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Who will LaFontaine hire as Buffalo’s next GM?

Nov 13, 2013, 3:04 PM EDT

Rick Dudley Getty Images

During his introductory presser as Buffalo’s new president of hockey operations, Pat LaFontaine said he has a shortlist of candidates for the club’s vacant GM gig.

So, who might be on the list?

Names have been bandied about and there’s no early word on who might be the leading candidate. To streamline things, we’ve compiled a list of who we think might be on that list.

Rick Dudley

Hiring Dudley would fit the theme of bringing ex-Sabres back into the fold. Dudley coached in Buffalo from 1989-92 and has extensive GM experience, having served in that role for Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Florida and Atlanta.

He’s currently working as Marc Bergevin’s assistant in Montreal.

Mike Peca

Another guy with serious ties to the Buffalo organization, the former captain is currently the head coach and GM of the Buffalo Jr. Sabres, an Ontario Junior A team owned by the NHL club.

Peca, along with Dudley, was pegged as a potential candidate for the vacant GM gig by ex-Sabre goalie and current TSN analyst Martin Biron.

Neil Smith

The architect of the Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup winning-team, Smith has a relationship with LaFontaine from their (brief) time together on Long Island. Smith was given the Isles GM gig in June 2006, only to be fired months later by owner Charles Wang.

LaFontaine, who had been hired as a senior adviser, quit his position in reaction to the Smith firing.

Mark Seidel, former assistant GM with OHL Erie and scout with the Minnesota Wild, said he “keeps hearing” Smith’s name come up regarding the Sabres’ gig.

Paul Fenton

David Poile’s right-hand man in Nashville has long been considered the next quality GM in waiting. The Poile managerial tree has already produced current Pens GM Ray Shero — winner of the 2013 NHL General Manger of the Year Award — and Fenton is largely credited with leading Nashville’s drafts from 2003-08, during which time they selected Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, Kevin Klein and Patric Hornqvist.

Jason Botterill

Botterill currently serves as Shero’s assistant in Pittsburgh and — surprise! — has ties to the Sabres organization, having played there from 2002-04. He’s known as the Pens’ cap specialist and has been instrumental in designing deals to keep a number of Pittsburgh’s high-priced players in place.


— Tom Fitzgerald, assistant to the general manager (Shero) in Pittsburgh.

— Julien BriseBois, Steve Yzerman’s assistant in Tampa Bay.

— Joe Will, Doug Wilson’s assistant in San Jose.

— Matthew Barnaby. I’m kidding, I’m kidding.

  1. canucks30 - Nov 13, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    What’s wrong with Barnaby?

    He has to be better than Garth Snow

  2. canucks30 - Nov 13, 2013 at 3:44 PM

    What? No love for Rob Ray?

  3. canucks30 - Nov 13, 2013 at 3:47 PM

    I hear Dominik Hasek is looking for work these days too.

  4. esracerx46 - Nov 13, 2013 at 3:49 PM

    Sabres fans are hoping it’s not Dudley. I really dislike when teams bring back their old players for managerial positions. It’s one thing if the guy is ready and qualified, but it’s another when he’s not. While Dudley is has had the GM job, I’m sure there is a good reason he was the Senators GM for only the 98/99 season and only with the Thrashers for the 2010/2011 season

    • canucks30 - Nov 13, 2013 at 3:56 PM

      You seemed to have glossed over his tenure in Florida.

      As did Mike Halford.

      • davebabychreturns - Nov 13, 2013 at 4:07 PM

        He was also GM of the Lightning from 99-02.

      • esracerx46 - Nov 13, 2013 at 6:30 PM

        Hey now, don’t blame me. Wikipedia didn’t say anything about Florida.

    • davebabychreturns - Nov 13, 2013 at 3:59 PM

      Can’t speak to the Senators situation but the Thrashers were purchased and moved to Winnipeg and cleaned house in order to bring in their own guys.

      Tough to fault Dudley with not being the chosen one in the eyes of a new owner, and a few players he acquired (ex-Blackhawks mostly) are still contributing to that team.

      I haven’t been paying attention to the reports of all of this but if Lafontaine is going to be the GM one day or at least pull the strings like Joe Sakic does in Denver (and he’s hired his own coach here, so it kind of looks like it) than a guy with a ton of NHL management experience would probably be a sensible hire for the organization.

    • bullwinkle88 - Nov 14, 2013 at 8:07 PM

      If you dislike teams bringing back old players, how do you feel about Lafontaine being here? I don’t know anyone who objects to that, so reconsider your statement.

      Dudley would be a great fit here. He has a lot of experience and a proven track record. I wanted him here years ago!

