Dec 19, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres right wing Drew Stafford (21) celebrates his goal during the third period against the Boston Bruins at First Niagara Center. Buffalo beats Boston 4 to 2. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Ted Nolan bringing respectability to Buffalo

Success is relative on a team projected to have the worst record in franchise history. Still, it’s impossible to deny that Ted Nolan has found a bit of it with this Sabres squad. The process moved slowly while Nolan evaluated the young talent on the team before re-stocking the team with veterans, allowing the prospects to return to their respective teams in what will amount to as a lost season for the organization. His system is falling into place now though and the Sabres are starting to become a tougher out.

Prior to the Bruins game Thursday, the Sabres had outshot or tied their last five opponents for the first time since December 2011. They didn’t outshoot the Bruins, but they did come away with a win. Mission accomplished either way then. Buffalo’s possession numbers have shot up dramatically in the 15 games Nolan has coached as the Sabres continue to trend toward respectability on a game by game basis. When Nolan started, the Sabres Corsi rating was an historically low 35.6%. Now it’s over 47%. Essentially, they’ve gone from being a team typically dominated in possession to a team playing even hockey. Not bad for just over a month’s work.

Dec 19, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Boston Bruins center Ryan Spooner (51) and Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers (57) battle for a loose puck during the first period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive numbers haven’t been great, but that’s largely a part of the team’s best players having been traded off for future assets. For whatever Ron Rolston possessed as a teacher, he seemed to lack as a motivator. The Sabres were abysmal in the first period under Rolston. Lately, they’ve been much better. In that same five game span we considered that ended before the Bruins game, the Sabres outshot their opponents 57-40 in the first period. The shots and opportunities are increasing. If the Sabres can keep playing like they are, at least more pucks will find their way in. This has been the case for the last two games as both have seen the Sabres score four goals thanks to their bigger forwards rushing the net to make plays. The team has also seen the blue line jump back into the action after being invisible on offense for most of the year. Tyler Myers scored a key insurance goal against Boston that came in typical Myers fashion. He trailed the forward on an odd man rush, took the pass and rifled a wrist shot past the Boston goalie to eventually seal a Buffalo win. That’s a play he never makes in October.

It’s still early and the season is only half way over, but it’s fair to say that Ted Nolan has stabilized the roster some as the organization transitions into a new era in Sabres hockey. He’s making the young talent earn their way onto the roster and re-establishing the effort from many guys who had previously disappeared (hello, Drew Stafford) and proving that some guys are beyond repair (hello, Ville Leino). Either way, the Sabres aren’t playing like the train wreck they were in October and November. If they can keep this play up, they can at least restore some of the credibility the organization lost under Darcy Regier. There’s still a lot of work to be done in that department, but at least someone could get a head start.


Cory Buck is a Staff Writer at Sabre Noise. You can reach him at [email protected] or via Facebook/Twitter @TheBuckMopsHere.

Tags: Ted Nolan

  • JHizzle75

    Well said. They are absolutely playing better than early in the year, not nearly as frustrating to watch….I haven’t thrown an empty beer can at my TV in some time.

  • Dano

    Many people dont want Nolan as a coach here in Buffalo. I believe his short time here has shown if given lemons, you make lemon-aide.

    Too many people are now going to worry ‘ OMG! The draft! Hes going to screw everything up for us! ‘.

    Does anyone HONESTLY believe the Sabres are going to become a juggernaut or a scoring team in the second half of the season? Nolan is an excellent coach and may believe in God, but he certainly isnt going to be favorable enough to draw a miracle.

    The Sabres will more then likely finish in the bottom 3 and go into the lottery.

    • wolfdoctor

      Yes, I agree as far as this year is concerned. In the unlikely chance that the Sabres play .500 hockey the rest of the year they would still end up with a top 5 pick. However most rebuild-with-the-draft believers are really concerned about next year’s draft. If Nolan is kept on, chances are the Sabres will pick in the 8-15 range next year and not have a likely chance of getting the coveted players at the top of that draft.

