The long-awaited shakeup at First Niagara Center has happened as Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula fired long-time General Manager Darcy Regier and head coach Ron Rolston last night according to a report from TSN. The team has announced that former bench boss Ted Nolan will return to coach on an interim basis and former Buffalo and Islander legend Pat LaFontaine will be given the new title of President of Hockey Operations.
The move was coming, but the timing it is somewhat surprising after the team did grind out a 3-2 shootout win over the Los Angeles Kings last night. The rumors have been circling on when Regier would be fired as the Sabres have struggled all season and have done even worse than the low expectations they had. (The team has a league-worst nine points.)
Rolston came in last season after the team fired Lindy Ruff, but did not fare much better than his predecessor. There were times that he looked like he was in over his head and people were calling for the experiment to end. Sure, he was good at player development of the younger guys, but the city and the ownership has been starving for a winner.
Regier had been on the job 17 years with the Sabres since the summer of 1997 and had put together strong team in the early to mid 2000s. However, the team has failed to make the playoffs since 2011. Regier has acquired numerous first and second round picks for the next couple of seasons and are in a great position to acquire young talent. (They did get Matt Moulson and picks after making a trade earlier in the season with the Islanders.
The Sabres did decide to reach into their past in bringing back Nolan and LaFontaine. Nolan won the Jack Adams Trophy in 1996-97, but was surprisingly let go. He popped up again almost a decade later with the Islanders, but did not enjoy the success like he did in Western New York. (He’s been more known in recent years for accusations of racism.)
LaFontaine is known for his time in Buffalo where he amassed 148 points in 1992-93. He had been an unpaid advisor to the Isles for 40 days before taking this new job. LaFontaine said in the press conference earlier today that he will assist in finding a new general manager.
Many Sabres fans knew this year was going to be a rebuilding one, but did not expect this. They did get their wish of seeing Regier being fired a Nolan return for a short-term basis. Hopefully, this is the start of the turnaround for a hockey-mad market.
Dan Mount is an NHL and college football writer for TJRSports.com. He is based out of Watertown, N.Y. and can be followed on Twitter @DanMountSports.