The last time Darcy Regier and the Sabres searched for a permanent head coach, Buffalo was a hockey city in turmoil.
The team owner disagreed with the general manager. The wife of the late founder participated in an arena-front rally. Players picked sides and threatened to run each other on the opening day of training camp.
This time, calm and indifference seem to rule Sabreland.
Buffalo has been without a permanent head coach since Ron Rolston replaced Lindy Ruff on an interim basis Feb. 20.
Regier met with Rolston last week, and the GM said the fate of the former Rochester coach will be decided “fairly soon.”
If Regier has begun searching for a replacement, the hunt has yet to include Patrick Roy. The Hall of Fame goaltender is coach, GM and co-owner of the Quebec Remparts, who have made the playoffs in all of Roy’s eight seasons on the junior team’s bench. Though Roy is much-discussed in hockey circles, that talk apparently has not extended to NHL general managers.
“As of now nobody contacted him,” Nicole Bouchard, the Remparts’ director of team services and media relations, said via email Monday morning.
Roy has gained interest in Buffalo because he coached the Sabres’ top prospect, Mikhail Grigorenko, and his son, Frederick, plays for the Amerks.
Rolston is believed to be under contract with the organization until June 30. He went 15-11-5 during his 31-game audition, which may have been enough for the permanent post.
If not, the Sabres could ask him to return to Rochester or sever ties completely; the latter is highly unlikely.
“They have till June, basically,” Rolston said after the season finale. “We’ll see. Just like our team, my job was just to come in here and do the best job I could from day to day and control those things. That’s all I can do. The rest will take care of itself.”
Interest in the Sabres’ coaching staff was at an all-time high in 1997. Regier took over as GM on June 11. Ted Nolan won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach June 19, and his contract with the Sabres was set to expire at the end of the month.
Franchise goaltender Dominik Hasek said he didn’t want to play for Nolan on June 23, and two days later – exactly two weeks after Regier took the job – the GM offered Nolan a one-year extension.
It was immediately rejected.
Jean Knox, wife of late co-founder Seymour H. Knox III, rallied for Nolan on June 27 with the backing of owner John Rigas.
Regier hired Ruff on July 21, about six weeks after assuming the GM position.
The Sabres’ season ended April 26, and Rochester wrapped up its year Wednesday, so Regier may need more time to evaluate the candidates based on his last search.