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Nolan loses interim tag, signs extension with Sabres

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- Ted Nolan's return to the Buffalo Sabres is complete; now he's tasked with guiding the franchise through a rebuild.

The Sabres announced Monday they have removed the interim tag from Nolan and signed him to a three-year contract extension to be the full-time coach.

"I'm really excited about going with the next step forward and helping shape this team into a very competitive team and a team that will hopefully one day battle for a championship," Nolan said at a press conference announcing his extension.

Nolan was named interim coach Nov. 13 following the firing of coach Ron Rolston and general manager Darcy Regier. Current Sabres general manager Tim Murray said Nolan has proven to be the best man for the job.

"He's been in a lot of situations here that haven't been great," Murray said. "A lot of nights I've liked the way our team competed. We have to get him better players. Some games that we hang on and get a shootout loss or something like that, I think with better players and the way he coaches we'll get a better result. In trying times I've liked a lot of what I've seen."

The Sabres are 16-30-8 since Nolan took over; they were 4-15-1 under Rolston. Their 49 points are the fewest in the League, but this season isn't the key for Nolan; it's the seasons to come as he helps a host of young players become full-time NHL players.

"I like his back and forth with young players, I like his teaching with young players, I like his patience with young players," Murray said. "We're not all going to be young. Our veteran guys love playing for him too, so that's not pigeonholing him as a young-guy coach or something like that. In a losing situation I've liked what I've seen."

Veterans like Drew Stafford, Christian Ehrhoff and Henrik Tallinder have been forced into roles as leaders on the Sabres. For them, working with Nolan has been rewarding.

"Ted's one of those guys that has that relationship with you where you don't want to let him down," Stafford said. "He puts the ball in your court and gives you the responsibilities. He gives you an opportunity to use your certain skill set that got you to this level. It's on you. I welcome that challenge."

Some players have thrived under Nolan since he's taken over.

"I think he's brought back a little bit more competitiveness and a little bit more confidence than I've had in past years," forward Tyler Ennis said. "I kind of was slumping a bit before he came in and he's helped me a lot."

Ennis has scored 17 of his 19 goals this season with Nolan behind the bench. That kind of impact is what the Sabres would like to see spread to others.

"We went through a lot of tough times and we're going to go through more tough times," Nolan said. "I really believe you've got to go through those rough waters in order for the smooth waters to come. Just because we got this deal done today, we're not going to get those smooth waters.

"We've got a little time to really turn this thing around. In order to turn around it's going to take some time, it's going to take some patience, it's going to take understanding and it's going to take some time for the young guys to mature. So with all those things involved, it's not going to switch overnight. It's going to take a little more time."

This is Nolan's second stint with the club. From 1995-97, Nolan coached the team to a 73-72-19 record. In the 1996-97 season the Sabres won the Northeast Division and Nolan was rewarded with the Jack Adams Award, the first in the history of the franchise.

Nolan also spent two seasons as head coach of the New York Islanders, guiding the Islanders to a 74-68-21 record during the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.

In 381 NHL games with the Sabres and New York Islanders, Nolan is 163-170-48.

Nolan also coached Latvia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, helping the team qualify for the quarterfinals for the first time in the country's history. The Latvians put a major scare into Canada, the eventual gold-medal winner, in their quarterfinal matchup. Nolan has held that position since 2011.

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