BUFFALO – Ted Nolan only coached Boston Bruins pest Brad Marchand one season, 88 total games in 2005-06. Still, the year under the interim Sabres coach changed his career.
Marchand was 17 years old, heading into his draft season, when Nolan took over the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Moncton Wildcats.
“He really helped me understand more about the pro life, how the pros have to play the game and what you have to do to get to the next level, the way you carry yourself on and off the ice,” Marchand said Thursday prior to scoring twice in the Bruins’ 4-2 loss against the Sabres inside the First Niagara Center. “I took so much away from playing for him. I don’t think I’d be here today if he didn’t coach me that year.”
Marchand said he’s “very happy” Nolan’s back in the NHL.
“He was by far one of my favorite coaches,” he said. “I learned a lot from him. He brings so much to the game. I’m sure the guys in Buffalo enjoy having him. He’s a great coach to play for.”
What makes Nolan so effective at communicating with his players?
“I don’t know how he does it,” Marchand said. “But it just seems he can understand how to treat each guy and how every guy has to be treated differently. Some people can’t do that. Some coaches don’t know how to do that. He finds a way to bring the best out of every guy. He’s so good at reading people and talking to people it’s incredible.”
Of course, Marchand’s famous for running his mouth on the ice. But the winger would never say anything to Nolan.
“Definitely not a guy I’d chirp,” he said. “I definitely respect him a lot.”
Nolan, whose Wildcats lost in the Memorial Cup final, called Marchand a “perfect Boston Bruin.”
“He’s a competitive guy,” Nolan said. “People asked me back when we lost to Patrick Roy in the finals with (the) Quebec Remparts if I could do one thing differently. Probably the only thing differently is maybe having a 19-year-old Brad Marchand instead versus 17-year-old Brad Marchand.”
John Scott, defenseman? Believe it. Nolan sounds interested in switching the tough guy from the wing back to his natural position.
Scott spent the last two days practicing as defenseman, something he does occasionally. The 31-year-old changed positions after cracking the NHL.
“He’s a big man,” Nolan said. “He can cover a lot of ice. Maybe we’ll attempt to try him back there at one point.”
Nolan, in perhaps a bit of gamesmanship against a rival, said Thursday morning Scott would be a game-time decision. He skated in the warm-up but was scratched for the second straight contest.
“We’ve been working with him the last couple days,” Nolan said. “We’ll see. Everybody played well last (game). It depends on the mood before the game, I guess.”
If Boston enforcer Shawn Thornton wasn’t suspended, Scott likely would’ve dressed.
Scott joked Thursday morning he would be skating big minutes.
“Yup, I’m in on defense tonight,” cracked Scott, drawing laughter. “It’s me and (Christian) Ehrhoff, No. 1 pairing.”
Nolan’s confident Scott can play defense.
“I think he looks good,” Nolan said. “Defense, you just got to move the puck up, or if you’re in trouble, ring it around the boards. He’s a big man that can cover a lot of ice. He’s an intelligent guy, too, so he should be able to pick it up.”
Notes: Sabres defense prospect Rasmus Ristolainen (concussion) practiced Thursday and will be leaving the Americans to play for Finland at the upcoming world junior championship, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. … The Sabres also scratched defenseman Chad Ruhwedel. … Sabres center Matt Ellis played his 200th game with the club.