A little more than three months after becoming president of hockey operations for the Buffalo Sabres, Pat LaFontaine has stepped down and returned to work in his previous role with the NHL
“Terry Pegula hired me in November and my primary objective was to lead the Sabres organization through a time of transition,” LaFontaine said in a Sabres press release. “I'm proud of what we've been able to accomplish in a short period of time and want to thank Terry and Kim Pegula for the opportunity and their support during my time with the Sabres. I also want to convey my best wishes to all of the players in the Sabres organization and to wish them the best of success in the future. Most importantly, I want to convey my heartfelt appreciation to the great fans of the Sabres for the way I have been treated here as a player and as an executive.”
The decision came one day after the franchise moved starkly in the direction everyone expected, trading Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues. Early Saturday, with buzz around LaFontaine future making its way around social media circles, Mike Harrington of the Buffalo news wrote about how LaFontaine was suspiciously absent from the previous night's activities and that this move may have been a flash point. LaFontaine was in favor of re-signing Miller, rather than trading him.
From the Buffalo News:
LaFontaine was also not seen nor heard from last night during the activity surrounding the trading of Ryan Miller and Steve Ott. LaFontaine, remember, spoke out strongly about the Sabres keeping Miller on multiple occasions. And for LaFontaine to not be seen on the night a face-of-the-franchise player like Miller was traded was highly unusual.
Discord involving LaFontaine could certainly speak to the trading of Miller or the unwillingness of either Murray or owner Terry Pegula to give interim coach Ted Nolan a contract extension. There was talk earlier this week such a move was imminent with Nolan but it has not materialized.
The last time LaFontaine was part of an NHL front office, it was with the New York Islanders in 2006. There, he was a senior advisor and Neil Smith was the team's new GM. But when Isles owner Charles Wang wanted to fire Smith only six weeks into his tenure, LaFontaine stood for the GM. When Garth Snow was named his replacement, LaFontaine stepped down after just 40 days with the organization.
The two situations are of a different nature, but the similar endings form a curious and questionable pattern. No matter the reasons for these two quick exits, you have to wonder if LaFontaine will ever be back in an NHL franchise front office again.