Despite going 2-11-1 in the month of March, the Buffalo Sabres have removed the interim tag from head coach Ted Nolan and agreed to a contract extension, according to the team's official Twitter account:
The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle points out that Nolan and the Sabres' front office still have their work cut out for them moving forward:
Sabres remove interim tag and make Ted Nolan coach. Gets extension. Long road for Sabres.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) March 31, 2014
The Sabres followed with a statement from Sabres general manager Tim Murray and Nolan discussing the announcement:
“We are very happy to get this deal done and have Ted Nolan as our permanent head coach going forward,” Murray said. “Teddy has proven time and again that he is an exceptional leader, motivator and teacher. He is exactly what we need in a head coach for our hockey team and we’re confident in his ability to guide our players and turn this team around.”
“I said back in November that it was a dream to be able to come back and coach the Sabres and that’s still true today,” Nolan said. “Hockey is my life and Buffalo is a special place for hockey. I’m excited by the challenge facing our team and our organization and I’m truly thankful to have this opportunity.”
Buffalo is a league-worst 20-45-9 with eight games left to play this season. The Sabres are the only team with single-digit road wins and the only team with fewer than 60 points heading into the final month of the season.
The Sabres were 4-15-1 when Nolan took over on Nov. 13 and have since gone 16-30-8.
The 55-year-old Nolan actually began his NHL coaching career with the Sabres during the 1995-96 season. But after leading the club to the conference semifinals a year later, he wound up leaving the organization as a result of a bizarre contract dispute.
Prior to taking over for Ron Rolston in mid-November, Nolan's most recent coaching venture had taken place with the New York Islanders over two seasons from 2006 to 2008.
On March 10, Nolan told the Olean Times Herald that his agent and Sabres general manager Tim Murray were in discussions over a potential extension, per NHL.com:
"I guess he and Tim will be talking soon if [they haven't] talked already. It's formalities and getting things ironed out and doing all the legal stuff...We'll leave it in their hands for now."
With Buffalo headed for an early offseason, Nolan and Murray will soon begin preparations for what's sure to be a critical offseason for the team. The Sabres have needs across the board and will have to make some significant roster moves in order to be competitive in a loaded Eastern Conference a year from now.
But with Nolan in a key position and assured of that spot following the extension, Buffalo is no doubt headed in the right direction. In four full seasons as an NHL head coach, Nolan has reached the playoffs twice. Not to mention he's done it with two different teams.
He and Buffalo's front office will have some massive obstacles to overcome this time around, but by adding some stability by extending a proven name, the potential for success certainly exists.
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