I’ve been asked a few times as to where Buffalo would go with a new coach. Personally, I think there is only one answer to this, as for this season.
Ron Rolston, as interim coach, to finish the season.
One of the benefits I have is living where I can get to both Sabres and Amerks games on a regular basis. I’ve watched Rochester numerous times this season. They play the style of hockey that Buffalo needs to utilize in their game play. When watching Rochester play, you can see the glaring differences, compared to Buffalo. Plus, Rolston has the Amerks 2nd in the division, 4 points out of first place as of this morning.
First, Rochester has fairly fast breakouts, and make quick efficient decisions with the puck. The players also use their speed. As soon as Rochester obtains possession of the puck in their own end, they are heading towards their opponents cage, and quickly. In turn, Rochester gets some good odd man rushes. When’s the last time anyone has seen a good odd man rush for Buffalo? Not against them, that happens every night.
Second, the offensive players are constantly circling. They aren’t just standing still waiting for the shot to come. They create space on the ice, and buy themselves time to set up the play. Buffalo has a knack for standing still, shifting a little bit, and then turning the puck over because the defenders barely have to move to intercept the puck.
Third, There is none of this namby pamby stuff going on. If a player for the Amerks gets smoked, or there’s a dirty hit, the perpetrator better be ready, because someone is going to be standing up to him. There's a certain level of loyalty amongst players, and they stand up for each other. Buffalo has improved on this, but not to where they need to be.
Fourth, Rochester has a very aggressive forecheck, and back check. If an opponent is heading into the corner, there will be an Amerk right on his behind. Doesn't matter what end the puck is in. Plus, there's always more than 1 player heading into the corners.
Finally, The Amerks play smart defensively. Even in a loss, I’ve watched the Amerks have a very tight defense network, which is where all of the offense starts from in the first place. As the opponents leave their end, heading towards the Amerks goal, the Amerks slowly eliminate the space between them, and the oncoming rushers. About the time that the opponents hit the blue line, there is little to no space, and the puck is dumped into the corner. As the puck is dumped into the corner, it becomes a race for the puck, and a good scoring chance is temporarily averted. The Amerks are also challenging their opponents when they are on the offensive attack, forcing them to make decisions quickly, that may not be fore the best. This in turn creates turnovers, and sends the Amerks on the attack.
I’ve watched the Amerks quite a few times this season, and I’m impressed with what I saw. Even when they have lost, they don’t look too bad (borrowing the occasional blow out). Plus, the Amerks are still competing despite a) Injuries (remember, not an excuse!) and b) Having it’s star players called up to Buffalo. It’s in the style of play that is coached that helps a team win.
Ron Rolston has gotten the Amerks to play this way on a nightly basis. Why not the Sabres? I stand by this, the Sabres have the pieces for a championship run. They are in Buffalo right now. They’re just not playing in a system that works. Get rid of Ruff from behind the bench, maybe promote him to GM? Maybe? Just a thought.
If Rolston delivers, give him the job. However, if not, then I would encourage Buffalo to do an extensive coaching search in the off season, and send Rolston back down to Rochester.