Bourne: Sabres' timing may be curious, still a shuffle in right direction

Nov 13, 2:40 PM

It's tough to argue that the Buffalo Sabres didn't need to make some changes, but at the same time, it's just as to tough for some understand why today (or yesterday) was when they had to happen. The team is terrible, sure, but they were apparently bottoming out willingly for high picks. There's not much Ron Rolston could've done with the gross roster he was handed. Darcy Regier seemed to be getting good return for the talent they were shipping out. And hey, they just beat the Sharks(!) and the Kings(!). So when team owner Terry Pegula was asked why he decided to make the change now and basically said "Because I just felt like it," it's easy to be curious. 

To that, I say, "who cares?" Who cares if you don't get why it happened now, this team has been free-falling down the standings for awhile, and the point which you realize you've hit rock-bottom is always a great time to start rebuilding. Those wins against LA and San Jose are irrelevant. The team is still last place in the league, and I'm guessing Pegula didn't start planning these changes during yesterday's game.

So about those changes: 

Creating the position of President of Hockey Operations for Pat LaFontaine is a great call. If the Sabres are, as Pegula says, about people, Pat is one of the best, and he's awfully smart too. I believe in the trickle-down in cases like this. 

Bringing in Ted Nolan is somewhere between a curious and "bad" move. A lot of people wonder why he didn't get more NHL opportunities after losing his last NHL gig, and that answer is, quite bluntly, that he's not that great at coaching. Complex, I know. He's a wonderful man - I mean that, he really is - but he wasn't blackballed or anything. He's just not that great at it. And to slap the "interim" tag on him on top of that is even more curious. Why not take the time to find Your Guy before getting some other guy's hopes up?

I'm guessing the Sabres put "interim" there in case the GM they hire isn't a fan of Nolan's, but you'd think they'd wait to make the major changes at major positions before sending in a guy to "change the culture," as they claimed.

The Sabres are going to be terrible this year, that's still happening. But I do believe that with Pat LaFontaine taking on a bigger role, there's a glimmer of hope on the horizon. It's dim, but if you'd asked me yesterday, I would've said I didn't see it at all. 

So there you go Sabres fans. A step in the right direction, sort of.

Nov 15, 11:32 PM

Ted Nolan earns win in return to Sabres' bench

Nov 15, 11:32 PM

The Buffalo Sabres earned a 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in head coach Ted Nolan's return to the bench. 

The team was out shot 33-27 and went down 1-0 early in the second, but Steve Ott, Marcus Foligno and Christian Ehrhoff scored three unanswered goals in front of an energized crowd to secure the win.

For his part, Nolan appeared to appreciate the effort from his team and reception from the crowd.

The Sabres will travel to Toronto for a rematch with the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

Nov 15, 7:36 PM

Video: Nolan gets a warm ovation

Nov 15, 7:36 PM

The fans in Buffalo gave returning head coach Ted Nolan a warm ovation during the first television timeout of Friday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Nov 14, 12:28 PM

Stars coach Ruff 'not surprised' by Regier firing

Nov 14, 12:28 PM

Current Dallas Stars and former Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff says the Sabres dismissal of former general manager Darcy Regier was not surprising.

“It’s affected a few good friends of mine, but I’m not surprised,” Ruff told the Edmonton Journal.

“I’ve seen a few [Sabres] games," Ruff added. "I’ve seen the crowd reaction and where they’re at."

Ruff says Sabres management made the right decision.

“It wasn’t easy for Darcy, but ultimately, it was the right move. I wasn’t getting the job done. We had some games sitting there that I felt we should have won and we didn’t. For that I paid the price,” said Ruff.

Ruff says he appreciates the loyalty shown by Regier towards him during their tenure in Buffalo.

“We had an unbelievable relationship. He had my back for all those years and he could have pulled the pin at any time through tough stretches. He hung in there with me and believed what we were doing through time times, feeling we’d come out of it and we did. That’s not easy for a general manager in today’s game.”

Nov 13, 11:38 AM

LaFontaine initially declined role as Sabres GM

Nov 13, 11:38 AM

Freshly-minted Buffalo Sabres President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine met with Sabres owner Terry Pegula earlier this year to discuss concussions in hockey. The conversation ultimately went in a totally different direction, and led to LaFontaine being hired on Wednesday.

Pegula described it as "a very impromptu meeting" between LaFontaine and himself. "I knew Pat before socially, go out and have a steak or whatever," said Pegula, but he said he had never dealt with him in a professional context before. Obviously, the Sabres owner was impressed. 

