Niagara Gazette

Sports

November 14, 2013

MROZIAK: Will reaching back bring Sabres forward?

Niagara Gazette — Never mind Aram Khachaturian’s classic “Sabre Dance” or the novelty song “We’re Gonna Win That Cup.” If you’re looking for an appropriate theme song for the Buffalo Sabres these days, it’s Jethro Tull’s “Living in the Past.”

That’s the image the Buffalo Sabres are creating, anyway, by bringing two beloved names from the 1990s — Pat LaFontaine and Ted Nolan — back into the fold.

This time, however, reaching back into Buffalo’s yesteryears might just work.

News of the Buffalo Sabres’ shakeup Wednesday was greeted first by shock, then a general sense of euphoria and relief by the Western New York hockey public upon realizing that the Regier era was indeed over. Then as the day progressed there came the questions, understandably, whether owner Terry Pegula was just being a superfan once again and giving jobs to some favored personalities from the days of the Aud.

The skepticism is understandable. You’ll recall that when introduced as the new owner, Mr. Pegula had projected the Sabres would be, at about this time, in contention to win the first of the multiple Stanley Cup titles that would be the goal of the franchise from that day forward.

Bringing Nolan back is appropriate under an interim basis. The biggest knock on him is that he holds only a .500 record as a National Hockey League head coach and, depending on whom you believe, gained a reputation within hockey circles as a “boss killer,” as critics say was evidenced by his notoriously difficult relationship with former GM John Muckler.

On the other hand, you’ve got the man who steered the team during an era when it was known as “the hardest working team in hockey.” He took a team that featured only one star really, all-world goaltender Dominik Hasek, and got them into the second round of the 1997 playoffs. For his effort, he was voted as the winner of the Jack Adams Award, which goes to the league’s top coach. As Sabres fans recall, things went downward from there.

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