Unlike the Buffalo Bills, who change head coaches every three years, the Buffalo Sabres found themselves in a position they haven’t been in since Bill Clinton was in office – searching for a new head coach.
The Sabres tabbed Ron Rolston, then-coach of the Sabres’ AHL affiliate Rochester Americans, as interim head coach. The key word there is “interim”, meaning the Sabres could search for a new head coach as soon as the season is over … but should they?
Since taking over for Lindy Ruff, Rolston has a record of 10-8-5 — not exactly lighting the NHL world on fire. The Sabres have also been prone to very streaky play, having two win streaks of three games and are currently in their second losing streak of at least four game (with a game against the Montreal Canadiens about to start).
While the team has not seen major improvement, it has seen some, which is particularly impressive considering the condensed schedule due to the lockout.
The Sabres have also seen a good amount of roster turnover since Rolston took over. They traded three defensemen, two of whom were constant starters in Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold. Longtime Sabre Jason Pominville, and captain at the time, was the last move the Sabres made prior to the deadline.
Thus far Rolston, has done an admirable job with the odds stacked against him. While he hasn’t brought the Sabres into playoff consideration, he has made them more competitive, and done so with much less talent on the squad.
In fact, the Sabres’ leading scorer Thomas Vanek has been injured for a good chunk of Rolston’s tenure. That, in itself, would probably be enough for the Sabres to remove the “interim” modifier that precedes “head coach.”
However, Rolston still will have to prove himself in the offseason. If Ruff was fired, then GM Darcy Regier, who has perpetually been on the hot seat since losing both Chris Drury and Daniel Briere to free agency years ago, must also be close to losing his job. Usually, if a new GM is brought in, he wants to stamp his own name on the franchise, which doesn’t usually include retaining the coaching staff.
Rolston should remain the head coach for the Sabres. Having been the coach of the Americans for a year and a half before being named Sabres coach, he has intimate knowledge of most of the prospects’ strengths and weaknesses. His former coaching duties included being the head coach of the US National Team Development Program for seven years.
Rolston is organized and clearly a good developer of talent. If the Sabres are serious about rebuilding through the draft and acquisition of prospects, there probably isn’t a better coach out there to develop all the young and upcoming talent that will make up their roster for the next couple years.