Darcy Regier says he intended to search for a permanent coach after hiring Ron Rolston as the interim in February. I don’t buy it. This smacks of being another example of the Sabres reshaping history to suit their own needs – like telling us the rebuilding began when they traded Paul Gaustad.
I felt Rolston was the choice all along. It was only a question of when the Sabres would get around to announcing it, and to what extent they would pretend he wasn’t the only candidate. All he had to do was not fall flat on his face. Regier said the player exit interviews convinced him to keep Rolston. Really? What did you expect them to say? Sure, boss, bring in some unknown coach from the outside who might hold us to a higher standard, a guy who’s not on board with this whole suffering thing.
Rolston is the perfect choice, because he is no threat to the general manager. He’s not a well-connected guy in the NHL. He worked for the USA national developmental program. He was an assistant at four colleges. Rolston is indebted to Regier for handing him a head job without glowing credentials.
Elevating Rolston ensures the team’s insular nature. There can be no critical outside voice, no competing hockey vision. By making Rolston the prince of the realm, Regier attaches the crown more securely to his own head. It’s a predictably uninspired move by a tough-talking outfit whose actions come off as strictly small time.
• One of my favorite things about the NBA playoffs is seeing unheralded but vital players rise up in the big moment for their teams. It happened four times recently in deciding games of first-round series:
Chicago’s Marco Belinelli, forced to play big minutes due to injuries, scored a season-high 24 points in the Bulls’ win at Brooklyn in Game Seven.
The Knicks’ Iman Shumpert, a 6.8-point scorer during the regular season, has scored in double figures in his last five playoff games. Shumpert, a terrific defender, scored 17 points in New York’s clinching win at Boston.
Tony Allen, the veteran Memphis guard, equaled a season high with 19 points in the Grizzlies’ clincher against the Clippers. Allen, better known for his defense, guarded Kevin Durant down the stretch Tuesday when Memphis evened its second-round series with the Thunder at a game apiece.
Golden State rookie Draymond Green had a season-high 16 points in the Warriors’ clinching win over the Nuggets in Game Six. Green, whose role expanded when David Lee went down, has become a key player in Mark Jackson’s rotation.
• If you get the impression that the pitchers are having their way in baseball, you’re right. As of Wednesday, runs and hits were at their lowest point in more than 20 seasons; pitchers were on pace to break the record for strikeouts per game.
Striking out is all the rage. The average team is striking out 7.66 times a game, a pace that would break the record for the seventh year in a row! Runs (4.26) are at their lowest level since 1992. Hits (8.35) are the scarcest since '89.
Hitting tends to heat up with the temperatures, but this is obviously a trend. The steroid era is over. Teams are more determined to develop pitchers and pay them. More kids see pitching as their ticket to the big time.
Every other day, it seems, some pitcher is flirting with a no-hitter. Get used to it. I’ll bet we see at least a couple more no-hitters before the season is through.
• The Bills would love to see EJ Manuel win the starting quarterback job this summer. It’s probably his job to lose. It figures to be a very close competition. But I don’t get the widely held assumption that Kevin Kolb has the clear edge over Tarvaris Jackson.
Career-wise, there’s little to separate the two. Jackson has started 34 games, Kolb 21. Jackson has completed 59.4 percent of his passes, Kolb 59.5. Jackson has 38 touchdowns and 35 interceptions, Kolb 28 TDs and 25 picks. Kolb got sacked about once every 10 throws, Jackson one every 12.
At 28, Kolb is two years younger. He was a hot free agent not long ago. Maybe that’s why he has an edge in some people’s minds. I want to see Manuel as soon as possible. But after seeing Jackson sit all last year, it would be nice to find out if the guy can play.
• Are Vancouver fans due for some suffering? In the aftermath of a first-round sweep by the Sharks in the first round, there’s talk that the Canucks might have to break up their core.
The Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, have a year left in their contracts. Neither scored a point in the first-round series. They’ll be 33 by the start of next season. Management must decide whether to move one or both (can they be separated?) while their value is high.
GM Mike Gillis has been criticized for not trading goalie Roberto Luongo when he had a chance last summer. Does all of this sound vaguely familiar, Buffalo fans?
• I keep expecting Jim Negrych to drop below .400, but he keeps hitting. The Buffalo native had three more hits Tuesday, raising his average to .427. This is more than a little hot streak. We’re well into May. And remember, Negrych hit .394 in spring training.
At some point, you reward this kind of hitting. When a player is far and away the top hitter in Triple-A, he’s earned a chance to prove himself in the big show. Let’s hope it comes soon for the St. Francis grad.
• It’s nice to know Rick Jeanneret will be back next season. But it’s too bad that it ends talk of splitting the Sabres’ TV and radio broadcasts. This is another way in which “hockey heaven” comes off as small time. Hey, a radio-only announcer might even tell us the score once in awhile.
• Luckily, J.A. Happ wasn’t seriously injured when he took a line drive to the head Tuesday. But baseball should continue to study the possibility of headgear for pitchers. Players will resist, but if batters wear helmets, why not protect pitchers? Sooner or later, someone is bound to get killed.
• Can’t believe we’re nine months from the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Opening Ceremonies are Feb. 7. Women’s ski jumping will debut in Sochi. What took them so long?
• Alex Rodriguez is working out in Tampa and says he has “unfinished business.” What, seeing his slugging percentage drop for a sixth straight year?
• Mel Kiper has South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney as the top pick in next year’s NFL draft. Of course, last year he had Matt Barkley.