The Buffalo Sabres wrapped up a historically bad season last week where the club posted a 21-51-10 record. The Sabres will now embark on a long but interesting offseason where GM Tim Murray will take on the challenge of remaking the organization into a contender. This has no doubt been a season of change for the Sabres. Changes swept through the organization earlier in the season, at the trade deadline, shortly after with the departure of president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine, and they have continued to unfold at the dawn of the offseason.
#Sabres scored 1.83 goals per game this season. That's the lowest total in the NHL since the 1935-36 Canadiens.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) April 13, 2014
This summer promises to be one of the busiest that the club has seen in quite some time. Buffalo has recently obtained the second overall pick in the upcoming 2014 NHL Entry Draft. GM Tim Murray will look to the draft and to this year’s free agent class to begin the rebuilding process.
While much will be made about the draft and free agency in the upcoming weeks, the Sabres have made some changes this week that will have an impact on the club. The Sabres have parted ways with members of its coaching staff creating opportunity for a new approach next season.
Meanwhile, the team also announced a new minor league affiliation with the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL. There will be many more changes as we move forward but here is a look at what has transpired so far in the early-going of the offseason.
[See Also: 5 Questions the Buffalo Sabres Need to Answer]
Ted Nolan to Retool His Coaching Staff
Let’s face it, the Buffalo Sabres were abysmal this past season. Accountability is something that escaped the Sabres under the previous regime but this seems to be a cornerstone of new GM Tim Murray’s philosophy.
With the club in last place this season, Murray has indicated that nobody is safe and he intends to make changes in order to improve his club. So far, the evidence seems to support this claim but the level of impact that Murray can make in Buffalo will be determined in time.
The Sabres made some additional changes this week by parting ways with members of its coaching staff. Ted Nolan replaced Ron Rolston on an interim basis in mid-November. At that time, the club retained much of its coaching staff but Nolan will now have the opportunity to hire his own staff with the departure of several coaches.
No immediate word on who will be Ted Nolan's new assistants, but I would be shocked if Randy Cunneyworth doesn't join Sabres' bench staff.
— John Vogl (@BuffaloVogl) April 16, 2014
The Sabres parted ways with goaltender coach Jim Corsi and assistant Teppo Numminen. Assistants Joe Sacco and Jerry Forton have been offered jobs in the hockey department but they will not return behind the bench.
Teppo Numminen was an NHL defenseman prior to accepting the assistant coaching position with the Sabres. He played for twenty seasons and spent four with the Buffalo Sabres. He was originally hired by former Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff and continued to work for Buffalo this season.
Jim Corsi just completed his sixteenth season in Buffalo as the goaltender coach. He gained experience in the NHL as a goaltender for the Quebec Nordiques and Edmonton Oilers. As a coach, he pioneered the use of a new statistic to evaluate goaltenders.
Corsi came up with the idea of studying not only shots on goal, but also missed and blocked shots. This statistical measurement has been expanded upon to also evaluate forwards and defensemen and has became known as the Corsi number.
Despite the outstanding career Corsi has had in Buffalo, the time was right for the Sabres to move on. His services will be in demand so he will likely join another organization in the coming weeks.
Very sad to hear my coach Jim Corsi won't return. But what a resume he has! Hasek, Roloson, Biron, Miller and more!
— Jhonas Enroth (@JEnroth125) April 16, 2014
It remains to be seen if Joe Sacco and Jerry Forton continue to work for the Sabres. However, their roles will not be as assistant coaches which gives Nolan the opportunity to install some new faces behind the bench. The Sabres finished twenty-ninth on the power play scoring on just 14.1% of its opportunities. Buffalo also finished in the bottom half of the league on the penalty kill, and scored just 1.83 goals per game. With these horrible numbers, the Sabres definitely needed to go in a new direction so the departure of these coaches will bring new faces to the staff next season.
Sabres Ink New Affiliation with the Elmira Jackals
The Buffalo Sabres have also inked a new affiliation deal with the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL. The Jackals play their games at First Arena in Elmira, NY which is about two and a half hours away from the First Niagara Center. Having two minor league affiliates within driving distance will be huge for the Sabres going forward. This makes call ups and reassignments quite simple for the Sabres and it also will be helpful for the organization to keep a close watch on its youngsters.
— Elmira Jackals (@JackalsHockey) April 16, 2014
The Jackals had a one-year affiliation with the Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils this past season. Elmira was seeking a longer-term affiliation deal with an NHL club and it was able to find this with Buffalo. In the past, the Jackals had affiliations with the Anaheim Ducks and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The move will not only benefit the Sabres from a personnel standpoint but it will also allow the Sabres to further regionalize its brand. The Sabres have a cupboard stocked with young talent and will have even more after the upcoming draft. Many of these players will spend time in Rochester and now in Elmira. Fans in Rochester and Elmira will have the opportunity to watch these youngsters grow as they work towards earning a spot in the NHL. This will make the Sabres brand stronger by garnering more interest in the big club from fans in New York State’s Southern Tier as well as north-central Pennsylvania.