August 4, 1977 -- After a trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 1975, the Buffalo Sabres' steady progress had stalled with a pair of early playoff losses. The fall guy is usually the coach in that situation, and this was no different. Floyd Smith got the ax.
The replacement was something of a surprise, as Marcel Pronovost was picked on this day.
There was little doubt that Pronovost knew a lot about hockey. After all, he played 20 seasons in the NHL, and his career was capped in 1978 when he was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame. But Pronovost had never been a coach in the NHL. His only head coaching experience was one season (1972-73) with the Chicago Cougars of the World Hockey Association. He went 26-50-2 there.
But Pronovost had spent part of his career as a player in Toronto, where he performed under the watchful eye of Sabres general manager and coach Punch Imlach. Pronovost was hired.
His record seems reasonably good in hindsight. Buffalo had 105 points in 1977-78, although the Sabres had another early playoff exit that spring. The following fall, when Buffalo started its season 8-10-6 and the team growing more stale by the day, team ownership opted to let Imlach go. Pronovost went with him.
His final NHL coaching record: 52-29-23. His reward: he never got another head coaching job in the NHL.
--- Budd Bailey