By Mike Harrington
Today's clean sweep of Darcy Regier and Ron Rolston didn't come in the spring. It came in the middle of the season, two days before a home-and-home series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, of all teams. So Ted Nolan went from the dais with Terry Pegula, Ted Black and Pat LaFontaine into a pair of blue and gold sweats and on to the ice for his first practice as Sabres coach since May, 1997.
Here's what Nolan said when asked about his expectations for this team:
"I’m a straightforward type of guy. The only thing I ask is that you compete. Some guys play 25 minutes, some play three minutes. To work for three minutes, that’s not asking too much. To work for 24, that’s not asking for much. Some people have to work seven days a week, 14 hours a day. That’s work. What we’re going to ask guys to do is compete for the time they’re on the ice."
Nolan on last night's shootout win against Los Angeles:
"The majority of the time you’re going to get straight answers from me unless I have to protect someone, but I didn't like the game last night. I thought it was ugly. I thought it was boring. You get two points, but I didn't like the game at all. We have to be better than that."
Nolan also said he and LaFontaine will reach out to Jean Knox, widow of late owner Seymour H. Knox III. Knox, remember, famously joined the demonstration to keep Nolan on board in 1997. Nolan also said he wishes Hall of Fame Buffalo News hockey writer Jim Kelley was still with us to see his return. Pure class there.
If you're looking for some reverberation from the Sabres-Leafs preseason brawl, you might get your wish. Nolan said enforcer John Scott, who has not played since his seven-game suspension ended last week, will be back in the lineup Friday and night and that the team will entertain the thought of bringing Patrick Kaleta back from Rochester as well.
Also, it sure didn't sound like Nolan was keen on the idea of keeping four teen-agers on his roster either. We'll see what that means, especially for Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov.
Several players spoke as well. Notable in their comments were captain Steve Ott and goaltender Ryan Miller.
Ott on Nolan's hiring: "I've only heard great things. I looked at my phone after practice real quick and I had players from all over the league texting me right away saying how great a guy he is and how you want to work for him. If that gives any motivaiton to the guys in this room, you want to go through the wall for your coach and he's one of those guys."
Miller on the moves: "You do feel bad for Darcy and Ron. You don't like to see people losing their job. I have a lot of respect for Darcy. He obviously belived in me over the course of my career so I wish him the best. Hopefully this is a situation for the Sabres as an organization to kind of reset a little bit. Darcy has been here a long time and maybe it's time for a little bit different perspective and some other kind of influence coming in."
Miller on how it may impact his future: "My thought process has just been to play the best I can and put myself in position to make the Olympic team and help this team as best I can get into a playoff position. We've got plenty of hockey left. Going forward it's up to a shift in the regime."
Ott on the team's play causing the moves: "It's not acceptable organizational-wise to have this. It's a tough situation. No one wants to see anyone lose their job. For us in here, accountability-wise, we're not getting the job done on this ice and that's what leads to changes. It's definitely only up from here."
Ott on Rolston: "Guys were learning on a daily situation. Ron was put in a tough situation. Let's be honest here. He's a rebuild coach. It's no different than any other job in that situation. He did the best he possibly could. He came in prepared every single day. He was professional every single day and I have a lot of respect for what Ron did and tried to accomplish here."
Click below for full audio from Nolan, Ott and Miller
- Video: Vogl & Harrington on Sabres' big changes
- Video: Nolan's remarks at news conference
- Video: Pegula's remarks at news conference
- Photo gallery: Pat LaFontaine through the years
- Photo gallery: Ted Nolan through the years
- The News' archives: Stories about Pat LaFontaine
- The News' archives: Stories about Ted Nolan
- Audio: Players' reaction after first practice with Nolan
- A look back at Darcy Regier's tenure as GM
- Original story following news conference
- Review news conference through News writers' tweets
- Video: LaFontaine talks about change and his vision to build a championship-calibre team
taggedSabres | Sabres coaching