Rolston: Next year’s Sabres a ‘playoff-caliber team’

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Shortly after dropping his interim tag and officially being named Buffalo Sabres head coach, Ron Rolston discussed what the future had in store.

The postseason, specifically.

“You’re looking at a team next year that’s a playoff-caliber team,” Rolston told the Buffalo News. “At the end of the day we want to be a playoff team that can make long runs and do what we want to do here [win a Stanley Cup].”

The Sabres have missed the last two playoffs and haven’t won a postseason round since 2007.

So the new coach has his work cut out for him.

That said, there were signs his coaching style worked with most of the current group. Buffalo rebounded from a 6-10-1 start under Lindy Ruff to go 15-11-5 under Rolston, including an 8-4-0 mark in April.

Young players seemed to thrive under Rolston as well.

Tyler Ennis finished the year with 31 points in 47 games — a 54-point pace over a full campaign — while Cody Hodgson finished with 15G-19A, nearly matching his career high in points (41 in 2011-12) despite playing in roughly half the amount of games.

Rolston acknowledged that, despite his optimistic outlook, there are still areas needing major improvement.

Buffalo finished 26th on the penalty kill last season and 29th on the power play. In today’s presser, he said he’s going to take his time in figuring out which direction the Sabres want to go with coaches for special teams.

One name worth keeping an eye on?

Rolston’s brother, Brian, who recently announced his retirement after 17 seasons in the NHL.

“I don’t know if [Brian’s] ready to move into that phase of things yet from player to coach, but he has certainly through this process provided a lot of great, great feedback in terms of players, coaches, systems,” Ron Rolston explained.

“He had the ability to play for some of the best coaches in this game whether it was Pat Burns or Jacques Lemaire, he played for some great coaches, so he was able to provide both a player’s perspective and what those great coaches, you know what made them great.

“Moving forward, he’s somebody that I’ll always have as a sounding board to communicate with.”