      • Dano

        “However most rebuild-with-the-draft believers are really concerned about next year’s draft.”

        So, a choice has to be made. 2 choices/options.

        1.) Keep the coach. Let him motivate the players and bring out the best in them. Let them experience a few wins and in the process, have the players develop and move forward in their progress. Let the orginization start re-organizing in a direction the know they can attaine and baseline.

        2.) Just Tank. Screw whats there, toss it all away and start moving forward years from now when all those wonderful drafts are had. When they should-have/could-have/never-have..

        For me? The team finishes where it does. *IF* this team looses even though they put forth their best effort, I can accept such. If they intentionally tank to satisfy those ‘ Draft dreamers ‘, they arent worthy of my purchasing the tickets to the games.

        Respectability is had by people whom dont come out on top in the score, but put forth their best effort and give 110%.

        “However most rebuild-with-the-draft believers are really concerned about next year’s draft.”

        I would say to them : Too damn bad. If your worried about the draft buy a god damn franchise and then tell me of your concerns for your investment. *I* felt my money was well spent these last 2 games even though they only scored 8 goals and 2 wins. The Sabres have all those ‘ draft dreamers ‘ panties full of sand paper right now. Imagine that , 2 wins in a row!

        Whatcha think, they gonna pull off a 50/50 season? ;)

        • wolfdoctor

          “If they intentionally tank to satisfy those … ”

          I don’t think the players would ever intentionally tank. However, management could have a de facto tank by not trying to sign the UFAs, trading them for picks. No coach could get a team out of the bottom, if it were filled with AHL level fillers.

          • Dano

            “No coach could get a team out of the bottom, if it were filled with AHL level fillers.”

            I present you Ted Nolan and Todays Buffalo Sabres. ;)

          • wolfdoctor

            And it may be worse next year.

          • Dano

            Its what your ‘ draft dreaming ‘ for.

          • wolfdoctor

            At this point, any scenario going forward isn’t going to be pleasant.

        • Jes

          Remember last year Dano? They screwed it up for us. Mackinnon, Jones, Barkov, Drouin or would you rather have Ristolainen? Huge difference. Having them play like this will just end us up on the same track we’ve been on since the franchise started. An average team, with no cups to speak of. Those years after the lockout where the game became faster happened by luck and won’t happen again unless we build this team then right way.

          If Pegula knows what’s good for the franchise in the long run he will direct Lafontaine to trade most of his older players that are slated for UFA’s status. He should also get rid of dead weight like Stafford and Leino. Bring up a young core together with top tier talent, some cagey veterans and together they can grow and learn and get this franchise moving in the right direction. If not we will continue to stand still.

          He shouldn’t worry about the season ticket holders at this point. Most people that leave usually end up coming back. Plus I’m sure there’s a waiting list for those season tickets. So they won’t lose much. It’s usually same thing with the Kelowna Rockets down here and many other popular sports teams. No real reason to be a team just hanging below .500 all the time. Trade the older UFA’s to be (Ott, Moulson and Miller) and get rid of dead weight (Stafford and Leino) that will get us some young assets in return. Then start rebuilding from there. That’s how the last 4 Stanley Cup Champions have done it and we should be taking a page from there books.

          • Dano

            “He shouldn’t worry about the season ticket holders at this point. Most people that leave usually end up coming back. ”

            I believe I speak as someone FROM Buffalo. Not Canada, not Russia, not from some far off TV land..

            The people here, once disenfranchised, do NOT come back.

            Let me say that once again so you can understand the seriousness of it.

            Once those fans quit buying those tickets, they wont do it again. They cannot afford to!

            I understand you have this belief system of how things are elsewhere in the world, but they in no way reflect Western NY.

            We have a Govenor and legislature that defecates on us constantly. A public school system with a 55% failure rate. Budgets that cant be balanced, Indians and casino contracts that are out of control..

            Most of the above are items in a bigger picture that has idiots from the rest of the State causing the problems. A ‘ Franchise owner ‘ and his profits are things we dont have to support and are decisions we make as individuals. Trust me in saying this, he ( Pegula ) will NOT reap the cash from those fans ever again.

