Buffalo Sabres

Yesterday Bob McKenzie tweeted out some news about the Buffalo Sabres – it looks like they’re going to give interim coach Ted Nolan three more seasons.

While I can’t claim to have a vast reservoir of experience under Ted Nolan, I think I can offer a little more insight into the type of coach he is than most, thanks to 10 FULL DAYS (wowee!) at Islanders camp before I got the boot. I don’t have hands-on experience with what sort of in-game systematic adjustments he makes, but I did know a good amount of Islanders players well enough to get some second hand information.

Armed with that knowledge, and with all due respect, I think they better surround him with some good assistant coaching.

My impression of Ted Nolan is that he’s truly a good man. You want to work hard for him, you want to live up to his expectations, and you want to win with him. But I’d co-sign the controversial comments Mike Milbury made that his focus isn’t X’s and O’s. I believe he said something like: “Nolan isn’t an x’s and o’s type guy, he knows nothing about the power play or penalty kill and he completely relies on his coaches to manage those roles.”

I mean, I’ll co-sign part of that – I’m not some shock jock who needs to claim a man with the experience of Nolan “knows nothing about the powerplay or penalty kill,” but from what I know he truly isn’t an X’s and O’s guy.

I spent a few months under Davis Payne (ex-Blues head coach, current Kings assistant), then coach of the Alaska Aces. He would come in after a period or two, say “here’s what they’re doing, here’s how I think we counter it,” we’d adjust, and we did well (conference finals). My understanding is that Nolan is one of those motivational guys who think if you’re losing, you’re not competing hard enough.

Coaching through motivation instead coaching tactically isn’t always a terribly idea, but the amount of times you can go to that well is finite. When people say a coach has “lost the room,” it usually means he’s spent all his motivational cash by asking for more effort (or just flat yelling too much) and the guys simply don’t have any more to give. You overheat the give-a-damn portion of their engines, and eventually they won’t turn over at all.

The nicest thing I can say about the extension is the Sabres are entering a period where they’re going to be trying to develop their young talent into pros, and part of succeeding in that regard is learning just how hard you have to work every day. It would be nice if the Sabres acquired some veteran players to do this, given a message can be a lot stronger when it’s demonstrated, not just told, but Nolan’s supposed to be a pretty good leader in that regard.

I just think those “kids” are also going to need a little more tactical guidance, and freestyling (but with lots of effort!) makes it real easy to start running around and get caught out of position.

I would bet a lot of money that Nolan’s tenure with the Sabres doesn’t go beyond this extension. Things seemed to get off to a bit of a rocky start with the Lafontaine situation, the personnel isn’t there to succeed, and if he’s not getting guys in the right positions on the ice, it could be a long three years.