Reflecting on Some of the Most Noteworthy Trades in Sabres History

In 50 years of hockey, the Buffalo Sabres have swung their fair share of trades. From minor league swaps to marquee blockbusters, the club isn’t lacking when it comes to trade history.

Buffalo’s transaction history provides a beautiful cross section of NHL history. From the 70s and 80s eras where blockbusters came about regularly to the modern era where GMs are loathe to make any waves for fear of immediate retribution. In attempt to celebrate some of the club’s history, I ran down a list of some of the most noteworthy trades in franchise history. This isn’t a proper ranking or numbered list, nor is this meant to be a full accounting of every important trade in club history. Some of these trades in and of themselves are little more than blips on the radar, but they set the stage for bigger things down the road. Meanwhile, others are tried and true blockbusters, noteworthy for all the reasons you’d expect.

One thing that ties them all together is some sort of noteworthy feature or function, whether the inclusion of a franchise cornerstone or setting the wheels in motion for something bigger. Like laying the foundation to acquire a franchise cornerstone.

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LaFontaine resignation shouldn’t alter team’s direction

Only the Sabres could find a way to overshadow the news that they had traded their franchise goaltender.

News of Pat LaFontaine’s resignation came less than 24 hours after Ryan Miller and Steve Ott had been traded to St. Louis and managed to throw Sabres Nation into a tizzy. As the news broke fans and media alike scrambled to find an explanation for the decision with the Sabres’ news conference earlier today offering little clarity on the proceedings.

Ted Black confirming that LaFontaine’s departure was known for a few days prior Friday’s trade indicates that whatever discord existed had been brewing for some time. Exactly what the genesis of the divorce was is what’s being so hotly speculated.

Some indicate that LaFontaine was lobbying for retaining Miller and trying to re-sign him with the decision to trade him leading him to step down. Others are jumping to the conclusion that LaFontaine was leaned on to resign or else be fired by those in management. It’s also being suggested that perhaps Tim Murray isn’t planning on extending Ted Nolan and that LaFontaine was going down with Nolan and the ship. Continue reading

Sabres GM search taking shape

Pat LaFontaine’s search for the Sabres’ next General Manager has likely hit high gear now that he’s had time to get settled, take a look at his team an begin contacting candidates.

The moment news broke that LaFontaine wouldn’t just be coming in as Buffalo’s new President of Hockey Operations, but that he’d be conducting the search for a new GM, speculation began to run rampant over who hey may interview, and which candidate would serve the Sabres best.

The name many fans turned to first was Rick Dudley. He’s the guy that Bucky Gleason has floated a number of times in hopes of seeing him installed in the GM chair for the Sabres. Considering Bucky had also previously suggested the thought of LaFontaine in his new role, certainly some connected the dots to his train of thought.

That isn’t to say that Sabres management is consistently scouring The Buffalo News, WGR Whiner Line or other outlets for hockey theories for hiring and trade ideas – at least I hope they aren’t – but it shows that Gleason does indeed understand the direction that the NHL hiring practices can follow.

Dudley wouldn’t be a bad hire by any stretch. He has a solid resume that saw him begin to shape some of the stronger parts of the current Winnipeg Jets core (his time was spent in Atlanta). He also spent a season with Toronto before catching on as Montreal’s Assistant GM in a role providing guidance to the Canadiens’ new General Manager, Marc Bergevin. Considering Bergevin’s relative inexperience, Dudley could be considered a guiding force in many ways.

Dudley also happens to have strong connections to the Sabres organization. Given the wave of nostalgia that has swept through the team offices, there wouldn’t be much surprise if yet another individual with ties to the team was brought in. Dudley has hopped around a bit in recent seasons which may be motivated by a desire to hold a significant role with an organization.

He doesn’t slot in as my preferred candidate, however. Sure, he has a nice resume and certainly has shown a penchant for strong talent evaluation. For this hire I wouldn’t mind seeing the Sabres go with more of an up-and-coming hire. While the associated risks are obvious, and it should be noted that Dudley isn’t in any way a re-tread or tired candidate, it seems that allowing a rising star in the executive ranks to take over would serve the team well.

One other thing to consider would be someone who has spent a significant portion of his time with a team that has not only had success, but built themselves to that level of success. Here’s a handful of other rumored candidates and some information on where they may fall into place during this search: Continue reading

Sabres make sweeping changes as LaFontaine and Nolan return

A pair of very familiar faces are back in prominent positions with the Sabres organization as Pat LaFontaine and Ted Nolan were brought back in the fold after a massive shake up at First Niagara Center.

LaFontaine takes over as the team’s President of Hockey Operations with Ted Nolan stepping in as the interim head coach. Both Ron Rolston and Darcy Regier were relieved of their duties prior to LaFontaine and Nolan stepping in.

Ousting Rolston seemed like an inevitable choice given Buffalo’s woeful record and the ugly way they went about earning it. Exactly when the axe was to fall on Rolston was left to guesswork due to Buffalo’s current campaign for the first overall pick. The heat was rising fast, however, as Buffalo’s string of first period flops and ugly losses was punctuated by an inability to draw any sort of redemption from the progression of the team’s young players. When a coach lauded for his ability to develop players isn’t even doing that, obviously there is a problem.

Regier’s departure is only shocking when you consider the scope of this shakeup. The construction of the roster left plenty to be desired and his quest to mimic the toughness of the Bruins ended up sacrificing the overall skill level of Buffalo’s forward group. Like Rolston, Regier’s departure was something that was expected at some point in the coming calendar year, the timing is what comes as something of a shock, as were his replacements. Continue reading