The Interim


We’re all in this together.

Ron Rolston is the new interim coach, and his Sabres are currently basking in the glow of their sweep of the Sunshine State.

Rolston, as it was announced by Darcy Regier, is here as an interim coach. He’s on a tryout. He’s been tweaking a few things. Tinkering. Trying to get The Most Inconsistently Working Team in Hockey working again. He’s a very knowledgeable man, and I wish him the best of luck. But this is a try-out for him.

Nothing is guaranteed for Rolston, and the same should be said for the rest of the Sabres.

Darcy Regier has had some swell drafts. He’s pulled off some great trades. But like Lindy, he’s been here an awfully long time. And like Lindy, he was given an extension to see if he could turn this tiresome old core of players into a playoff, or, dare I say, Stanley Cup team (after all, isn’t that the plan, to win it all in 3 years)? Well, we all know what happened to Ruff. He couldn’t get his boys to play effective hockey on the ice. Pegula gave him a season. He was canned, and Regier is still hanging on.

Ruff was the first piece, and likely the biggest piece, of the Old Core to go. His firing was a huge statement, an indictment really, on the Old Core. Everyone else remaining should now consider themselves on notice.

It should makes sense for Pegula to wait and see if Rolston can succeed where Lindy failed, with the players that Regier brought to Buffalo. Common sense tells us that if the losses and sloppy play continue, Regier’s try-out should be over at the end of the season, too.

And what of those boys donning the Blue and Gold? Don’t kid yourselves by thinking that any of them are untouchable.

Vanek is having the season of his life. Jason Pominville, though in a bit of a slump, has been arguably the most consistent forward of this core for years. The chemistry between the two is remarkable. All that is wonderful, but not on a losing team – and not when their contracts expire to the free market after next season. (And yes, you can add Ryan Miller and his stellar play to that year’s Sabres’ UFA crop, which could be the biggest exodus of heroes since… well… Briere and Drury.)

I’d like to see them stick around, but we need to win that Cup. If Vanek, Pominville, and Miller can be reasonably a part of a Cup run, sometime in the future, then hope for extensions. I can’t say they are in any kind of try-out here, but this stage of their careers certainly has a certain interim feel about it. We may want them here, but their value may be actually in the trade market. Heck, they may not even see a Cup in their future here, and want to go to a blue chip team when their contract is up. I certainly wouldn’t hold it against them.

The rest of the roster is interim, interim, interim. The defense is deep, and runs with talent all the way from Buffalo to Rochester. Right now, even though they are all fighting for ice time, they cannot seem to play like a cohesive group for three periods. It’s as if they are all feeling the pressure of making this team. Go figure.

The forwards are an interesting bunch. Down the middle, Hodgson, Ennis and Grigorenko all show promising futures on the offensive side of the game – not so much on the defensive side. It doesn’t make any sense to keep all three. The Sabres desperately need a strong defensive center, a Selke type guy. None of these three have that mojo. Good luck to them on their try-out. One of them has got to go.

Ruff was the first piece, and likely the biggest piece, of the Old Core to go. His firing was a huge statement, an indictment really, on the Old Core. Everyone else remaining should now consider themselves on notice.

The rest of the roster is likely, and should be, for sale. Can Nathan Gerbe and Drew Stafford ever regain their offense on any consistent level? Will Marcus Foligno rediscover his barging offensive game under Rolston? Will the injured Ville Leino even get to play one try-out game with the team this season, or will he be traded/bought out over the summer? There are so many questions over this team.

So many mysteries over why a core like this, which has been together for so much, for so long, can’t go out and play 60. It’s those questions that Regier will be looking to solve as the season lulls us along. Terry Pegula wanted short term and long term success with all player movement. So far, the short term has been a disaster. It’s time for a hard focus solely on the long term.

Unfortunately, that long term will likely be longer than the previously trumpeted 3 year Cup goal. Awful things are happening all over the ice this season, and frankly, this team – this Old Core – has been floundering for years. Still, strange things happen in this league (the LA Kings of 2012 squeaking into the playoffs to win the Cup being the favorite example du jour). “Miracles can happen,” yes. But Pegula isn’t looking for a miracle to win it all. He’s not stupid.

The fans aren’t stupid either, and they’ve been making the players and front office very aware with it with their silence and boos. A seat at the FNC is a frustrating place to be. It’s a place where we haven’t gone anywhere in a while. And sitting there, it’s hard to feel like we’re going anywhere, anytime soon.

Like I said, we’re all in this together, in this interim thing.

doldrums 300x142 The Interim

The trade winds blow straight into the doldrums.

Meanwhile, enjoy the games, for what they are. The NHL trade deadline is on April 3.

Go Sabres.




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