The Buffalo Sabres shook up their front office and looked to their past to improve their prospects for the future.
Team owner Terry Pegula fired Darcy Regier, who had been the Sabres’ general manager since 1997, and Coach Ron Rolston and hired Pat LaFontaine, a Hockey Hall of Fame forward and former Sabre, to become director of hockey operations. LaFontaine’s surprise coaching choice was Ted Nolan, who had coached the Sabres for two seasons but left the organization in 1997 following a high-profile feud with goaltender Dominik Hasek.
The changes were announced Wednesday, about 12 hours after the Sabres defeated the Kings, 3-2, in a shootout at Buffalo.
Nolan, the father of Kings winger Jordan Nolan, is the coach of Latvia’s Olympic hockey team and will retain that job for the Sochi Olympics. He was voted the NHL’s coach of the year for the 1996-97 season but parted with the Sabres after being offered a one-year contract by Regier, who had replaced former GM John Muckler, as reported by the late, great Buffalo-based writer Jim Kelley.
Nolan later coached the New York Islanders for two seasons, guiding them to the playoffs once.
“I don’t know there’s enough words inside me to express how excited I really am,” Nolan said Wednesday at a news conference in Buffalo. “I may have left physically, but emotionally and spiritually I never left. It’s a big part of who I am.”
LaFontaine, who played for the Sabres, Islanders and New York Rangers, told reporters Wednesday that he would hire a general manager rather than taking on the job himself. He had most recently been working for the NHL in the area of development and community affairs.
“We’ve got a lot of work in front of us. We have to be patient, smart, selective,” LaFontaine said. “It’s not going to happen overnight but I can tell you this: We’ll get the right people.”