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Rolston's real test - Unleashing Potential

Clearly one of Ron Rolston’s jobs is to win hockey games.  However, with the Sabres talking more about the long term, and a team that can make multiple runs in the playoffs, WGR's Jeremy White says the list of goals should start and stop with a select group of players.
The Buffalo Sabres will keep Ron Rolston on as head coach, removing his interim tag.  He’ll have a full offseason, training camp and preseason to prepare for the 2013-2014 campaign, and then the real test begins.
Rolston’s record with the Buffalo Sabres is an unimpressive 15-11-5.  Over the course of 31 games Rolston’s group tallied a total of eight regulation wins.  The team got better defensively despite the subtractions of Tyler Myers, Jordan Leopold, and Robyn Regehr through stretches of the season.  The team traded away its captain too, and didn’t seem to really miss his presence.
He’ll no doubt strive to help every player along the way.  He’ll try to help groom Marcus Foligno.  There will be work with Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe as well.  The organizations player development now goes through him, but there has to be a hierarchy.
Rolston’s primary job for the organization has to be turning their potentially great players, into the great players that they were drafted to become.
In my opinion, it comes down to three players more than any other.

1. Tyler Myers
We will talk with Tyler Myers on WGR at 8:30 Wednesday morning, but WKBW’s Shawn Stepner was able to get a good idea on Myers’ thoughts about Rolston as head coach.
Myers told Stepner: “Right off the bat he brought a positive attitude. A lot of the guys responded to it really well.  "Not everybody's (players) the same. They need to be talked to in a different way, approached in a different way you could tell guys were responding. I know I responded the way Ron approached me and handled things with me this year. There's some confidence to build, with me especially...I think Ron helped me out a lot with that.”
That should be music to Darcy Regier’s ears, and to Sabres fans as well.  Myers is the single most important player on the team.  It’s not too much of a stretch to say that the season we just endured, came with his struggles.  A Tyler Myers that’s at the top of his game, means a team that doesn’t start 6-10-1.  It means Lindy Ruff doesn’t get fired.  It likely means that this team makes the playoffs.
Myers has had his share of problems throughout his career and it is now Ron Rolston’s job, above anyone else, to get him on the right track.  Myers on the right track, means the Sabres are on the right track.

2. Mikhail Grigorenko
The kid is an 18 year old Russian just cutting his teeth in the NHL.  It’ll likely be a process.  The question is, how long will it take?
Better yet, how long should it take to ensure that you make him the best player that he can be?
Grigorenko has the potential to be one of the best forwards in the NHL.  That’s an opinion widely held by many scouts and GMs around the league.  Plenty of guys show up with that potential and never quite make it to that level.  Will Grigorenko earn a spot and then top out at around 50-60 points per season?  That’s a good hockey player, but that’s not why the Sabres drafted him.  When they picked Grigorenko, it was because they belived he truly could become one of these “elite” players that Darcy Regier is consistently talking about.
On Grigorenko Rolston says, “He’s just getting out of the draft.  He has got a ton of talent.  His skill level is at the top of the league.”  Rolston says they won’t try to turn him into a defensive player, but to get to the puck more and that the tempo of his game is something that they’ll have to work on as well.  
Rolston has plenty of experience in the developmental program for the US.  This is a different animal, and it’s a huge task.

3. The dude they draft this year in the top 4 if/when they trade up.
I know, I know...Ehrhoff and Armia and Girgensons and Pysyk and McNabb and yadda yadda.  All the Flynns, Porters, and Ruhwedels are nice too.  However, this team is in need of great players.  GREAT players.  More than that, they need generationally elite players.  GM Darcy Regier has said that Sabres fans should expect that this team will be looking to acquire great players.  I know where to get them.  You know where to get them.  You either acquire these players through free agency or the draft.
Since the Brad Richards, Zach Parise, Rick Nash (not exactly free agency but trades that require waiving of the NTC) aren’t going to come here, Regier has to acquire players that don’t have a choice.
Draft at the top.   Move Miller and Vanek if necessary.  Move Hodgson and Ennis.   Move just about any number of pieces on the roster to acquire the 2nd pick in the draft.  If you can only get to #3 then so be it, draft there.
The most important player for the Sabres run to the Stanley Cup in 3-5 years, likely isn’t on the team yet.  Rolston will coach this player...and it’s probably the most important player in the franchise’s future.  
This player will largely impact Rolston, and our perception of him as a coach.  It's on the GM to make it the best he possibly can. 

If you know anything about where I stand on this whole issue, it's THIS player that is the most important.  So much so that it's on Rolston and Regier to decide if the first two players I mentioned in this piece are worth parting ways with to get this one.

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