The Sabres won their latest game, beating the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 in a shootout Tuesday, but still have won only four of their first 20 games. They opened the season with seven losses.
General Manager Darcy Regier was relieved of his duties. He had been the Buffalo general manager since 1997. In his 15 years with the team, the Sabres made the playoffs eight times, but only twice in the last six seasons.
Also leaving the team is Coach Ron Rolston, who took over last February on an interim basis when Lindy Ruff was fired. Rolston was named the full-time coach in May. His coaching record is 19-26-6.
Nolan previously coached the Sabres in 1995-96 and 1996-97, going 73-72 with 19 ties, and led the New York Islanders for two seasons from 2006-08, building a 74-68-21 record.
"Why now? I guess I just decided it was the time," team owner Terry Pegula said. "We worked together. Sometimes you get to the point where a change is needed. Darcy Regier had a heck of a run with the [Buffalo] Sabres. ... It's not like he was a failure."
The Sabres said they were creating a position titled "president of hockey operations" and named former Buffalo star player Pat LaFontaine to that position. LaFontaine played for Nolan when he first coached the Sabres.
LaFontaine was given full control of all aspects of the hockey operations department. He had been working with the NHL office since October as vice president of development and community affairs. He said he won't be the general manager but will lead the search for one.