            “Plus I’m sure there’s a waiting list for those season tickets.”

            As I stated before, there WAS a 6000-6300 person waiting list for season tickets ( 2007-2008years ). Theres none presently spoken of. With the recent economy and 1 in 4 looking at foreclosure on their homes ( Heaven forbid their medical insurance premiums doubling ) I doubt buying hockey tickets is a priority.

            If you wish, I can call someone I know whom does work at the ticket counter at FNC and ask her what the numbers look like.

            I dont wish to mince words with you and believe in civility to a point, but your NOT from Buffalo, you havent a clue about the area and cannot speak for whom will or wont buy tickets. In Buffalo, having season tickets to the Bills or the Sabres makes you look like your RICH or ‘ upper class ‘ to others around you. Its a LUXURY.

            Most people are trying to put food on their tables first. Quite a few people I know are now getting ‘ food stamps ‘ or some form of ‘ public assistance ‘. A few of them are former season ticket holders of the Bills and Sabres whom had to make choices. Go to a game or feed the family?

            First and foremost, a franchise has to make a profit or it becomes the Pheonix Coyotes. *IF* a scenario like that EVER happened to Buffalo, the team would be GONE, moved elsewhere. The Voters in the city would NOT have their dollars going to a ‘ rich guy ‘, especially one tossing money around and building in Downtown.

            Once those people make the CHOICE to live without those tickets, they will stay away and see other things as a higher ‘ priority ‘.

            Its a common sense decision. Theres not a theme of ‘ if you build it, they will come ‘ anymore. It USED to be that way but.. times are hard.

            The reason I left the city and moved back out to the farm are because of nessecity. I dont have food bills anymore. Dont have a water or gas bill either. Some of the more important ( and expensive ) necessities in life. EVERYTHING in Buffalo is expensive compared to ‘ out here ‘. If people arent buying those tickets, Pegula and the Sabres STILL have to pay their bills.

            Thats reality Jes. Pegula HAS to address Ticket Holders not renewing. He cannot just let them walk. NO business in these times can afford to have such happen even IF a Billionaire owns or runs them. He wont be a Billionaire long if hes bleeding dollars.

            I dont mean to belittle you, but you dont see the full picture of whats going on if you really believe “He shouldn’t worry about the season ticket holders at this point.”.

            Ask Rich or anyone else from Buffalo how ‘ well off ‘ they are compared to when there was a ‘ waiting list ‘ for tickets. Times have changed greatly my friend.

          • JHizzle75

            There are many people who look to the Oilers regarding this theory of “building through the draft.”
            As an Albertan, I can say that fans here can afford to go to games, buy season tickets, private suites and the like because the economy is booming, and has been for some time. If we were in the situation that Dano speaks of, the Oilers would be gone. Fans put up with year after year of ” this season will be different. We have all these top picks, we will start winning now” because there are many very wealthy people who can afford to attend games , regardless of the on ice product.
            It is not seen as a status symbol to go to an Oiler game. I have friends in the oil industry who get tickets handed to them all the time! I’m going to the game in Edmonton on March 20 th against Buffalo for free! The last 2 times they were in Edmonton, same thing. My point is, when times are tough certain things get cut from the budget. If I lived in Buffalo making my current wage, I would have a big decision to make. To take my girlfriend to an Oiler game ( on my dollar) would cost me about $300 for decent tickets. Plus gas from where I live ( 2 hour drive) and hotel. To tell fans that don’t have the luxury of disposable income ” Just wait another few years, we’ll be good then….but in the meantime keep spending your money on a losing team” is a slap in the face.
            What this team needs is to make the playoffs, nothing else matters. Once you’re in the playoffs anything can happen. It won’t happen this year, but that doesn’t mean it won’t next year with a few shrewd trades to improve our offence. We have the assets. The Presidents Trophy winning team doesn’t get the Cup handed to them! Sometimes a team wins the cup by simply making the playoffs…and that is all Buffalo has to do.

