BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres' busy weekend at the 2014 NHL Draft signaled the unofficial start of the organization's rebuild.
The Sabres made nine picks at the draft highlighted by the selection of Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart with the No. 2 pick in the first round and Barrie Colts left wing Brendan Lemieux, the first pick of the second round. Those picks, as well as trades last season that subtracted Thomas Vanek, Matt Moulson, Ryan Miller, and Steve Ott from the roster and the compliance buyouts used on forward Ville Leino and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff means the team is being built virtually from the ground up.
"Last year was a tough year," Sabres general manager Tim Murray said. "Quite frankly, if you want me to sit here and go through player by player what I thought, it can't be pretty, right? The team was not very good. That's gone for me. This is a new beginning. This is my first full year. This is Teddy's [Nolan, coach] first full year.
"There was so much change last year. This is where we start off and try to lay down the right lessons. Are we going to be way better? I'm not saying that at all, but things will be way better. Expectations, how you play the game, how you carry yourself as a pro; those things have to get better."
Part of getting better was the selection of Reinhart. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound forward put up big numbers in the Western Hockey League with 36 goals and 105 points to lead the team. He also played well for Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship and went to training camp with Canada ahead of the 2014 World Championship.
That kind of ability is something the Sabres haven't had in a long time. After being drafted he said his goal was to make the team right away, a proclamation some may consider to be bold but one he stands by.
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"I'm comfortable with it," Reinhart said. "I'm excited to come in and, like I said, I'm going to work to ensure that that happens. I'm comfortable coming to new teams with all the guys. I met some [Monday] but I knew some before, so I'm excited for that possibility and I'm going to keep working at it so I know it happens."
It was Reinhart's playmaking ability that got the Sabres' attention. He had 69 assists for Kootenay and was one of the top playmakers in the Canadian Hockey League.
"I've said that as far as what he does with the puck at the junior level reminded me a lot of Joe Thornton," Murray said. "[That's] just in junior, but [he's] certainly a different player. He's certainly not as big and strong as Joe, but that's the type of dominance he's had with the puck that I've seen in the whole group of guys I've scouted in junior hockey in 21 years."
Reinhart's selection was the first step in what's been an ongoing process for Murray and the Sabres. The team already has a lot of young talent on the way, some of whom played last season. While there is free agency to attend to beginning Tuesday, Murray believes the building blocks for future success already are in place.
"There were good players here," Murray said. "The young guys that are on the team I talk about, [Tyler] Myers, [Marcus] Foligno, [Tyler] Ennis and those guys all the time, but when you have [Mark] Pysyk, [Rasmus] Ristolainen, [Nikita] Zadorov and [Jake] McCabe on your back end, I mean, that's exciting.
"There are good young players that were here before me. If we turn this around it'll be me getting a lot of the credit, but there's a foundation here that was here before I got here and I have to recognize that and you guys have to recognize that. I think what that does is it makes our plan to rebuild quickly a viable plan."
What will help the Sabres potentially rebuild quickly are the number of high-end draft picks they'll have to work with.
The Sabres had four of the top 50 picks this year, and in the 2015 draft they have three first-round picks and two second-round picks. Managing these picks, free agency and the make-up of the roster are all part of the job for the first-time general manager.
"I think the reason I was brought in was they needed a change," Murray said. "If things were running smoothly here I wouldn't be sitting up here in front of you. You know that though. I knew it was a big job. I knew it's a big job and it has to be done the proper way and that's hard. That's the hard part. We all want to speed things up. As soon as we got [Reinhart], I said, 'I wish it was 2016.' But it's not.
"You have to do it properly and you have to go through the good and bad that goes with it. I firmly believe we're going to stay the course here and do what we think is the right way to be a good team for a long time."