BUFFALO, N.Y. — The “Fire Darcy!” chants in Buffalo finally resonated with Sabres owner Terry Pegula.
Acknowledging fans’ discontent directed at the architect of the Sabres’ slow-moving rebuilding plans, Pegula fired General Manager Darcy Regier and rookie coach Ron Rolston on Wednesday.
Pegula then leaned on two familiar faces of the Sabres’ past to begin turning around a team that’s off to its worst start in franchise history.
Former captain Pat LaFontaine takes over in the newly created role of president of hockey operations. It’s a job in which he’ll be responsible for hiring Regier’s successor.
And LaFontaine’s first move was hiring Ted Nolan to take over as coach for the rest of the season. Nolan returns to Buffalo, where he began his NHL coaching career in 1995. He spent two seasons in Buffalo before leaving the team in a contract squabble after being named the league’s coach of the year.
“So why now? I just decided, and that’s the only answer I can give you,” Pegula said. “Sometimes you get to the point where a change is needed.”
The shakeup comes with Buffalo (4-15-1) stuck at the bottom of the NHL standings. The 15 losses are the most by the team through 20 games of the season. And it came a day after Buffalo won its first home game – improving to 1-8-1 – with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Los Angeles Kings.
The victory wasn’t enough to save Regier and Rolston, who were informed they were out by Pegula after the game.
Nolan will formally start his second era in Buffalo on Friday, when the Sabres host Toronto.
“I don’t know where to begin. I guess there’s not enough words inside me to express how excited I really am,” said Nolan, who went 73-72-19 with the Sabres. “I may have left physically, but emotionally and spiritually I never really left. It’s a big part of my life.”
Nolan also coached the New York Islanders from 2006-08. His current job is coach of the Latvian men’s national team, a role he’ll continue into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
LaFontaine said Nolan was his first choice as coach in a move that reunited the two for a third time.
Nolan coached LaFontaine in Buffalo in 1995-96. And the two worked briefly together on Long Island in 2006, when LaFontaine spent six weeks as a senior adviser to Islanders owner Charles Wang.
FLYERS 2, PENGUINS 1: Brayden Schenn scored two goals and backup goalie Ray Emery stopped 30 shots to lead visiting Philadelphia to its third straight victory.
Sidney Crosby scored his ninth goal of the season and first in eight games.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 19 saves for Pittsburgh, which has lost three straight for the second time this season.
WILD 2, MAPLE LEAFS 1: Zach Parise and Jason Pominville scored in the shootout, lifting Minnesota at home.
Parise tied the game late in the third period for Minnesota, which has won 5 of 6 and is 8-1-2 in its last 11.