The Sabres seemed to be pulling off the impossible. They are the worst team in the NHL yet the fan moral was at a all time high. The fans were excited about the direction of the team under Pat LaFontaine and new GM Brian Murray. The residents of hockey heaven excepted the idea of losing and rebuilding.
However after an eventful weekend in March the atmosphere has changed. On Friday the face of the franchise Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott were traded to St. Louis. Most fans were sad, but understood it. A rebuilding moving assets to get younger and new parts. The following day is when hockey heaven erupted in confusion and despair.
Early Saturday afternoon reports started to float out of a shakeup in the Sabres front office. I immediately first thought Tim Murray decided to let long time Assistant GM Kevin Devine go. However as the story unfolded it shifted to Pat LaFontaine leaving the Sabres front office. Around 6:30 PM Saturday the Sabres made the official announcement of LaFontainte's resignation. To say the least people were shocked and confused by this development. LaFontaine brought in the current Sabres coach in Ted Nolan and GM Tim Murray. Now he's out the door abruptly.
The speculation quickly began around the NHL. Was there discord in the front office? Did LaFontaine realize this job wasn't for him? Was he homesick and wanted to back to NYC?
The popular belief according to various reports is some sort of disconnect in the Sabres front office. LaFontaine was truly out the door by the beginning of last week. LaFontaine was not at all involved in the Miller and Ott trade which rules that out as being the discord. Next the belief was well there must of been a disagreement over the status of interim Head Coach Ted Nolan. Well turns out the Sabres offered Nolan a 3 year contract extension. However here is where it gets interesting. Nolan has not excepted the Sabres offer. Nolan said Sunday that at this point in time he doesn't want to talk about contract and was very upset about LaFontaine's departure. Why would Nolan be so upset if LaFontaine truly left on his own accord as the Sabres claim? In the end I think the Sabres mend fences with Nolan and he remains the coach.
From what I have been told a few things resulted in LaFontaine's departure. First off PL thought he would have final say on all decisions. When PL first came in he talked about wanting to be a GM one day, but wasn't ready yet. Many believed he was going to learn on the job and then eventually take over full control. However it seemed as though LaFontaine didn't enjoy having another cook in the kitchen. He wanted everything ran through him first not Murray. The situation then escalated when Pegula friend Joe Battista the VP of Hockey-Related Businesses started to step on some toes. Battista was hired from Penn State by Pegula and has no NHL experience. LaFontaine didn't like the way Battista was getting involved hockey decisions and came to a head a few weeks ago. These two issues combined with the fact that LaFontaine was starting to believe this job was not for him resulted in his resignation. At the end of the day something happened in the front office. The 100% total truth we'll never know. The timing of this couldn't be worse with the deadline approaching.
When all is said and done I think Murray is the right guy for the job to rebuild the Sabres. Time will of course tell and he'll get dropped right into the first this week. The turmoil and transition for Sabres fans will continue over the next few days with more player movement to come.
On a side a note a colleague of mine and myself are going to be starting a hockey podcast in the next month called The Breakout. I'll have more details as the time comes closer to launch. However gives us a follow @TheBreakoutPC for hockey talk and news on twitter. Thanks for the read!