"One thing led to another and it was like 'wow' this guy is pretty impressive," said Pegula on Wednesday. "But it all started with a meeting that was totally for something else and I guess I popped the question. I said do you think you could be a general manager and he said: 'No, but here's what I think I can do.'"

LaFontaine explained that he didn't believe himself to be experienced enough to competently handle a general manager's role. 

"I told Terry I think I could probably grow into that position," LaFontaine told reporters on Wednesday. "But right now I think I could best serve you in building the hockey operations side of things."

In the meantime, LaFontaine will be be working closely with Kevin Devine while searching for the next Buffalo Sabres General Manager. "Anything that comes up we'll be working together on," LaFontaine said.

"I have a little bit of a list, I can't tell you who is on it," LaFontaine continued when discussing potential candidates for the GM's job. "But I'll be actively searching for the next General Manager." 

Nov 13, 11:24 AM

Sabres owner Pegula on fired GM Darcy Regier: 'it's not like he was a failure'

Nov 13, 11:24 AM

At Wednesday's big Buffalo Sabres press conference - where the club announced the firing of General Manager Darcy Regier and coach Ron Rolston, and the hiring of President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine and interim head coach Ted Nolan - Sabres owner Terry Pegula discussed the decision making processes behind the front office shuffle.

"There was a lot of discontent with Darcy Regier," Pegula admittedly. "But Darcy didn't do what he did all by himself. There was discussion, there was input from many people, prior owners, myself."

"So why now?" Pegula asked rhetorically about the timing of his decision. "I guess the time, I just decided. That's the only answer I can give you. We work together and sometimes you get to the point where a change is needed." 

Finally Pegula defended Regier's track record and went out of his way to congratulate the deposed executive for having "a heck of a run" with the Buffalo Sabres. "I think the second ranking GM in terms of tenure, am I right?" Pegula said. "I don't know, It's not like he was a failure."

Nov 13, 10:46 AM

Ted Nolan to replace Ron Rolston as Sabres head coach

Nov 13, 10:46 AM

The Buffalo Sabres have hired head coach Ted Nolan to replace deposed bench boss Ron Rolston. Rolston was relieved of coaching duties on Tuesday night following Buffalo's shootout victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Nolan will carry the "interim coach" tag for the balance of this season.

Nolan previously coached for the New York Islanders and for the Buffalo Sabres for two seasons in the mid-90s. More recently he's been the head coach of the Latvian national team.

"We didn't exactly put (Ron Rolston) in the best of situations with some of the moves we've made," Sabres owner Terry Pegula admitted at Wednesday's newser.

Nov 13, 10:37 AM

Sabres fire GM Darcy Regier, head coach Ron Rolston

Nov 13, 10:37 AM

The Buffalo Sabres have reportedly fired general manager Darcy Regier and head coach Ron Rolston. The club is expected to officially announce the move at a 10:30 a.m. press conference in Buffalo.

Per TSN's Darren Dreger:

Reports also suggested that Ted Nolan is the probable candidate to replace Rolston behind the Sabres bench.

Nov 13, 10:19 AM

Buffalo columnist hints that Regier, Rolston out in Buffalo

Nov 13, 10:19 AM

Perhaps we'll get a bombshell at Wednesday's Sabres press conference after all. According to a report from Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News, the Sabres are set to fire long-time General Manager Darcy Regier and head coach Ron Rolston. Meanwhile the club could hire Sabres retread Ted Nolan to take over behind the bench:

We should probably take this report with a near fatal dose of sodium, however, considering Gleason's wishy-washy follow up tweet:

Nov 13, 10:03 AM

Report: Pat LaFontaine to join Sabres front office

Nov 13, 10:03 AM

On Tuesday the Buffalo Sabres will reportedly introduce Hall of Famer and former Sabres great Pat LaFontaine as the team's new "President of Hockey Operations."

From TSN's Bob McKenzie:

LaFontaine played six seasons for the Sabres between 1991 and 1997. His number was retired by the franchise in 1996.

Nov 13, 9:50 AM

Report: Sabres to introduce new President of Hockey Operations

Nov 13, 9:50 AM

At 10:30 am on Wednesday morning the Buffalo Sabres will be holding a major news conference. Reportedly the Sabres will announce the creation of a new position in the organization: "President of Hockey Operations."

That was first reported by Sportsnet's John Shannon:

It has since been confirmed by TSN's Bob McKenzie: