BUFFALO, N.Y. – After the Buffalo Sabres fired Lindy Ruff in February, they planned on an extensive off-season coaching search.
Once they saw Ron Rolston in charge, those plans quickly changed.
Rolston was hired as head coach of the Sabres on Tuesday, dropping the interim title he was given on Feb. 20. He becomes the 16th head coach in Sabres history.
“When we first brought Ron in as the interim coach that was the intention, to interview other candidates,” Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said. “As it progressed and seeing Ron’s interaction with the team, both as a teacher and a motivator … for me personally it became more and more evident that he was a very good fit not only for the present but for the future.”
Rolston was the only candidate considered for the job by the Sabres. He led Buffalo to a 15-11-5 record after being promoted from Buffalo’s AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. The team began the season with a 6-10-1 start that led to the firing of Ruff, the longtime Sabres coach. Ruff spent 16 years as coach of the Sabres and 10 years as a player.
“It’s both exciting and humbling to be the head coach of such a great organization,” Rolston said. “For me, coming in as an interim coach, it’s allowed me the opportunity to get familiar with the organization, the players, the capabilities and the potential here.”
The 46-year-old Rolston is known for his teaching abilities and attention to detail. He joined the Sabres organization in 2011 as coach of the Americans after spending seven seasons as head coach of USA Hockey’s national team development program. During that time, he became first coach to lead the U.S. Under-18 team to win three gold medals (2005, 2009, 2011).
He faces a difficult task in Buffalo. Rolston is charged with improving a team that has fallen on hard times after missing the post-season in four of the past six years. Last week at the season-ending press conference, Regier used the words “patience” and “suffering” while discussing the long-term turnaround.
“In life I think the big thing is struggling isn’t an option, I think it’s a requirement,” Rolston said. “From where we’re at, patience is a really hard thing for our society in general, especially with the fans in Buffalo, what kind of team they want to have. They expect something that we’re going to provide for them.
“So the patience is in the process of how we have to go about that and how we have to keep moving on the path that we’re on.”
Rolston takes over a young Sabres team that could get even younger. The status of Buffalo’s two best players, goalie Ryan Miller and leading scorer Thomas Vanek, is in question as the Sabres begin the rebuilding process. Regier hasn’t ruled out trading one or both as they enter the final year of their contracts.
“We would love to have them be a part of our opening day lineup, but they have decisions to make and from there the organization has to make decisions on how to move from that,” Rolston said.
Rolston has a multi-year contract that began when he took over as interim coach, Regier said. Neither would disclose the exact length of the deal.
Rolston expects to pick the rest of his coaching staff within the next week.