Not much can be learned from the past season that was the 2012-2013, technically just 2013, season. A lot of the games were lost, some that could have been crucial to the standings. Not just for Buffalo, but for the whole league.
One-Third of the season, Buffalo dealt with woes connected to a controversy that was the Buffalo Sabres coaching. Lindy Ruff, after 15 years, was released as our head coach. The NHL’s longest tenured coach, out.
Enter Ron Rolston.
Almost immediately, Rolston got the call up to the majors. Filling in as the interim role, it would certainly be interesting to see what a current AHL coach would have to bring to a declining team in the NHL. Now taking over a rather young team, sprinkled with a few older players, the mess he had to clean up would be, in a true “Miracle” sense, “a lofty goal.”
Taking a look at his resume, Rolston has definitely got what it takes, even though his experience behind an NHL bench is equal to the number of Stanley Cup banners hanging in the FNC’s banners.
In his hockey career, Rolston has served as the Assistant Coach in colleges such as Boston College, Harvard University, Clarkson University, and Lake Superior State University.
Rolston has also been the boss behind the United States National Team Development Program from 2004-2011. He became the first coach to lead the United States U-18 team to three gold medals in 2005, 2009, and 2011.
His next stop, Rochester.
Finding himself behind the bench in the Sabres system, coaching the younger upbringings for the future seemed like the perfect job for him due to his attention to the education of the younger players to play a smarter game. Finding a perfect fit with the team who drafts young with a look at the far future.
After starting the season at an abysmal 6-10-1, Rolston took the reign’s, and almost hit immediately with doubt as the team lost it’s first two games under Rolston’s control, a 3-1 decision to Toronto and a blanking 4-0 loss to the Islanders. Rolston took over and led the team to a 15-11-5 record after that.
But how about we just call that his grace period? Okay? Whether or not it may have been luck, he still led the team to a positive record under his control.
Quick to assert control, Rolston didn’t think twice to shake the lineups, he didn’t fear that breaking chemistry between the one powerful line that worked, spread some of the talent around and get our 3rd and 4th lines to contribute, little or more, any bit helped.
Finally, the new coach got a win he deserved, and another, and another. Just like that, three straight wins, something that the team had not been able to do yet this short season, and they did it.
However, successes by the team at this point were shadowed rather quickly, as the team fell into another 4 game skid. But that didn’t mean little things didn’t get better.
Players who seemed to just “exist” on the roster, bloomed when they came under the coaching of Rolston. The best example, Mike Weber.
Before he took over, Weber played in only about three-fourths of each season in the NHL. He didn’t play in the teams first five games this season, when Ruff was still the head coach, as he was a healthy scratch.
When he came back he missed only one other game due to an upper body injury. Playing the other 42 games in stride.
During the middle portion of last season, along with praise from Coach Rolston, Weber was made out to be a leader in the dark times.
That is what I want in a head coach, Ruff did it early on, but his motivation slowly dropped off in the last 3-4 years, and in small amounts even before that. Rolston, who has worked with young guys for all of his career, knows just what to do to make leaders out of players you wouldn’t expect.
But just what does he have to offer that Ruff didn’t?
Let’s take a look. Most of the players who will take the ice in training camp are all young guns. Kids who haven’t had time to see the NHL yet, kids who have played in the American’s system under Rolston.
The good thing about Rolston is that he brings a fresh sense of vitality to the dressing room. He is well equipped with the intelligence and mindset to mold and construct a winning combination out of the youth in the system. Which is a great asset to have and use in the current rebuild that we have entered.
When it comes to training camp and preseason, my expectations are that a lot of the attention will be taken off of the current state of Vanek and Miller, the upcoming games that lay ahead of us, who our big scorer will be, or if we are going to make the playoffs or not. Instead, I expect the attention to be very focused on the young players who got a small taste of the NHL the last few years, the roster spots sitting in Rochester, or the recent draftees who could very well be leading the team in the future.
Rolston is a younger coach, with an experience in younger development, in a consistently younger-growing game. Catch the theme?
Young. That is the key.
Throw in the veterans we have, with the young guys we have, and with Rolston leading a fresher charge, we shouldn’t have a problem growing more and more as the season carries on.
With the addition of an assistant coach like Joe Sacco, the Sabres show great attention to developing the younger style players. With the hiring of Sacco, time will only tell if the young players will prosper or fall. But with two minds thinking this much alike, I am personally excited to see what the future prospects will bring us.
Comments, as always, are welcome!
My question for you, the readers, are the Sabres heading up? Or down? Is our coaching worthy? Let me know!