By John Vogl
TORONTO -- Ron Rolston has been coach of the Sabres for less than 24 hours, but he's seen the team play and watched video. He knows the early struggles can't solely be pinned on fired coach Lindy Ruff.
"From what I saw, it was more of just a lot of shortcuts, a lot of shortcuts, a lot of rest in shifts, the things that you just have to eliminate if you’re going to be a good hockey team," Rolston said in Air Canada Centre today after running his first on-ice session as Buffalo's bench boss. "Most importantly, it’s just getting back to that. It’s getting back to work and getting back to eliminating shortcuts from your game because there’s not a whole lot of time."
With that, the Rolston era was under way.
The 46-year-old replaced Ruff on Wednesday and will make his debut tonight against the Maple Leafs. He quickly joked that coaching in the Centre of the Hockey Universe is a lot different than being with the Amerks.
"It looks like the same media coverage, I think, as Rochester, so I should be right at home," he said with a smile to a room packed with cameras and audio recorders. "It’s just a great opportunity, obviously, and I’m excited about it. I mean, where would you want to start other than Toronto and the tradition here and what this city means to hockey? I’m certainly excited for the challenge."
While Ruff had a reputation as a fiery coach, Rolston figures he'll be regarded as a more analytical leader. Players have praised his teaching ability as important to their careers and their teams' successes.
"I'm a big believer in him as a coach," said Toronto forward James van Riemsdyk, who played under Rolston with the United States National Team Development Program. "I think he made me into the player that I am today. He took me from someone who kind of had a lot of raw abilities and helped mold me into some of the skills I've been able to develop over the years. I can't say enough good things about him."
Rolston was preparing for Rochester's home game against Texas on Wednesday afternoon when the phone rang. It was Sabres and Amerks General Manager Darcy Regier and owner Terry Pegula, who delivered the news about Ruff's dismissal and Rolston's promotion.
"It was a good thing I was sitting down at the time," Rolston said. "I wasn’t expecting it, so certainly it was surprising. It was surprising for me. I think you work your whole career to get an opportunity like this. I’ve been in Rochester for a year and a half now, so I wasn’t sure when that opportunity was come.
"My job as a coach and my goal has always been to just do the absolute best job you can wherever you’re at."
To hear more from Rolston, van Riemsdyk and Sabres forward Marcus Foligno, who played for Rolston in Rochester last season, click the audio files below.
James van Riemsdyk
taggedRon Rolston | T.J. Brennan