          • Jes

            “What this team needs is to make the playoffs, nothing else matters.”

            That sure has worked out for us since the 70′s when this team was founded. Not one Cup to show for it so it’s time to change the logic. Go into major rebuild mode and we will be contenders within 3-4 years with a roster consisting of Ristolainen, Zadorov, Myers, Larsson, Compher, McCabe, Armia, Girgensons, Ennis, Foligno, and Hodgson add to those the possibility of McDavid, Ekblad, and Reinhart/ DaColle (For CC).

            I for one want to see the Sabres win a cup and a strategy that hasn’t worked what 40 years now should be abandoned.

          • Dano

            “As an Albertan, I can say that fans here can afford to go to games, buy season tickets, private suites and the like because the economy is booming, and has been for some time. If we were in the situation that Dano speaks of, the Oilers would be gone. ”

            You speak as of a Journeyman of some kind or a man of many years. ;)

            Having Oilfields and resources that your are allowed to divulge in helps an area out. Odd part is, Western NY is a HUGE resource for Natural Gas ( Something Pegula knows about ;) ) but its not allowed to be tapped into in ways that can boom the economy locally.

            “What this team needs is to make the playoffs, nothing else matters. Once you’re in the playoffs anything can happen.”

            Very true. 8th place can put you on the road to the cup where as being the Presidents Cup winners might get you knocked out the round before it.

            Theres many means to get to somepoint. Many roads that can be traveled all to get to the same place. To just stick with one ‘ one road only ‘ type of vision is pretty narrow.

          • Jes

            I get where your coming from Dano. I understand the whole recession and so on in the states and realize you guys have to pay for healthcare. Other then the recession those problems have been there for years. It never really hurt them then or now. I believe the Sabres fan base alienated the Sabres team for many years when they were awful (minus of course the die hard fans like me and many of the people on here like you.) Yet when the Sabres started doing good we attracted a bunch of new fans that replaced the ones that left and for the most part the ones that left came back. So in all honesty sucking it up like no ones business is definitely worth it. The rebuild has to be done right, otherwise we will be having this conversation again 5 years from now.

            If you want a below average team that puts a nice effort night in and night out that’s all well and good but if you want a Stanley Cup contender you know you’ll have to do it through the draft with high picks. Then once rookies start to gel then you add the solid veterans like Chara and Neal and so on.

          • Dano

            “I get where your coming from Dano. I understand the whole recession and so on in the states and realize you guys have to pay for healthcare. Other then the recession those problems have been there for years.”

            I dont think you do. Trico, Westinghouse, Bethlehem, Republic and Gibraler. Magtrol, EEmac, The area has bled off its job base year after year and nothing comes back. Once it leaves, theres nothing to replace it. Every year, over and over, more things leave and nothing comes to replace it.

            The same applies to those ticket holders.

            You continually use the terms ‘ Us ‘ and ‘ We ‘, yet you dont live here. You have all these solutions and an answer for everything. So I would ask how you would make it so fans can afford those games?

            Not just ‘ affording ‘ those games, WHY would they attend when theres whats viewed as ‘ terrible ‘ entertainment out there?

            Presently, theres more fans of VISITING teams then the home team buying tickets for those seats!

            Its great that your a fan of a team from another area. Ive liked the Ducks since their inception. I enjoyed their *former* style of play, not their present though.

            To just make a rash statement of Pegula doesnt have to worry about the season ticket holders leaving in droves not needing to be addressed.. Not a sound selection of words. :(

          • Jes

            Like I’ve said before Dano it’s all well and good if you want nice entertainment value and I don’t blame you because I believe you are a season ticket holder? But I want a Cup and to do that you got to suffer in todays NHL. Grab those 2-3 top 3 picks and we are well on our way. Blackhawks, Bruins, Kings and Pens all had miserable attendance when they were rebuilding yet surprise, surprise there attendance record and merchandise sales go through the roof when they start winning with there young blood. Teams like NY Rangers and Toronto don’t have to worry about fan base well there the richest teams in the league. So they can throw money around like no ones business but what has that got them lately?