      • sabres711 - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:02 PM

        While in Tampa Bay, Dudley picked up an unwanted cast-off from Calgary named Martin St. Louis. Everyone said Marty was too small and would never make it in the NHL. Dudley gave him a chance and see what happened. He probably had a hand in gathering several players for their 2004 Stanley Cup team. For the Sabres, I think the key going forward will be good drafts, considering all the picks they have stockpiled.

  5. darksidecowboy - Nov 13, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    Maybe the Sabres need more “truculence” = Brian Burke

    • bullwinkle88 - Nov 14, 2013 at 8:12 PM

      Ahhhhhhhhh – no thanks.

  6. billsin20xx - Nov 13, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    -I have been wondering if Dudley is under contact with Montreal would hey even let him go to the Sabre’s in the middle of the season, even if it is a promotion?
    LaFontaine also mentioned his top choice had Stanley Cup experience and has worked with multiple teams, which eliminates many on your list. It doesn’t eliminate on not on your list, Brian Burke – but I hope it isn’t him.
    Gee, it also doesn’t eliminate a Buffalo resident, Scotty Bowman…

    It would be funny if it was Peca, then two guys Regier ran out of town (Nolan and Peca) would be with the organization. Technically he also ran LaFountaine out too, but that was the right move when he insisted on playing with his concussion problems.

    • djp189 - Nov 13, 2013 at 6:48 PM

      Generally, Teams can not block someone who is an assistant GM from changing teams for a GM job.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Nov 13, 2013 at 7:04 PM

      I think it’s going to be Neil Smith, he was on Hockey Central at Noon Flames edition today and openly said that he would call the guys in Buffalo and that he wants the job, not sure he would just come out and flat out say that unless he were actually in line to get the job.

  7. dumbassgreg - Nov 13, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    Lafontaine was just on prime time sports. the guy he wants is working for another team now. hopes team will let him leave. probably an assistant gm like Dudley, fenton etc. could just hire peca or smith now they probably possible hires if he can’t get his first choice.

    • mjw9326mjw9326 - Nov 14, 2013 at 2:47 PM

      Why is Peca seriously qualified to be an NHL GM? Other than coaching the Jr. Sabres and being GM now, he has no experience. He has been out of the league for years and never coached pros even as far as I know. Most of the assistants are not that exciting. Nashville got a hand full of solid guys, could not keep them all and never went to the finals even. They seem to be regressing.
      My vote is still for Rick Dudley. He has been part of building winners consistently, is well versed in today’s game and the players and has a home in Western New York, north of Buffalo. I think he would be my first choice.

    • mjw9326mjw9326 - Nov 14, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      Neil Smith has done nothing really since the Ranger’s one season. Last I looked, Mark Messier is not suiting up for anyone these days. Without him, there would be no cup that year.
      Peca has nothing with NHL experience in a front office on his resume. Coaching a Junior A lower level team does not cut it for me. As for Burke, Absolutely not . No way. He did not get the job done in Vancouver or in Toronto. Why would he do so now?

    • bullwinkle88 - Nov 14, 2013 at 8:09 PM

      Looks like, smells like, and tastes like Dudley to me.

  8. djp189 - Nov 13, 2013 at 6:58 PM

    Don’t see Dudley or Peca.

    Dudley would have been more likely if they waited until after the 2015 draft. At that point they would be looking to. Then make trades of which Dudley seems to be better with.

    Dudley was let go because of the new owners cleaning house with Winnipeg. It had nothing to do with Dudley personally.

    Other names to add…Larry Carriere from Montreal And the assistant GM in Chicago,

    Previously under Darcy there was a falling out between a few former sabres front office personnel and him ( IIRC). These were former sabres players in Terry Martin and Don Luce. Those two along with a few others around the league could come back and me part of the GM staff.

    • leninthebuff - Nov 13, 2013 at 7:21 PM

      My concern would be can Dudley and Nolan co-exsist. Two strong personalities but maybe Nolan will sing a different tune this time around.

      • bullwinkle88 - Nov 14, 2013 at 8:10 PM

        That would be the only way it would work. Maybe Nolan has learned his lesson after being blackballed by the league.

        Other than that, get someone else.

  9. djp189 - Nov 14, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    The new GM will decide who will be his coach in the off-season. Nolan knows that whomever takes the job could opt to not hire him. He was willing to take the job.Many out there would not do that.

    • mjw9326mjw9326 - Nov 14, 2013 at 2:50 PM

      I am thinking he took the Interim job so that if he demonstrated he could at least get these guys to ply hard and win some games, even if he did not stick around as coach, he might get a job elsewhere.

    • bullwinkle88 - Nov 14, 2013 at 8:04 PM

      He took the job in a heartbeat because he’s been blackballed by the NHL after his attempted coup when Muckler was in charge.

      Whomever gets the GM job (my personal favorite is Dudley), I hope they dump Nolan.

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