Ron Rolston: Right for the job?

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Many fans thought that when Ron Rolston was named the interim head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, he would be just that. Following the regular season, many people were speculating as to who the new Sabres head coach would be, but not many felt it would be Rolston. Following today’s press conference, there now is no doubt that Ron Rolston is the new head coach of the Buffalo Sabres.

In the coming hours and days, many different people will give their input on whether or not Rolston is the right man for the job but looking back on Rolston’s career track record and the Sabres current direction, there might not be a better man for the job.

Rolston began his head coaching career when he joined the United States National Team Developmental Program (NTDP) in 2004.

In that first season coaching the NTDP, Rolston coached the U-18 team to the Gold Medal in the World U-18 Championship. That team would feature six NHL first-round Entry Level draft picks including Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel, Panthers forward Peter Mueller, Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson, and Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson. That team also included current Sabres forward Nathan Gerbe.

The following season, Rolston coached the NTDP’s U-17 team that would go on to yield 9 first-round NHL Entry Level draft picks, including Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, Predators forward Colin Wilson and Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

When the aforementioned group of players moved on in their respective careers, Rolston would inherit a new team on the U-17 level. The following year, Rolston would follow that team to U-18 and coach them to the Gold Medal at the World U-18 Championship in 2009. This win would bring Rolston his second U-18 Gold Medal. Seven of those NTDP members would go onto win the 2010 World Junior Championship, the second time in USA Hockey history that the United States would win the Gold Medal at the World Junior Championship.

Rolston has been lauded by players and coaches at every level at which he has been employed. When speaking about Rolston, recent NTDP member Cole Bardreau stated that Rolston “didn’t make the game complicated,” when speaking to Democrat and Chronicle’s Kevin Oklobzija. “He was a straight shooter and he just makes the game simple.”

Even heading into this year’s NHL Entry Level Draft, Rolston’s fingerprint will be visible. The consensus top prospect in this year’s draft, defenseman Seth Jones, spent time with Rolston in the NTDP. Jones was a part of helping Ron Rolston win his third Gold Medal at the 2011 World U-18 Championship. Following the Gold Medal victory, 10 of the teams’ members mirrored the 2009 squad, and went on to win the Gold Medal at the 2011 World Junior Championship.

When Rolston made the move to Rochester, the excellent player development continued. One of the most evident success stories was Marcus Foligno and his seemingly simple jump from Rochester to Buffalo. Most of Foligno’s maturing has been accredited to Rolston’s ability to developing young prospects.

With General Manager Darcy Regier openly stating that the Sabres are headed in a direction of a rebuild, Ron Rolston becoming the full-time head coach seems like a step in the right direction.

“I think that, starting with when he took over the hockey club, I was very impressed with the work he did individually and with the players,” said Regier. “Ron is very prepared, and has really touched the game in a lot of different areas from junior-aged players, collegiate, AHL professionals, and now the National Hockey League.”

To put in perspective as to how important Rolston has become to the Sabres organization, he signed a “long-term contract extension”  last February to remain within the organization.

We would find out today that Darcy Regier originally slated for Rolston to finish the season as the interim head coach only to return to Rochester for next season. In no shorter terms, Regier stated that Rolston won him, and the job, over. “It became more and more evident that he was a very good fit, not only for the present, but for the future,” said Regier regarding the move.

With a plethora of young talent developing in the AHL and other leagues, Rolston has a phenomenal opportunity to build something special here in Buffalo. It might take some time, but the payout could be exponentially better than the struggle to get better.


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