Local community reacts to hire of Nolan, LaFontaine

The Buffalo Sabres haven’t given their fans much to cheer about on the ice this year as they are in the midst of the worst start in franchise history.

After owner Terry Pegula fired General Manager Darcy Regier and head coach Ron Rolston Wednesday, and hired former Sabres’ great Pat LaFontaine and former head coach Ted Nolan, the fans have something to be happy about – at least in the short term.

“I am happy with the decision,” town of Sheridan resident and season-ticket holder Melissa Feinen-Griffith said. “My father (Ron Keddie) would have been thrilled.”

With the Sabres starting the season 4-15-1 and scoring the second-fewest goals (33) in the NHL, it became increasingly apparent that a change was necessary.

“I feel that it’s a very smart move,” Dunkirk resident Brian Crawford said. “In Pat LaFontaine, you have a man that’s extremely knowledgeable about hockey and knows numerous people in hockey circles. He’s a humble man that knows his limitations, but is extremely driven to win. He is also an outstanding teammate, which was very evident when he was a player.”

Buffalo has been outscored by 30 goals this season, are just 1-8-1 at the First Niagara Center and has been outplayed by its opponents on most nights. With Nolan, who went 73-72-19 as the Sabres’ head coach from 1995-97, in the fold now, fans expect the effort they see from the players to improve.

“One thing (the Sabres) did not change, which I wish they would have, was the assistant general manager, Kevin Devine,” Crawford added. “But that may come in the future with a new general manager.”

The news of the move may turn out to be one of those instances where you will be able to tell friends and family where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news.

“My good friend D.J. Meder texted me about it,” Former Fredonia resident Jimmy Murphy III said from Charlotte, N.C. “I was grinning ear to ear by the end of (the press conference).”

There is reason to grin too. Nolan was well-liked by his players and the fans during his prior stint with the Sabres, and LaFontaine became one of the greatest Sabres of all time while playing in Buffalo from 1991-97.

“It’s a great day for Buffalo,” Luke Crawford, a former Dunkirk resident said from the movie set of ‘The Cobbler,’ in New York City, where he is working as a Second Second Assistant Director. “I think Patty LaFontaine and (Ted) Nolan are great choices to start anew. Especially Patty.”

“Yes, extremely,” Murphy added of whether or not he was happy to hear that Regier and Rolston were fired. “I never liked Rolston and parting with Darcy is fine with me. But he did get some great deals done. For example, the first-round pick for (Paul) Gaustad, the first-round pick for (Jason) Pominville and the huge haul we got for Thomas Vanek.”

However, not every fan is as optimistic.

“I’m pretty sure he was canned from the (New York Islanders),” Fredonia resident Bernard Jakiela said of Nolan. “I don’t know why bringing him back here would do any good.

“LaFontaine has little to no experience (being President of Hockey Operations),” Jakiela continued. “I don’t see anything being a good decision, aside from the firings themselves, until (Nolan and LaFontaine) have proven otherwise.”

Whether or not Nolan can lead the Sabres to another divisional title, like he did in 1997, or whether or not LaFontaine will have the same success in the Sabres’ front office as he did on the ice for them as a player, remains to be seen. For one day though, in what has otherwise been a dark and dreary season, the clouds parted, allowing Buffalo to bask in the sunlight.

“Only time will tell,” Murphy said. “But I think it’s a step in the right direction and it’s exciting since these guys have good history with Buffalo.”