Buffalo Sabres: Ted Nolan is here to stay

The Buffalo Sabres have taken the interim tag off of Ted Nolan.  This is his second stint with the franchise, one that he sees as an opportunity to build a contender by the end of his term. Head coach, Ted Nolan will oversee the team’s rebuilding plans beyond this season after signing a three-year contract extension on Monday.


Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan

Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan


Nolan returned for a second stint in Buffalo in mid-November, when he was hired on an interim basis with the opportunity to keep job after the season. He took over for Ron Rolston, who was fired along with GM Darcy Regier, after Buffalo got off to a franchise-worst 4-15-1 start.

The Sabres (20-45-9) remain in last place, where they are likely to finish with only two weeks left in the season. They’re 1-10-1 in their past 12 games in preparing to host the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

Nolan has been in similar situations before where he was forced to make a dramatic turnaround in a short period of time. 

On June 8, 2006, Charles Wang, owner of the New York Islanders, dismissed interim coach Brad Shaw and announced the hiring of Nolan as the new head coach.  The franchise was falling on hard times and was in dire need of a coach who could change their misfortune.

In his first season with the Islanders in 2006–07, he led the team to a 92 point season and its first playoff berth since 2003–04.  On July 14, 2008, Ted Nolan was dismissed as Islanders coach by Islanders GM Garth Snow.  The Islanders have only made the playoffs once since his dismissal.

The Islanders are not the only team that Nolan was able to turnaround in quick fashion.  This past February, Nolan took an underachieving Latvian national team to the brink.  Advancing to the quarterfinals, Latvia lost a hard fought match to defending Olympic champions Team Canada 2-1, being the last team to score against the Canadians who went on to shutout their next two opponents to defend their gold medal. It was Latvia’s best ever Olympic result as they finished eighth overall.

Ted Nolan is the right choice at the right time for a team that needs an identity.  During his first stint with the Sabres, he won the Jack Adams Award (awarded annually to an NHL head coach who contributed the most to his team’s success) in the 1996-97 campaign.

While the Sabres are a disappointing, (9-12-6) under Nolan this season, better days are ahead.

The Sabres are poised to have the best odds of receiving the first overall pick in the upcoming NHL draft in Philadelphia.  At worst, they will be guaranteed the second overall pick in a draft class that has a lot of depth. They will also receive Minnesota’s second round draft pick for shipping Matt Moulson to Minnesota during the trade deadline.

While the Sabres are hoping for a better outcome next season, if no trades are made involving higher draft picks, the Sabres will receive their first round pick in 2015 and the Islanders first and second round picks (what they got in return for sending Vanek to Long Island), a draft class that is projected to be the deepest draft class in years.  Headlining that draft class are two talented forwards.  Connor McDavid, an all around forward who plays a 200-foot game, and perennial goal scorer, Jack Eichel who tore up the World Junior Classic for the Americans in December.