My trip inside the Buffalo Sabres deadline day war room serves as a good look into just how the entire operation works on one of the busiest days of the year.
I arrive at the Sabres offices in First Niagara Center around 11:30. Sabres President Ted Black escorts me into the major conference room, introduces me to the group, and sits me down next to GM Tim Murray at the head of the table.
TSN is on the television. Tim Horton's coffee is available. It's a lot like any sports radio station.
I'd estimate there are 10-14 men in and out of the room throughout my time in "Sabres Central". Sabres Director of Amateur Scouting Kevin Devine sits to my left, with Senior Advisor Craig Patrick next to him. I fade into the background as quickly as possible to listen in and observe just how the frenzied process plays out.
After a quick glance and a nod hello from Murray, they are right back to work.
Murray seems to be bouncing back and forth between two states of consciousness while I'm there:
1. On the phone
2. Talking with the table about who he was just on the phone with, or who he'd be calling next
Murray runs point in the operation with the conference table of men throwing in their opinions as names come out. I'm not at liberty to discuss specific names of players that were mentioned, but I can tell you how it happens.
As Murray is shopping a particular player, in this case one that did get traded, he paces in and out of the room with the phone at his ear getting an idea of a potential offer. As he finishes the conversation he tosses the phone on the table, and throws the conversation at his sounding board. A prospect's name comes up and instantly there are men throwing out their reports of that player. There's personal information, injury history, projections, his ceiling...and then another name as an alternative. The conversation shifts and turns to "Well what about that player? Can we get him instead? What'll it take?"
I have a chance to get a small taste of Tim Murray's style in the room. He's running the show in that room. Murray's been described as a no-nonsense, shrewd talent evaluator. You're likely hearing that he isn't one to sugar-coat.
Murray is straight and to the point. As the team finishes up the waiver claim on Cory Conacher his abilities are compared to another player that could be available. "Do we think he's better than Conacher?"...and on and on it goes.
As the Sabres rifle through the potential scenarios, they're talking about several players. One gentleman at the table brings up another name in ORGANIZATION X and there's a brief silence as the room considers it. The silence is broken by the ringing of Tim Murray's cell phone.
The process repeats.
It's 12:15, and my time in the war room is up.
On the way out I meet Sabres Director of Hockey Related Businesses Joe Battista, who shows me the Sabres "Hockey Tech" department. There are three giant flat screens laying out the depth charts of every NHL Team. The top screen lists every NHL player on every NHL team, and their RinkNet score. The Sabres have individual evaluations of every player in the league on this board at all times. Directly below that screen is the AHL depth chart. Each team falls in line vertically with its parent club on the screen above. The third screen has prospects that are playing in juniors. It's a stunningly crisp look at every asset eligible to play in the NHL.
From there we head over to the video department (which I think they call PUCKS?). Ryan Vinz, the former Sabres backup goaltender, is one of the guys in that department. The guys show me just how quickly they can pull up video on any player in the world.
Want to see Cory Conacher's even strength shots from outside of fifteen in the third period? On Thursdays? Click. Here they all are...in one window. Looking around this department, and the Hockey Tech department you get a feel for the cutting edge technology that's out there in the sports world. You find yourself saying, "Of COURSE they have this kind of stuff."
The plan from this point in the Hockey Tech department is to integrate these systems into a fast, efficient tool to give Murray every advantage possible.
I say my goodbyes, and leave First Niagara Center to come back for the show.
I'd like to thank the Buffalo Sabres for their hospitality on deadline day. I didn't hear anything too crazy in the room. If you're looking for me to say, "SOURCES TELL ME THEY ALL HATE _______", then I must apologize. I can't.
There were rumblings...smatterings...and one lingering name I heard that I'll wonder about for a few months. What was it?
Can't tell you. I'm not even sure I heard it. But I think I did....