Buffalo coach Ted Nolan wants to win. He doesn’t want to lose out the rest of the season, which may sound horrifying for a team whose management seems to be all in on giving it the best chance to get the No. 1 pick in the draft.
And this sounds worse on the eve of Buffalo’s "Tank Wars" week with two games against the Arizona Coyotes. The Sabres have the fewest amount of points in the NHL, and hence the highest chance to land the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. The Coyotes have the second-fewest.
"I can’t control what other people think and what other people do," Nolan said Wednesday afternoon after the team practice at First Niagara Center. "I know what I feel. I’m not speaking for anybody else. I’m speaking for myself. Who wants to finish last? I never went into anything my entire life wanting to finish last. You go into it with the right intentions and it’s the integrity of the game. That’s the line for me. You just go out and do what you have to do and feel the way you feel and some people want to finish last, well then good for them."
Ah yes, “Tank Wars” … I feel like this needs a song sung by Bill Murray.
Back to seriousness, even more surprising that during these comments, general manager Tim Murray did not come down from his perch with a chloroform washcloth to snuff out Nolan and take him upstairs for brainwashing. But if anything, Nolan’s words show the disconnect between coaches, management and players on this whole situation with the Sabres.
Coaches hardly ever want to lose. It’s not in their DNA. Most are laser focused on getting wins, or at least using losses as teaching points for future games where their teams can win. Players sometimes want to win for each other, sometimes want to win for themselves.
A player like Sabres goaltender Anders Lindback who is fighting for another NHL contract for example. He’s not alone on the Sabres who per NHL Numbers have 12 unrestricted free agents or restricted free agents.
Management has its own agenda. And fans, it’s understandable why they want the Sabres to lose out. Connor McDavid is a generational talent with the possible No. 1 pick. So is second-ranked prospect Jack Eichel. While it’s not a foregone conclusion the team with the worst record gets the No. 1 pick, it helps. This is not the first time a team has done this. Pittsburgh basically tanked for Mario Lemieux in 1983-84.
Look at this Washington/Pitt roster for the final regular season game in 2004 before the Alex Ovechkin draft.
Said Nolan per Buffalo Hockey Beat:
“But for the vast majority, I don’t think people come here to watch you lose or to want you to lose,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s in the feelings of this city. I never felt it. That’s why I don’t think it’s there.”
Oh, it’ll be there, again according to Buffalo Hockey Beat:
The coach likely understands the Sabres’ rabid fan base will root against them throughout Thursday’s highly anticipated tilt against the Arizona Coyotes.
Nolan is not a coach for a massive rebuild. He’s a guy who has won in the past, and clearly wants to win. What does this all mean for the future for him?
Who knows … but it’s clear he’s tired of losing, which means he and GM Tim Murray are probably not on the same page.
And you know what, good for him for saying what’s on his mind.
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