Apr 27, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella behind the bench against the New Jersey Devils during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Debunking Three Myths Behind Ron Rolston Being Named the Head Coach of the Buffalo Sabres


Feb. 23, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres head coach Ron Rolston watches from the bench during the first period against the New York Islanders at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the Buffalo Sabres announced that Ron Rolston would be the 16th head coach in team history, lifting the interim tag that had been applied to him when he moved up from the Rochester Americans back in February.

Fans immediately took to Twitter and the comments sections of websites and blogs . . . and their responses were not optimistic, to say the least.  Time for a sampler platter!

“This leaves a terrible taste in my mouth.”

“Less than excited.”

“The team is like a trailer full of manure at the moment.”

“Really???  Not even shop around see what’s available”

“Rolston, in my opinion [sic], is over his head in attempting to coach in the NHL”

“The Sabres needed more spice but once again get vanilla”

“Last time I checked . . . . The National Hockey League was not a ‘Development League.’  Rolston is a ‘Development Coach’ i.e. minor leaguers and 18 years boys”

“It is a pity for the fans that the Sabres once again go with mediocrity (coach) or even less than mediocrity (GM)”


I could go on – there’s a lot more skeptical, frustrated, downright angry, etc., comments out there regarding the decision to retain the services of Rolston.  Heck, even our very own Tim Redinger says that making Rolston the head coach was “the safe choice, not the right choice.”

To all of which I say:  folks, you’re wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.  Any questions?  Oh . . . I see.

Let’s address your concerns in an orderly fashion, then.

Concern #1: The Sabres Did Not Consider Speaking With Any Other Coaching Candidates

I could get into the whole “No one knows what goes on behind closed doors” nonsense, but that would be missing the point entirely.  Whether the Sabres went out and spoke to other potential coaches is irrelevant.  The Buffalo Sabres liked what they saw in Ron Rolston, so they gave him a job.  If you like what you have, there’s not much of a reason to go out and replace it, is there?

Who, exactly, did fans think the Sabres were going to go out and get?  I’ve heard people complain that the Sabres made this decision too soon, because someone like John Tortorella may be out of a job once his Rangers get eliminated from the NHL playoffs.  Everyone listen up, because I want to make this as clear as I can: no elite coach is going to come to Buffalo at this point in time.  We all want the Buffalo Sabres to become a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, and soon . . . but coaching a team that has missed the playoffs for two consecutive years, and  three out of the last five, doesn’t scream, “Dream job!” now does it?  You have to have a culture of winning – or at least have a team that, on paper, looks capable of winning – in order to entice an elite coach to come in and try to right the ship.  The Sabres do not have that yet, so why assume that a coach who could walk into almost any office in the NHL and land a job would choose to stand on the Sabres’ bench next season?  That’s unrealistic, and if you think like that, you’ve got a couple rough years ahead of you!

Besides: the Sabres have not picked a loser; they have chosen a coach with a history of winning.  Yes, his success so far has been at the collegiate, junior, and minor-league levels – but isn’t that how EVERY coach builds his way up to the pros?   Did the Sabres crumble under Rolston after he took over this season?  Did they compile a losing record?  Rolston inherited an average team AT BEST, and achieved a moral victory by at least getting them to .500 by the end of the season.  Who’s to say he won’t be a good coach at this level?  The man has proven to be a successful coach at every level he has worked so far; in my eyes, he’s earned the right to prove he can coach a full year in the NHL.

Concern #2: Hiring Rolston Means the Sabres Are In For Another Rebuild, But We Were Promised a Stanley Cup in Three Years!

Good lord – let it go already.

Professional sports and arrogant, unrealistic, and/or idiotic statements/predictions go hand in hand.  Mark Messier gets tons of credit for predicting that his New York Rangers were coming to win game six against the New Jersey Devils back in 1994, but only because his prediction came true.  How many bold predictions fall by the wayside because they didn’t come true?   The fact that Ted Black and Darcy Regier told fans that the Buffalo Sabres were on a three-year plan to win the Stanley Cup should mean NOTHING to any sports fan.  Every organization thinks that way.  Doesn’t mean it’s realistic.

Some of you won’t let that “promise” go, however, and you would prefer that the Sabres go out and try to entice a few big-name talents to come to Buffalo so the Sabres can win the Cup next year.  I’d like for that to happen, too – I am writing a series of posts that detail my wish list of players I would love to see play for the Sabres – but as I keep getting reminded from so many readers, none of the players I have written about would willingly choose to leave a good situation to come to Buffalo at this point.  Well, if none of the players on my wish list would want to come to Buffalo, what choice do the Sabres have BUT to rebuild?

If you guessed, “None,” you win!  Your _(insert fictional prize here)_ is in the mail!

The Sabres have the youngest team in the NHL, and they have a boatload of draft picks.  They have some great prospects in Mikhail

Apr. 22, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Mikhail Grigorenko (25) before a game against the Winnipeg Jets at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Grigorenko, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett.  Of course they are in for a rebuild – so deal.  Besides, what guarantees are there when it comes to free agents?  Pittsburgh looked like it won the lottery when they scored Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow earlier this year, but the Islanders are taking it to the Pens right now.  Going after free agents could actually set the Sabres back more than simply working with the young players they have.  Rolston has shown he has quite the knack for developing young talent, so Sabres fans ought to be excited about the next few years, instead of crying in their beers.

And please don’t tell me that Rolston fails to inspire veteran players.  If you’re a “veteran” player in the NHL, you should have zero need to be inspired by a coach.  That’s so high school; these guys are pros, and should be inspired to do their job because they are getting paid to play the game they love.  To paraphrase Monty Python, I fart in the general direction of that argument!

Concern #3: We Don’t Have Faith in Any Decision That Darcy Regier Makes

Okay – this one makes no sense, and no, I’m not a fan of Darcy.  But if Darcy had hired Patrick Roy, would you dislike the decision just because Darcy made it?  (The same Patrick Roy, by the way, that has NO NHL coaching experience to speak of?  What you win as a player does NOT equal being a winning coach.)

See where the logic breaks down?  You pan Rolston being picked because it was Darcy’s choice . . . but you can list four-five candidates you would have been okay with Regier choosing.  Folks: if you don’t trust Regier, you should be unhappy with ANY coach he picks.  End of debate.

The real problem here, Sabres’ fans, is NOT Ron Rolston; he did an admirable job last year.  You should be willing to see how well he does with a full season to instruct, game-plan, and coach an NHL team.

Mar 21, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres head coach Ron Rolston watches the action from the bench during the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the First Niagara Center. Sabres beat the Leafs 5-4 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

No, the real problem right now is that no one, and I mean no one, wants Darcy Regier to remain as the Sabres’ GM next year, so anything short of bringing in a superstar or big-name coach, neither of which are realistic possibilities, is going to upset the fanbase.  I don’t disagree with fans’ opinions of Regier, although I strongly oppose writing anything that calls for him to be canned.  (I sure wouldn’t want anyone writing that I should be fired, so I pass that courtesy along.)   Whether Regier remains GM next year or not, fans need to step back and assess Rolston for what he has done, and what he can do, and stop holding the fact that Regier was involved in this decision against him.   Making Ron Rolston the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres is not the safe choice – it is actually quite a risky one – but it is the right choice.


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