Sabres Undergo Long Overdue Shake Up
Buffalo supremo Terry Pegula finally made the long overdue decision to dismiss Darcy Regier this week. Head Coach Ron Rolston was also fired as Pegula welcomed fan favourite Pat LaFontaine back in to the Sabres family; with the former star hired as Director of Hockey Operations.
LaFontaine’s appointment, along with that of ‘interim Head Coach’ Ted Nolan, have raised eyebrows but signal a much needed change in the Sabres front office.
Many were surprised that Regier did not follow Lindy Ruff out of the door in February. But the long standing General Manager was given the opportunity to spearhead the Sabres rebuild, with Rolston installed as Coach.
Rolston did enough to lose the ‘interim’ tag and Regier set about acquiring as many top picks as he could muster. Stars like Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek departed as the Sabres embraced their new game plan.
Despite the acquisition of several top picks, and talented winger Matt Moulson, Buffalo struggled on the ice though. And not in a ‘they are young, they’ll come good’ kind of way. It was a full on tire fire at times.
The pre-season was marred by an incident between John Scott and Phil Kessel, which became the catalyst for a character assassination of Rolston. Relations with star goaltender Ryan Miller remained strained and Terry Pegula’s talk of Stanley Cups seemed like some distant dream.
The barbs aimed at Rolston seem somewhat unfair. He had an even weaker roster than his predecessor, but somehow went from a young coach learning the ropes to an amateur who had no place in the league after that infamous game against Toronto.
Regier on the other hand simple seemed to have reached his shelf life. After 16 years with the team, in which there were some undoubted highs, the Saskatoon native just couldn’t seem to get the club out of the funk it has found itself in.
The appointment of LaFontaine goes someway to calming the waters at the First Niagara Center. His time in Buffalo is still fondly remember by fans, he is well liked in the hockey world and is well connected as a result.
The former Team USA forwards first major task will be replacing Regier, with Montreal Assistant General Manager Rick Dudley the favourite to take up the vacant GMs role.
The empty seat in Regier’s old office likely goes a long way to explaining the ‘interim’ tag attached to Ted Nolan’s return to the club.
Nolan won a Jack Adams with the Sabres in 1997; but his forthright style is not always popular and the ex-Sabres and Islanders boss has spent the past 5 years with the Rochester Americans and then the Latvian national team.
The former Detroit and Pittsburgh winger has a reputation for getting the best out of his teams however, and the Sabres could certainly do with a little bit of that right now. Even if Nolan simple ensures that the teams young stars and prospects develop and improve, that would be welcome progress to a franchise threatening Washington’s 38 year old record for the worst season in NHL history.
The appointment of a new GM will go a long way to determining how long Nolan remains in charge of the Sabres bench; but Buffalo do appear to be trying to get back on the right path.
And long overdue it is to.