The Buffalo Sabres have replaced Lindy Ruff as head coach with Ron Rolston – at least for now.
General Manager Darcy Regier said the coach of the AHL's Rochester Americans will take over the head job for the rest of the season on an interim basis. Rolston was on his way to Buffalo from Rochester, and he will travel with Regier from Buffalo to Toronto to meet the team prior to Thursday's game against the Maple Leafs.
Regier had said two weeks ago any changes to turn the team around would not be at the coaching spot. But the club's 6-10-1 start forced a change, Regier said:
"Unfortunately, there was a lack of progress. At the end, it was two steps back for every one step forward. At this time of year, it's probably coaching that's evaluated the most."
The final evaluation came Tuesday, after an ugly 2-1 loss to Winnipeg in which the Sabres looked pretty much completely uninterested in competing for two-thirds of the game. That effort was evident much of the season, with the Sabres among the worst defensive teams in the league in terms of goals against.
"I think last game was, honestly, a tipping point. It became clear we were looking for answers to too many questions," Regier said.
One of those questions, however, was not communication. Regier said. Rather, despite repeated talks with Ruff and attempts to keep the coach's job, Regier said it was more of a matter of needing to alter something:
"For whatever reason, we just couldn't get any traction, especially defensively. It was very hard to get a grip on … it's about growth. If you don't embrace it, if you don't try to find ways to get better, something has to change … everyone here feels responsible."
Rolston will have a chance to keep the job permanently. Regier said his performance will be evaluated after this season ends:
"His teams play with structure, discipline. His teams have a great work ethic … he will coach his way. Is it drastically different? Probably not. but there will be some changes."
Ruff and Regier both joined the team in 1997, meaning this is the first time Regier had to replace a coach.
"I think he'll get an opportunity very quickly if he wants to. People who get fired use it as an opportunity to use it as a springboard."
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