Now that a few days have past on the Buffalo Sabres new moves it’s time to review just what has happened. Certainly by all accounts the moves have been well received and fans are actually excited about a home and away series with the Maple Leafs.

Hiring Pat LaFontaine was the kind of move Terry Pegula should have made when he bought the team. For whatever reason Pegula was mislead by his advisers when they told him to keep Darcy Regier. Former Sabres President Larry Quinn was a huge supporter of Regier and perhaps he was able to convince Pegula’s team that Regier’s short comings was due to finances? The past three years has shown us finances had nothing to do with Regier’s hockey IQ.

The day of the announcement broadcasters on both the Sabres sponsored morning show and GR’s on-air talent all alluded to how refreshing it will be to deal with the organization with LaFontaine coming in. I took that as a reference to how tough it had been dealing with Regier.

I know from first hand experience that Darcy did appreciate any form of criticism from the media and that went double for the flagship radio and television partners. Regier did morning radio interviews because he had to and it was not something he wanted to do because he hates justifying his process to those he believes are not part of his plan.

I heard Regier make a statement in October that he didn’t pay attention to the criticism or waste time responding to it. Again, I have seen just the opposite first hand and behind closed doors. Darcy Regier holds grudges and there are a number of former Sabres and employees who will back that up. One of them just might be Pat LaFontaine.

In my opinion, Pat LaFontaine will approach his job as head of Sabres hockey in a much more open and rational way. Patty knows the game as a player at every level and has been a behind the scenes guy in both the NHL and amatuer hockey since he left the ice. LaFontaine also knows that expecting fans to suffer while he sorts out the team is NOT the way to go.

In regards to the hire of Ted Nolan it was as popular a short term hire this franchise could make. Nolan left this town as one of the most popular coaches in it’s history in any sport. The fact that Larry Quinn and Darcy Regier couldn’t see that when they threw a one year extension at him is one of the truly baffling decisions in the history of Buffalo sports.

To make matters worse, their were high level individuals in the organization who spread ugly rumors about Nolan after he left to soil his name as well as his legacy. Nolan knows there may one or two of those people still in the organization and you can bet he hasn’t forgotten who they are.

Ted Nolan may not hang around after the season to be the permanent coach, that will be the decision of the new General Manager, but Nolan has a chance to show again how he can motivate players. You can also be sure that the irony of Nolan returning as Regier was leaving has not been lost on Ted.

Thursday morning on WBEN radio Sabres President Ted Black was asked if Lafontaine reported to him or did he report to Pat? Black was diplomatic and said they were teammates and reported to each other. When answering the next question on another matter Lafontaine added that he reports to owner Terry Pegula, feeling that the clarification needed to be made.

I don’t know Ted Black personally but he has turned down every request I have made for either an interview or conversation so I can definitely say he is not as open and approachable as Pat Lafontaine. Black does come across as a good guy and is always positive. If you listen to Black’s morning show on WGR you know that he weighs in on hockey issues even though he is President of the organization’s business side only. There has been speculation coming from inside the organization that eventually Harbor Center President John Koelmel will replace Black as President of the Sabres and oversee both operations. Koelmel’s resume would point to that move so it will be interesting to see what the organizational chart will look like a year from now.

Finally, one question continues to come up by fans. How did no one in the media know before Wednesday morning that this move was being announced? That is a fair question considering both Rolston and Regier were fired Tuesday night and yet nothing was hinted at about the change until about an hour before the Wednesday morning news conference. Reporters that have answered that question indicate that neither Regier or Rolston were the type to leak that they had been let go, but it goes deeper than that.

When Hall of Fame hockey writer Jim Kelley was alive he had the type of sources in the NHL that would have made it possible for him to break the Lafontaine story. Whether it had been an agent, a player or the security guard who witnessed Regier leaving the building Tuesday night, Kelley would have had someone who would have tipped him off.

It is times like Wednesday that I really miss my old pal who told me what was happening before it was announced by the team.



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