            Pegula really doesn’t have to worry about season ticket holders IMO, they will be back on the bandwagon once the team turns around. Such was the case when we were an average team for years when we traded Hasek and attendance was miserable. Then when the rules all changed we became an unstoppable force all the fans and more returned. Losing season ticket holders is part of the rebuild phase. And to be honest every hockey crazed city like Buffalo will have it’s long list of people waiting for season tickets. If people are in need of entertainment and don’t want to spend too much money get some movie tickets or go to a restaurant with a few friends no one is forcing you to go to hockey games. You go to hockey games because you are the fan of the team and or fan of the game.

            “Presently, theres more fans of VISITING teams then the home team buying tickets for those seats!”

            I highly doubt that Dano. Other then the Toronto Maple Leaf games this comment is overkill.

            It’s very simple if you want a cup you got to have those high picks then add cagey vets to your lineup. Throwing money at the problem to possibly become a better team just for season ticket holders is retarded. We were horrible last year and everyone knew (Including the season ticket holders) that we were going to be worse this year yet the season ticket holders renewed.

          • Cory Buck

            Great points all around, Dano. You made similar ones in the previous article and I didn’t really reply so I’ll roll that into here. As someone who lived in WNY all my life until this past June, I definitely understand what you mean regarding the economy. I was only lucky enough to go to the games I did because my dad has season tickets and let me go at cost. Tickets prices keep going up and the product keeps getting worse and less fun to watch.

            I do think there is a great benefit to getting high picks in the draft, but I try not to A) bemoan a Sabres win (especially against our original 4 division mates) because of draft status or B) consider winning a detriment to the growth of the franchise. There are still plenty of players on this team who could be a part of the roster for a long time, and I’d rather players like Myers, Ennis, Hodgson, Foligno, etc learn how to win games than sit back for a year and hope a better player is on the way. No matter what happens, this team is on track for a top 5 pick and in this draft, that will be just fine.

          • Dano

            Theres many means to getting to respectability and eventually a cup. Before even looking at those ‘ draft dreamers ‘ visions, do we even ask if we have the coaching staff to get them to grow?

            Its like having 2 cities and no roads between them.

            A SHINING example would be Girgorenko. A supposed gifted centerman, a goal scoring type.. How has Buffalos system made him NHL ready?

            So Buffalo drafts ALL of the top 5 picks.. where will they go? Rochester to the Amerks where they will develop under.. who or what? If they start right in the NHL, is Nolan going to have rookies out there after what he did this present year? People will say ‘ hes only the intern coach ‘ I would respond with Whom is going to be GM and picking the permanent coach?

            Before the ‘ Draft dreamers ‘ thoughts should even be considered theres more pressing matters. Matters that are needed to be addressed long before the draft is even considered. No GM, whom is going to select the players? Pegula? Nolan? LalaPatty?

            Theres no system to support the draft process in a decent form right now.

  • Jes

    The way they are playing right now I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up screwing up the draft for us. Just like last year, we started to get on a roll in the 2nd half we went from the worst record to the 8th worst. So would you rather have Mackinnon or Ristolainen? There are huge differences between the two. Mackinnon has already shined with the Avalanche and he’s yet to even scratch the surface and Ristolainen well we all know where that stands right now. This upcoming draft isn’t as deep as last years so what you would have got at 6th last year you can probably get at third. If they screw this up again in two straight years and then most likely next season for McDavid then I’ve personally had enough with this organization.

  • Matt

    Very well written article. My only criticism is with your conclusion… I still don’t see how this proves the whole disaster of a team is Darcy’s fault. If anything it seems like this is proof that the team he had assembled, even at the rebuilding phase of the cycle, was not nearly as bad as people had accused it of being and that it was poor coaching that was driving it into the ground.

  • Joe

    I love how now that we won 2 games in a row everyone is praising nolan when u guys were all flipping out he sent pusyk and some of the youngsters back. Super hilarious