The new general manager of the Buffalo Sabres said it was his decision not to renew coach Ted Nolan's contract and to remove the offer of a one-year deal from the table.
Darcy Regier also said Tuesday that events of the past few days indicated to him that he would have had trouble developing a "working relationship" with Nolan had the coach been kept on.
Regier's comments came one day after he and Nolan parted company after a five-minute meeting at an airport in Nolan's hometown of Sault Ste. Marie., Ont.
Nolan, who on June 19 was honored as coach of the year by the National Hockey League, said he was "hurt" and "disillusioned" by the process that led to his dismissal.
Regier said the offer of a one-year contract ran through the weekend and that "technically" that offer expired over the weekend, but that aside, he had determined that he could not rehire Nolan and had to go in a different direction.
"This isn't about one meeting, it's about a period just short of three weeks and a number of meetings," he said in an interview in his Marine Midland Arena office. "Ultimately, this was a question of whether or not there was significant substance with which to develop a working relationship and not to head down the path of the past. That's where the decision was made."
The "path of the past" was a reference to the oft-stated problems between Nolan and fired general manager John Muckler and to rumors that Nolan is difficult to work with. Regier acknowledged he did not have first-hand knowledge of the friction between the two men but that he did investigate the complaints against Nolan. Though he refused to state those complaints, he did not dismiss them.
Regier also said his brief dealings with Nolan, especially his being rebuffed in repeated attempts to contact him over the weekend while Nolan spoke freely with the media, played a part in his decision.
"The fact that I wasn't able to get through and touch base with him (by phone over the weekend) -- that had more to do with evidence against being able to develop a working relationship than (Nolan's immediate reaction to) the one-year contract offer."
Regier said the decision to not rehire Nolan "and all that comes with that decision" was his.
"Initially it wasn't my intention to fire him," he said. "There was -- despite the problems in the past -- I felt tremendous pressure to make every effort to make this work. Simply because of the achievements of the team of which Ted was the coach. But on the other hand, I had to make certain that we did not even get close to the road that was taken last year."
Regier said he did not lie when he said everyone in the organization was on board with the decision to offer Nolan a one-year contract and that he doesn't feel he was lied to despite the fact Jean Knox, wife of the late president and chief executive officer Seymour H. Knox III, and board member and chief investor John Rigas spoke out Friday in favor of keeping Nolan with a longer-term contract.
"When I was asked that question, at that time, I answered it very accurately," Regier said. "Everyone has a right to change their feelings or opinions, but at that time, that question was answered honestly."
Regier went on to say that there is a great deal of healing that needs to be done within the organization. He also said he has great respect for Nolan's accomplishments with the Sabres and that he hoped to see him coaching in the NHL somewhere in the future.
That does not appear likely for the start of next season. Only three jobs remain open in the NHL -- Anaheim, Calgary and Philadelphia -- and Nolan does not appear to be a candidate for any of them at this time. It's possible something might open up in Detroit if Scott Bowman decides to step down.
Regier acknowledged he would have to offer Nolan's replacement something more than a one-year deal, but he also said he intended to find a coach who understood the importance he placed on having a solid working relationship between himself and the new coach. The list of possible replacements is likely to include former Boston Bruins coach Butch Goring, who now coaches the Utah Grizzlies in the International Hockey League, and perhaps unemployed notables Brian Sutter (expected to sign with Calgary soon), Mike Keenan and Terry O'Reilly, but Regier said the list is only now being compiled.
"You can speculate on certain names, but it's our intention to make a list of the best people available or who might be available if we contact certain organizations and ask for permission," Regier said."I expect the process will take some time, partly because we want to do a thorough job and partly because, while we were dealing with Ted, we weren't dealing with anyone else or even compiling a list regarding anyone else."