Former Jack Adams Award winner with the Buffalo Sabres, Ted Nolan, is back in the game as a head coach but it’s not in the NHL.
Nolan accepted the job as head man for Team Latvia’s hockey team and he’ll help them gear up for future World Championships and eventually the 2014 Olympics. While it was rumored that Mike Keenan was being sought out for the job last week, it ends up being Nolan that takes the job.
Nolan’s job isn’t going to be easy. Latvia finished 13th at the 2011 IIHF World Championships and avoided being sent down to IIHF Division I after surviving the relegation round. As for what Latvia was looking for in a coach, James Mirtle makes note from the Latvian hockey president what they were looking for.
“We were looking for a neutral, authoritative coach with lots of experience and good hockey knowledge,” Latvian Hockey President Kirovs Lipmans said. “This is exactly what we found with Ted Nolan.”
Nolan will be the first North American to coach Team Latvia since 1939 and for him, the cupboard of NHL talent is sparse. The current Latvian NHLers is a short list and unimpressive to say the least. Defensemen Oskars Bartulis, Karlis Skrastins, and Arturs Kulda as well as forward Raitis Ivanans are the only four in the league and Ivanans missed most of last season with a concussion and is still dealing with the effects from that. These are good reasons why Latvia is currently ranked 12th in the world in hockey and why Nolan is getting the call to try and make something out of nothing.
The brand of hockey Nolan will bring is a tough, defensive one that can have great success on the international stage. Nolan can have a tough demeanor, however, and how that works with a foreign team will be curious to see. Despite Nolan’s successes as a head coach in the NHL, he’s only coached for four seasons (two each with Buffalo and New York) twice leading teams to the playoffs.
His record as a coach was solid going 147-140 with 19 ties and 21 overtime losses as well, but issues with the front offices in both Buffalo and Long Island led to his demise. While Buffalo did well moving on from Nolan to Lindy Ruff, the Islanders haven’t made the playoffs again since Nolan took them there in 2007. Here’s to hoping Nolan can work his magic in Riga, Latvia and get a proud country to be competitive once again.