By Allan Muir
There won't be many Buffalo Sabres fans left slack-jawed at the news that the team has removed the "interim" from Ron Rolston's title and made the team's head coach for next season.
Rolston, who stepped behind the bench in February when Lindy Ruff was let go after more than 14 seasons on the job, did nothing during the stretch run to prove that he wasn't up to the task. The Sabres, who were 6-10-1 when he took over, finished on a 15-11-5 kick. Not good enough to make the playoff cut in the Eastern Conference, but enough of an improvement to suggest that he could be part of the solution.
Rolston earned a reputation as a strong teacher while coaching Buffalo's AHL affiliate in Rochester. That will be key to his success moving forward. The Sabres were young this year, and they could be even younger next season, especially if general manager Darcy Regier decides to part with impending free agents Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller. If the plan is to hothouse the organization's top prospects in Buffalo next year, Rolston's ability to instill a strict structure will be tested. Now that this position has been settled, it'll be interesting to see how Rolston mans the rest of his bench. He inherited Ruff's assistants when he arrived, but it's expected that he'll want to name his own staff. The fates of James Patrick, Teppo Numminen, Kevyn Adams and Jim Corsi could be announced at the press conference confirming Rolston's hiring later this morning.