Coach Dan Bylsma and general manager Tim Murray were fired by the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday after they finished last in the Atlantic Division.
"After reviewing the past season and looking at the future of our organization, Kim and I have decided to relieve general manager Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma of their duties," owner Terry Pegula said in a statement, referring to his wife. "We want to thank Tim and Dan for their hard work and efforts that they have put in during their tenures with the club. We wish them luck. We have begun the process to fill these positions immediately."
Bylsma, 46, was 68-73-23 in two seasons as Sabres coach, including 33-37-12 this season. Bylsma, who has three years remaining on his contract, took over for Ted Nolan on May 28, 2015. He coached the Pittsburgh Penguins for six seasons, including winning the Stanley Cup in 2008-09.
The Sabres improved by 27 points (54 to 81) in Bylsma's first season but did not make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they dropped to 78 points this season. They have not made the playoffs since 2011.
Video: Hradek discusses Murray, Bylsma firings in Buffalo
Murray, 53, was hired Jan. 9, 2014, after eight seasons as an assistant GM with the Ottawa Senators. Among his moves were hiring Bylsma, selecting forward Jack Eichel with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, and acquiring forward Evander Kane and defenseman Zach Bogosian in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 11, 2015.
Murray, whose original contract with Buffalo ran through this season, signed a multiyear extension in October before the Sabres' first game.
The firings come a day after a Buffalo radio station reported that Eichel told the Sabres he had no desire to sign a contract extension if Bylsma remained coach.
Eichel denied that report, telling The Buffalo News his end-of-season interviews with Bylsma and Murray went well and that he wants to stay with Sabres long term. The 20-year-old center is entering the final year of his three-year entry-level contract and can sign an extension beginning July 1. He could become a restricted free agent following next season.
"I want to be here for a long time," Eichel said Wednesday. "That's the way I look at it. I don't want to go anywhere else. I don't want anybody to think that I want to be somewhere else. ... I want to be a Sabre and I want to be a Sabre for a long time and I want to be a part of Buffalo when we win. I know it's an organization that is capable of doing that, and I want to be a part of it and I want to be a centerpiece of it.
"Just hearing these things that people are writing after I have a meeting with Tim and a meeting with Dan, I thought both of them went well. None of anything that I've read so far has been accurate of what was said in those meetings with them. It's a bit frustrating and a bit disheartening because I thought things were heading in the right direction leaving Buffalo. As much as we didn't have a great year, you've got to just look forward to the future."
Murray, who replaced Darcy Regier as GM, said after the season he would attempt to start negotiations with Eichel for a contract extension as soon as he was allowed to.
"The message got across," Eichel said of his meetings with Bylsma and Murray. "I don't think there was any pointing the finger or anything. I think we came together as a collective and said what we think we need to change to be better. I think that's where we left it.
"Tim had voiced his opinions of what he thinks he needs to do, and I said the same thing with mine. I know that Dan did the same thing. As a coach, he said he needs to be better. As a player, I said I need to be better. The same for Tim."
Murray said during an end-of-season press conference at KeyBank Center that he and Bylsma likely were part of a "top to bottom" review by the organization.
"Bylsma is my coach today; I'm the general manager today," Murray said April 12. "There's a review top to bottom ... I'm sure I'll be reviewed, I'm sure I'm being reviewed right now, as I should be.
"I just want everyone to know that top to bottom in the organization, we understand it was a very disappointing season. I'm the general manager of the team, so I guess that's top of the food chain when it comes to hockey, so I stand here and take full responsibility for our position, for our standings, and how it finished."