In a move that many Buffalo Sabres fans had been asking for, the team fired longtime General Manager Darcy Regier and first year coach Ron Rolston. While fans have been asking for the end of Regier and Rolston since the beginning of the season(and for Regier even further), it is a major surprise as to who they brought in as replacements. Hockey Hall of Famer and Buffalo Sabres’ legend Pat LaFontaine was hired as President of Hockey Operations, with former Sabres’ and Islanders coach Ted Nolan was hired as interim head coach.
Regier has been at the helm since 1997, having been through two ownership changes that has seen many players come and go under his watch. While there were ups during his tenure, such as his hiring of Lindy Ruff or the cup run in 1999, along with back to back Eastern Conference Finals in 2006 and 2007, they were overshadowed by many of his questionable moves. Losing both Chris Drury and Daniel Briere in the same off- season, or trading Dominik Hasek for basically nothing were thing that fans will never forgive him for. Ron Rolston on the other hand, was never really given a fair shot at coaching the Sabres. Hired from the team’s minor league team last February, the team was already in a drastic rebuild. He struggled immediately and nothing changed this year, with his team compiling a dismal 4-15-1 record. In 51 total games in Buffalo, Rolston leaves with only 19 total wins, which isn’t much of a resume builder.
The biggest splash of today’s events, was who the team brought in to replace Rolston and Regier. While the GM post currently sits vacant and will be LaFontaine’s biggest priority in the coming months, the chain of command in Buffalo is drastically altered. Ted Nolan, who coached the team for two years in the late 90s was inexplicably let go the year after winning the Jack Adams Award for best coach in the NHL. He has been out of the league for several years, with jobs such as the head coach of Latvia’s national team, but was intrigued by owner Terry Pegula’s offer to return. Nolan certainly brings experience along with much respect from players. Buffalo Sabres captain Steve Ott said that his phone “blew up” from fellow players saying what a tremendous coach he had gotten. Up the ladder, there are few guys in the league who have as much respect as Pat LaFontaine. In his six seasons with the team, he reached the 40 goal plateau three times, and finished with 1,013 career points. What he has done off the ice has been equally impressive, as he has founded several different foundations and constantly gives back to the community. LaFontaine has knowledge for the game like few others, according to team owner Terry Pegula, talks with LaFontaine only started ten days ago.
The bottom line is that the Buffalo Sabres needed some sort of spark in their organization and accomplished just that on Wednesday. The Darcy Regier approach had grown stale with players and especially fans, who rained ” Fire Darcy!” chants down from the seats during every home game this season. Ownership acted and the rebuilding effort has come full circle in Buffalo. Only time will tell whether Nolan and LaFontaine can prove themselves again in the NHL, but this date will forever be highlighted in Buffalo Sabres history and will be one fans and fellow NHL teams will not soon forget.