A “Ruff”year ends a 16 year journey
The year was 1997……the average price of gas was a $1.22 a gallon, Titanic was a box office smash and at 21 years old, a kid named Tiger Woods became the youngest golfer to win the Masters. 1997 also marked the beginning of a great relationship between Lindy Ruff and the City of Buffalo.
After 16 seasons as the Sabres’ head coach, Lindy Ruff was told to pack his bags on Wednesday. Ruff’s 16-year term with the Sabres made him the NHL’s longest-active head coach.
I can’t say I was shocked by the news. The Sabres have been playing below expectations for a while now (Missing the playoffs 3 of the past 5 seasons), and the organization and its fans have been growing impatient. However, the timing was a little surprising to me. Sabres management, including team president Ted Black, had spent much of the past week voicing support of Ruff. So I’m not sure why they didn’t just wait until the season was over to make the change?
I’m not saying the Sabres were wrong to fire Ruff. The message seemed to be getting stale….both to the players and fans… and this Sabres squad has looked listless this year with no sign of improvement.
Buffalo’s slow start and sloppy play definitely made the decision easier for General Manager Darcy Regier and the Sabres organization. I’m guessing the tipping point was a 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night…..an ugly game in which the Sabres were turnover-prone and inconsistent. It’s usually not a good sign when the home-town fans boo their team on more than one occasion.
The problem for Ruff was pretty simple: the team got a new owner, shelled out a ton of money to field a pretty decent team, and has promptly headed in the wrong direction since.
Owner Terry Pegula is running out of options in his bid to turn the Sabres into a Stanley Cup contender, an objective he made clear upon purchasing the team two years ago. Ruff’s firing comes nearly two years to the day Pegula formally took over as the Sabres owner on Feb. 22, 2011.
While Ruff’s firing sends a message to the players and fans, that this type of play will no longer be accepted, it is not a cure-all answer to Buffalo’s problems. Some of this will fall on GM Darcy Regier, as well. His blue-line corps, for the money they’re getting, is not playing to its potential.
The Sabres aren’t good enough down the middle and haven’t been protecting the net at all. Overall, there’s not enough leadership on the team to get them past this hump and if the Sabres miss the playoffs….sorry, when the Sabres miss the playoffs….I’m guessing Pegula will also make a change at GM as well…even though Regier was given an extension before the season.
Lindy Ruff had a great ride in Buffalo and it will be strange not to see him behind the bench. I like Ruff as a coach and a man, but it was time for a new voice, some new ideas, and a new direction.