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HEAR IT HERE: LaFontaine & Black On The Sabres Future

(WBEN) The newest member of the Buffalo Sabres management team admits he's coming in at a tough time for the team.

"It's one thing to lose games. Its another thing to look at how you lose them,'

-- Pat LaFontaine, Sabres Hall of Famer who was appointed Wednesday to be the team's President of Hockey Operations, a new position.

Complete Sabres Shakeup Coverage:  Nolan In for  Rolston, Regier Out, LaFontaine In | What Nolan & LaFontaine Bring    WBEN Audio:  Hear The Shakeup Announcement

from Buffalo's Early News Thursday:

One day after the Buffalo Sabres fired Coach Ron Rolston and General Manager Darcy Regier,  and selected former Coach Ted Nolan to lead the team on ice,  LaFontaine and  Team President Ted Black  shared an  optimistic picture of the future, in an exclusive interview with WBEN.

".. You know what? Results will happen," LaFontaine said,  in a wide ranging interview with John Zach and Susan Rose

Some Highlights:

LAFONTAINE On THE FANS:  "Their support is going to be crucial" and later " You can't fool the fans.I know they will be proud of our coach and of our players."

ON COACH TED NOLAN: "Ted Nolan is going to be a great coach in that locker room. As Terry Pegula said it is about good people working together..."

ON  NOLAN's FUTURE: " For now, he's the right guy in the right place at the right time," but a new GM will make the ultimate choice, once in place. 

... AND NOLAN's PAST:  " Not too many times do you see a coach of the year not coach the next year.. but that was years ago."

ON THE NEW  STRUCTURE: Black says "We will report to each other... I want Pat to know everything that is going on in my world,and I am going to help him in any way I can."

ON THE NEW GM's JOB : "The general manager's role has changed over the years, but he is a key part of the team,"   LaFontaine said adding his own job will be to supervise recruiting, drafting and hiring of players.

On the search for a General Manager, Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Penguins have granted Jason Botterill permission to talk to the Buffalo Sabres about their open General Manager position.  Botterill is in his fifth season as Assistant General Manger to Ray Shero.   READ MORE from Pittsburgh

SABRES SHAKEUP ANNOUNCED:  At Wednesday's news conference, fr L, Sabres Pres. Ted Black, newly appointed interim coach Ted Nolan,  new President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine, Team Owner Terry Pegula, and vice president Mike Gilbert

(AP)  Acknowledging fans' discontent directed at the architect of the Sabres' slow-moving rebuilding plans, Team Owner Terry Pegula fired  Regier and rookie coach Ron Rolston on Wednesday.

LaFontaine (pictured L with Nolan, far left) takes over in the newly created role where he will l be responsible for hiring Regier's successor.

 Nolan returns to Buffalo, where he began his NHL coaching career in 1995. He spent two seasons in Buffalo before leaving the team in a contract squabble after being named the league's coach of the year.

"So why now? I just decided, and that's the only answer I can give you," Pegula said. "Sometimes you get to the point where a change is needed."

The shake-up comes with Buffalo (4-15-1) stuck at the bottom of the NHL standings. The 15 losses are the most by the team through 20 games of the season. And it came a day after Buffalo won its first home game - improving to 1-8-1 - with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Los Angeles Kings.

Nolan will formally start his second era on Buffalo on Friday, when the Sabres host Toronto.

"I don't know where to begin. I guess there's not enough words inside me to express how excited I really am," said Nolan during his unveiling Wednesday.   "I may have left physically, but emotionally and spiritually, I never really left. It's a big part of my life."

Nolan who went 73-72-19 with the Sabres also coached the New York Islanders from 2006-08. His current job is coach of the Latvian men's national team, a role he'll continue into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

AP Photo

"Now, we need the patience from the fans. We are in this for the long run and there is a system set up right now, but there are a lot of ways to build a team,"

--Pat LaFontaine, Buffalo Sabres President of Hockey Operations

Above in a Nov. 2004 AP photo


LaFontaine said Nolan was his first choice as coach in a move that reunited the two for a third time.

Nolan coached LaFontaine in Buffalo in 1995-96. And the two worked briefly together on Long Island in 2006, when LaFontaine spent six weeks as a senior adviser to Islanders owner Charles Wang.

Nolan has a reputation for being a motivator and has experience developing young players after coaching junior teams in Canada.

"I'd like to say there's nobody I know better who can work in a locker room and bring a group of players together," LaFontaine said.

LaFontaine said Nolan takes over on an interim basis, and that it will be up to the new general manager to determine whether to retain him.  The GM's job was initially offered to LaFontaine, who turned it down because he lacked experience.

Since retiring in 1998, LaFontaine has spent time coaching youth hockey and, most recently, served as an adviser to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

LaFontaine said he'll work with Sabres assistant general manager Kevin Devine in making roster decisions.

The biggest question mark revolves around the status of veteran goalie Ryan Miller, who is in the final year of his contract. The Sabres, under Regier, had not ruled out trading Miller rather than risk losing him to free agency.

LaFontaine said it's too early to determine what approach the Sabres might take with Miller.

"We'll exercise patience and do the right thing by the organization and by the player that fits into what we want to achieve," LaFontaine said.

The Sabres are in the midst of a major overhaul that began last season.

Ruff was fired in February in a moved the prompted Regier to begin dismantling an aging and overpriced roster. Over the course of two weeks, the Sabres traded three veteran players - including captain Jason Pominville - in exchange for draft picks and prospects.

The purge continued two weeks ago, when the Sabres traded leading scorer and co-captain Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders in exchange for forward Matt Moulson and a first- and second-round draft pick.

Regier had become the focus of criticism in Buffalo for overseeing a team that has made the playoffs only twice in the past six seasons, and hasn't won a playoff round since 2007. The discontent grew last spring, when Regier braced fans to be in store for more "suffering" during the rebuilding process.

LaFontaine avoided using the word suffering when it was raised in a question.

"I wouldn't use that word. I would use patience," LaFontaine said. "I can't tell you right now that we've got a lot of work in front of us. We have to be patient. ... Our vision and our dream is to get the team to be a championship-caliber team year after year after year. And we'll get there."

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