Sabres wield ax, fire GM John Muckler
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ The Buffalo Sabres fired general manager John Muckler today after two years of feuding with popular coach Ted Nolan and team executives.
Muckler had been in trouble for the last several months, and speculation about his departure increased in the last three days since the Sabres were eliminated from the playoffs by Philadelphia. Earlier this week, Muckler said he had no idea his job was in jeopardy.
Assistant general manager Larry Carriere will be the acting GM until the Sabres hire Muckler’s replacement.
``I want to thank John Muckler for a very good job,″ Sabres president Larry Quinn said in announcing the dismissal at a news conference. ``It’s not a situation where anybody deserves blame. We hope to find a new general manager in a short period of time.″
Muckler had several confrontations with Nolan, with the turmoil starting almost from the day Nolan became coach in 1995.
Most recently, Muckler criticized Nolan in a Toronto newspaper, saying the coach needed to understand he had a boss. The two spoke little during the season unless they were arguing.
The Sabres are trying to keep Nolan as coach, something they had no chance of doing if Muckler stayed with the team.
``I don’t think the problems that need to be solved are problems that John can solve,″ Quinn said. ``Ted Nolan never said John Muckler had to leave for him to work here.″
Nolan, among three finalists for coach of the year, was angry he did not receive a contract extension before this season and is considering other offers. His contract with the Sabres expires June 30.
``Coach Ted Nolan did a wonderful job this past season,″ Quinn said. ``Although I feel he can effectively lead the Sabres in the future, the decision to hire our coach will be the responsibility of the new GM.″
The Sabres were considered a longshot for the playoffs this year but wound up winning the Northeast Division using many players Muckler obtained through trades and free agency the last two years.
Muckler coached the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup in 1990 before coming to the Sabres as director of hockey operations in 1991. He became coach a year later and had a 125-109-34 record in three plus seasons, making him the second winningest coach in team history behind Scotty Bowman.
Muckler’s problems with Nolan and the Sabres were preceded by several disputes with players two years ago. He resigned under pressure as coach in 1995 after several players said they no longer could play with Muckler behind the bench.
One player who supported Muckler was star goalie Dominik Hasek, a finalist for the most valuable player award and a key reason for Buffalo’s success this season. Hasek has had problems with Nolan, but the Sabres hope the two can resolve their differences before next season.