BUFFALO — The Buffalo Sabres may have earned their first home win of the season on Tuesday evening. But it wasn't nearly enough to save the jobs of those in charge of the hockey operation, who led the team to the worst NHL record so far this season.
Sabres owner Terry Pegula announced sweeping changes to the organization on Wednesday morning. General manager Darcy Regier and coach Ron Rolston have been relieved of their duties, while Pat LaFontaine has been announced as president of hockey operations. Ted Nolan has been named interim head coach.
Pegula and team president Ted Black introduced LaFontaine and Nolan at a news conference on Wednesday morning. LaFontaine said that he has already compiled a short list of candidates for the team's general manager position, and had high praise for Nolan, one of his head coaches during his time in the NHL.
"I've seen it firsthand; there's no one that can bring a locker room together and players in the locker room together better than Ted Nolan," LaFontaine said.
Nolan was emotional at points during his press conference, saying he didn't know if he would ever have a chance to coach again in the NHL. He promised to give the job everything he had, saying he doesn't want to let the city of Buffalo down, and that the city deserves a winner.
"Hopefully we can bring some credibility back to this organization," Nolan said. "I'm looking forward to it. There was a point when I never thought I would have a chance again to coach in the NHL. If I had a crystal ball and could have one place to coach again, this would be one of them."
LaFontaine said he would be working closely with assistant GM Kevin Devine to take the responsibility of making player moves, while looking for a new full-time general manager.
Nolan was given interim title (rather than full-time), in light of the total-overhaul nature of the Sabres' rebuilding process, LaFontaine said. The new president of hockey operations said he knows that the entire organization is in a state of flux, from top to bottom, and implied that this isn't the time to make long-term commitments. The rest of the season will take a wait-and-see feel, he implied.
Nolan is tasked with changing the team culture, and quickly.
"I'm going to come in guns-a-blazin' and try to get to know the team as quick as I can, and change the culture of the team as soon as I can," Nolan said. "It's about the people, and we have a great group of people here."
At many times during the press conference, Pegula was questioned about why it took so long to fire Regier, in light of the team's recent failures. Pegula responded by saying he tries not to make rash decisions, and that he wants to give people a chance to overcome their mistakes.
Pegula also added that he doesn't want people to act as if Regier ruined the franchise, thanking the crestfallen GM for his nearly-two decades of service to the team and the city.
"Darcy had a heck of a run," Pegula said. "It's not like he was a failure."