In order to confidently rebuild the Sabres, General Manager Tim Murray and coach Ted Nolan will want trusted advisers, guys they’ve known through their years in hockey. To bring in those people, they need to get rid of the holdovers they inherited.
Nolan started the changes Wednesday.
Assistant coaches Joe Sacco, Teppo Numminen, Jerry Forton and goalie coach Jim Corsi will not be back in their roles next season. Sacco and Forton have been offered other jobs in the hockey department, though it’s not known if they’ll accept them. Corsi was fired and Numminen will not have his contract renewed.
Nolan was not available to comment on the changes. More moves are certain to come within the hockey department throughout the offseason.
Nolan took over for Ron Rolston in November and kept the former coach’s assistants. Though there were no outward signs of struggle within the staff, it was always assumed Nolan would want to hire his own people.
Corsi was the longest-tenured member on the Sabres’ coaching staff. He just completed his 16th season in Buffalo, and he was hired when Dominik Hasek owned the net. The affable coach is known for inventing the Corsi Rating, a highly regarded hockey analytics tool that compares the shots directed at the opposition’s net to the attempts taken on the team’s own net.
“Very sad to hear my coach Jim Corsi won’t return,” Sabres netminder Jhonas Enroth wrote on Twitter. “But what a resume he has!”
Numminen, who finished his 20-year NHL career on the Sabres’ blue line, just completed his third season as a coach. He spent the first two in the press box talking to the other coaches on a headset during games, and he was promoted to a bench job this season.
Sacco and Forton are in their first year in the organization. Sacco spent the previous four seasons as head coach of the Colorado Avalanche, where he was a Coach of the Year finalist in 2010. He will be an assistant for the Team USA in the World Championship next month.
Forton came to the Sabres with no prior NHL experience and worked in the press box.
There was no word on whom Nolan will hire as his assistants. One addition could be Randy Cunneyworth, a longtime friend and former teammate of Nolan who is already in the organization as liaison between the Sabres and their minor-league club Rochester.
Nolan, who is also coach of the Latvian national team, has spoken highly of the country’s goalie coach, Arturs Irbe. The longtime NHL goaltender left his job with the Washington Capitals in 2011 to spend more time with his family and also because he wanted a promotion to assistant coach.
Sabres goaltender Connor Knapp bounced from Florida to South Carolina to Alaska this season because Buffalo didn’t have an ECHL affiliate he could call home. That will change next season.
The Sabres have announced an affiliation agreement with the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL. The addition gives the organization three New York teams within a 150-mile radius (Buffalo, Rochester and Elmira).
“Proper development is essential in maintaining a competitive roster at the NHL level,” Murray said in a statement. “Having Elmira as an additional source to develop our young talent will certainly help our entire organization going forward.”
Former Sabres blue-liner T.J. Brennan, traded to Florida in March 2013 for a fifth-round draft pick (Gustav Possler), has been named the American Hockey League’s most outstanding defenseman. Selected 31st overall in the 2007 draft, the 25-year-old has 24 goals and 69 points in 73 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ affiliate.