Niagara Gazette

Sports

March 3, 2014

Sabres stunned by LaFontaine's resignation

Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — Sabres forward Drew Stafford has witnessed plenty of turmoil during his eight seasons in Buffalo.

Following Stafford’s rookie season in 2007, the Sabres lost co-captains Chris Drury and Danny Briere to free agency. Last year, long-time coach Lindy Ruff was fired.

What occurred during a 24-hour stretch this weekend has become the topper, leaving Stafford shaking his head in disbelief after returning to practice Sunday.

“I thought I had seen it all,” Stafford said. “But, I guess, there’s always room for more surprises. And this one’s definitely a shocker.”

On Friday, Stafford had difficulty keeping his emotions in check after star goalie Ryan Miller was traded to St. Louis. A day later, he was blindsided upon learning of Pat LaFontaine’s abrupt resignation as president of hockey operations.

“It’s tough,” Stafford said. “It’s another challenge, a little more adversity that you’ve got to put on top of the pile.”

As if the Sabres (18-34-8) needed any more distractions during a season in which upheaval and dysfunction have been common threads for the NHL’s last-place team.

At 2-13-1, Buffalo got off to its worst start in team history. Leading scorer Thomas Vanek was traded to the Islanders in October. The Sabres opened 0-8-1 at home before enjoying their first win on Nov. 12. Three days later, general manager Darcy Regier and coach Ron Rolston were fired.

Now this.

Miller getting dealt along with captain Steve Ott, were widely anticipated moves because both were in the final years of their contracts. LaFontaine’s departure was a surprise, coming a little more than three months after his arrival was hailed as a positive turning point for a struggling team.

“It’s a lot for our fans to swallow in a short amount of time,” Sabres president Ted Black said. “It creates uncertainty. And it’s something that fans are going to be upset by.”

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