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SABRES ARE IN NO HURRY TO DECIDE SATOR'S FATE COULD MEEHAN GET BETTER MAN?

Why is everyone in a dither about Ted Sator's status with the Buffalo Sabres? Sator is under contract for at least another month and there is no pressing need to fire him unless the Sabres can assure themselves of doing better.

Some of the best coaching talent available is just beginning to come on to the market this time of year. Even if the Sabres waited until the NHL Congress in June, it would hardly be too late to make a move.

Two of the best candidates rumored to be available -- Montreal's Pat Burns and Calgary assistant Tom Watt, were working up until Thursday. Many others are waiting to see how the post Stanley Cup market shapes up.

Besides, the Sabres have never ruled out Sator's return. General Manager Gerry Meehan's charge is to find the best man available for the job. That means he would have to find a man capable of taking the team higher than Sator's top 10 finishes the past two seasons.

Unless an obvious answer comes along -- a Super Coach, if you will -- finding such a man is a difficult chore. Any new man would have to be good enough to overcome Sator's built in advantages -- knowledge of team personnel, etc. -- and still take the team further than Sator already has. That might sound easy, but it's not.

Despite that, rumors continue to swirl about Sator's future.

Sources in Detroit maintain that former Sabre Rick Dudley is an odds-on favorite to replace Sator. Gilbert Perreault's name continues to pop up in rumor-rich Montreal. Others mentioned include Watt, former Calgary coach Bob Johnson, former Windsor Spitfires coach Tom Webster and Niagara Falls native Rick Ley.

Rumors that Burns will leave the Canadiens simply refuse to fade. Los Angeles still surfaces as the likely destination, but others insist that job will go to Detroit assistant Colin Campbell or Calgary assistant Doug Risebrough.

More help wanted

Hartford Whalers General Manager Ed Johnston is said to have received permission to discuss his vacant coaching position with Edmonton Oilers assistant coach Ted Green, who recently backed away from an offer from the Winnipeg Jets.

Also said to be up for consideration in Hartford are Ley, Johnson, former Winnipeg coach Rick Bowness, former Pittsburgh coach Bob Berry, Lorne Henning, Webster and former Bruins assistant John Cunniff.

Ley is rumored to be the front runner, but Berry and Johnson are capable of unseating him.

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