Tonawanda News — Rebuilding a franchise means more than simply trading away all your good players, tanking two or three seasons and hoping the guys you draft grow up to be better than the ones they replaced. It requires a vision for the future and a definitive plan for how to execute that vision. Under Regier, I was never sure what kind of team this was supposed to be. Right now the only kind of team it is, is bad.
Enter my boyhood hero, Pat LaFontaine, to save the day. It goes without saying, I was floored when I heard the news Wednesday morning.
I've respected and admired LaFontaine since his playing days. He was a genuine star, a humble but fearless leader in the sport. Add to that he was one of the smartest players I've ever watched. He brings the immediate cache that comes with having your number hanging in the rafters and inspires faith from a fan base that had lost almost all hope this franchise would turn things around.
With LaFontaine comes former Sabres coach Ted Nolan. That's a more complicated reaction. I liked Nolan — to an extent. There was no denying he got more out of players than other coaches. But maximum effort doesn't always yield maximum results.
It's one thing to inspire a ragtag bunch of goofballs like Matthew Barnaby to run through walls for you. It's another thing to instill a working system of play under which players can succeed over an extended period of time. Effort is a huge part of any successful sports team — and Lord Stanley knows it's been entirely lacking here for far too long — but it also takes refined, erudite coaching to transform a group of players into a team that can play to its strengths in a disciplined way, the same way, night after night, for 82 games.