t a man of his word because he actually called me at 11:33 and told us he wasn’t coming, and that was it. I said OK, we move on. That’s it."
Now that Babcock is in Toronto, who does Murray turn to now? According to ESPN’s Craig Custance, the Sabres have asked for and received permission to speak with former Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma. Murray wouldn’t comment on that when asked, but did say he’s spoken with candidates before, during and since his courting of Babcock.
Murray added he was keeping an open mind during his search and wasn’t limiting himself to candidates who possess vast NHL head coaching experience.
“How does a guy like Mike Babcock get his start unless you’re open-minded?,” he said.
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