While several groups are said to be interested in buying the Buffalo Sabres, former coach Ted Nolan would love to see the consortium led by a junior team owner and a transportation magnate take control of the franchise.
Who can blame him? If it happens that the group headed by Sherry Bassin and Alan Maislin is ultimately successful, Nolan could finally find himself back in the NHL, according to rumors floating around the league.
The Bassin/Maislin group has emerged as the early frontrunner to purchase the team, which is in dire financial straits after the collapse of owner Adelphia Communications. And that bodes well for Nolan, who has a long-standing relationship with Bassin, who currently runs the Ontario Hockey League champion Erie Otters.
Nolan won two OHL titles and a national championship coaching the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds when Bassin owned that team in the early 1990s, and he could barely contain his excitement a few days ago when asked about the possibility of Bassin's group, which is said to include former Sabres star Pat Lafontaine, buying the team.
|Ted Nolan is rumored to be a candidate to return to the Sabres.(Allsport)|
Nolan would probably go just about anywhere in the NHL if he were offered a job these days. He has been looking since the Sabres let him go under controversial circumstances only weeks after he was named the 1997 coach of the year, but has been unsuccessful at interviews for several openings in the past six years, fueling repeated suggestions Nolan has been blackballed by general managers around the league.
Over the years, Nolan has refused to lend credence to those suggestions. Still, he has never been able to shake the perception he is a GM-killer, the result of going above then-GM John Muckler to the Knox family, which owned the team at the time.
And memories of his well-documented spats with Dominik Hasek -- who reportedly encouraged Nolan's dismissal -- linger among teams who worry about coddling their athletes rather than their coaches.
But if Bassin's group takes over, that likely would not matter.
The Devils in him
Larry Robinson's greatest days on the ice came as a member of the Montreal Canadiens, but there is little doubt that his loyalty to the New Jersey Devils organization runs very deep.
How else to explain his return to the Devils as an assistant coach last season only weeks after the team fired him as head coach? Which is why you shouldn't be surprised if the Hall of Fame defenseman is back helping out again this year.
Robinson remains on New Jersey's payroll in a consulting capacity and gave strong indications last spring that he wanted to take some time away from the game. But new Devils coach Pat Burns would like Robinson back as an assistant and is holding open a spot for him on a staff that already includes Bobby Carpenter and Jacques Caron.
Robinson, who turned down a chance to interview for the New York Rangers coaching job earlier this summer, has spent much of the summer playing polo and has not commented on his future. But Burns is counting on the eight-time Stanley Cup winner getting the itch to be involved once the games begin.
"Maybe by November or December -- when the snowflakes start to fly and the horses are put away -- Larry may think, 'What do I do now?' The wife wants him to go away. I probably feel we'll see Larry more than we think."
- Edmonton defenseman Jason Smith scored what his agent termed a "tremendous victory" this week when an arbitrator awarded him an $800,000 raise to $2.3 million, but the windfall might just force the budget-challenged Oilers to deal him and his salary away. The Oilers felt they were stretching by submitting a $1.95 million offer to the arbitrator.
- Center Andrew Cassels seems to be the forgotten man in this summer's free-agent sweepstakes, but the former Canuck may be closing in on a deal. Cassels was seen in Columbus over the weekend, fueling speculation that the Blue Jackets are interested in re-uniting him with Geoff Sanderson. The pair were part of a successful line with the old Hartford Whalers.
- The Carolina Hurricanes may have a holdout on their hands when training camp begins. Defenseman David Tanabe, the team's first-round draft choice in 1999, made $500,000 last year, when he struggled through a season marred by injuries and poor play. The Hurricanes offered him $50,000 raise, but Tanabe turned it down. He is thought to be looking for a contract worth about $900,000 a year and has no leverage other than a holdout, which is why Carolina GM Jim Rutherford fears the player might not be in camp when it opens Sept. 12. "I know this route and where it ends up," Rutherford said.