Rolston sheds interim tag, named Sabres bench boss

Perhaps you’ve heard. Ron Rolston was officially named as head coach this morning after what I can only assume was a tiresome, no stone unturned coaching search.

Darcy Regier has tabbed Rolston as the man to lead the Sabres for at least the 2013-14 season as they begin to retool and rebuild a roster that carried the organization to the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft. While Rolston isn’t the sexy choice to fill the role as permanent head coach, he isn’t necessarily the wrong choice – which is what many Sabres fans out there likely believe.

Rolston’s skillset is that of a teacher. He led the USNTDP team for a number of years before coming to the Sabres organization to coach and develop young talent in Rochester. Lindy Ruff’s firing put him in a bad spot as his time as interim coach came with muddled success and a roster that did not meet the standards of a competitive NHL team.

That last point is the one that happy, apathetic and angry fans need to focus on. A flawed roster not only helped lead to the firing of Lindy Ruff, but gave Rolston a weak hand to play during his time as the interim head coach. Rolston was kept on as head coach by the man who made the decisions to build this roster and that man is still in charge. Darcy Regier hasn’t lost his Teflon coating just yet and is preparing to lead a rebuild that will kick into high gear at the draft. Whether or not Regier is the right man for the job is the more pressing question and should be of greater concern than who is going to be behind the bench this season.

The debate over Regier’s effectiveness and whether or not he deserves to still have a job at One Seymour H Knox III Plaza is a lengthy one and is slowly but surely filling towards the negative. Realize that Rolston, who was ultimately chosen by Regier, isn’t necessarily the worst person for this job. Continue reading

A new path for the Sabres as Ruff’s time ends

After 170 coaches came and went since Lindy Ruff was first hired, the time finally came for the Sabres organization to take things in a different direction. It certainly seems like an overdue decision.

Lindy Ruff truly is a terrific hockey coach. It was said by Ted Black that no one has done so much with so little over the past number of years. You really can’t contend with that logic. Calling the shots for a club handcuffed by an internal budget, forced to deal with trade deadline acquisitions that often left many wanting more, Ruff was able to cobble together a number of impressive campaigns.

Perhaps his most impressive work came before the lockout when the Sabres were truly hampered by their lack of an owner and further lack of talent on the ice. His post-lockout success has been intermittent but still significant. A pair of conference finals and a President’s Trophy was built on the strength of a deep, talented roster that keyed on a puck possession system. Two further playoff berths came with an arguably lesser roster but were visibly stamped with Ruff’s brand of hockey.

Of course it was probably that brand of hockey that may have done him in. The post-Drury/Briere era has been riddled with inconsistency and bland hockey. More often than not fans and media reverted to pointing at the stale message coming from behind the bench or the front office as the same ugly issues cropped up year after year.

This season was no different. An inconsistent stat devolved to a tailspin that needs to be corrected. The team hasn’t been able to defend or provide consistent scoring. The same slumping players are experiencing the same slumps they have over the past handful of seasons with no answer as to how to snap them into reality. At his press conference yesterday, Ruff truly looked like a man with no answers.

For the first time in his long tenure I truly thought he was at the end of his rope. Turns out that was exactly where he was. The past five seasons have come with two playoff berths but have also been accompanied by mismanaged goaltenders, the lack of progress from young players and long spells of listless, uninspired play. Sixteen more games of the same song was finally enough and I can’t say I’m in disagreement. Continue reading