The NHL draft combine is officially underway right now in Toronto, giving teams a chance to get to know more than 100 of the top prospects available this summer. But for a cohort of new GMs in the league, they also have to get familiar with their new scouting staffs.
“I'm still in the process,” said Buffalo's Tim Murray, who was hired way from the Ottawa Senators organization in early January. “The first time I met the whole staff was a couple weeks ago at our amateur meetings. You sit in there and listen and right off the bat you're trying to put a name to a face. But you're also trying to evaluate who has strong opinions and who doesn't.”
While new Washington Capitals GM Brian McLellan was an internal hire, Murray is not alone in having a new crew to depend on. Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving was with the Phoenix Coyotes before his jump in stature, while Jim Benning went from the Boston Bruins to the Vancouver Canucks. With Buffalo, Calgary and Vancouver all picking in the top six at the draft, stakes are high. Murray plans on letting the Sabres scouting staff ask most of the questions in the interview process with the kids at the combine and that will give him insight into both the player and the evaluator.
“Some of the guys without strong opinions may speak when they feel strongly about a player and that's fine too,” he said. “You're evaluating: it's similar to watching players. Who has strong opinions and who can back them up with facts?”
Luckily for Murray, he doesn't have to change philosophies when it comes to making picks: The Sabres are rebuilding and can't get position-specific with their marquee selection.
“Hey, we're a 30th place team, so we have lots of needs,” he said. “We do have some good young players coming up in different positions but we need to take the best player available. There are a lot of immediate needs, but we're not going to address them. We're going to go through this long-term, take the best player available and if he has to go back to junior, so be it.”
It's a veteran stance from a rookie GM, though Murray has tons of experience in an NHL front office. And while Murray is still getting familiar with his staff, he knows his way around a draft table.