Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - As somebody who gets annoyed at how
disposable head coaches are to NHL teams, I respect the Buffalo Sabres for
giving Lindy Ruff over a decade and a half to run their team.
That being said, Ruff's firing this week was actually a few years overdue.
In his 16th season with the club, Ruff was given his walking papers on
Wednesday, ending a successful partnership that produced a Stanley Cup Finals
appearance and four trips to the Eastern Conference finals. However, the
club's most recent sojourn to the conference championship was in the spring of
2007 and Buffalo has missed the postseason in three of the last five seasons.
So, it was obvious Ruff had something to prove this season to the front
office, including owner Terry Pegula, who upon taking over the franchise in
2011 said, "Starting today, the Buffalo Sabres' reason for existence will be to
win a Stanley Cup."
Buffalo's recent history since making back-to-back conference finals in 2006
and '07, makes Pegula's dream of leading the Sabres to their first Cup seem
far-fetched at the moment. The Sabres have bowed out in the first round in
both of its postseason appearances over the last five seasons and the club is
currently sitting 14th out of 15 teams in the East standings.
It's not fair to blame Ruff for all of the Sabres' struggles over the last
several years, but at a certain point somebody has to absorb the blame or else
it'll look like the team tolerates losing. Even in a hockey-crazed town like
Buffalo, it's important for an owner -- especially a new one -- to prove to his
fan base that winning is at the top of his to-do list. Firing a popular coach
like Ruff sends that message, even if it was a tough call to let go of
him in the middle of a season.
"The hockey world knows how I and the entire Buffalo Sabres organization feel
about Lindy Ruff not only as a coach but also as a person," Pegula said upon
announcing Ruff's dismissal. "His qualities have made this decision
very difficult. I personally want Lindy to know that he can consider me a
Of course, Ruff isn't going to be out of work for too long. On Friday, while
addressing the Buffalo media, Ruff responded to a question about whether he
plans to return to coaching by saying, "I miss it already." The only question
is whether his next chance to lead a team comes this season or sometime before
the 2013-14 campaign, but the only way Ruff will stay out of work longer than
that is if he personally chooses to take time off.
Ruff also made a plea to Sabres fans to not turn on Pegula for firing him,
which is the kind of classy thing Buffalonians come to expect from the
"We'll get it right here," Ruff said. "You've got to trust him (Pegula)
because he's a competitor.
Whether or not they actually take him up on that advice is another matter
With Ruff out, general manager Darcy Regier has to be feeling the heat.
Regier, who ascended to his post along with Ruff back in 1997, is the longest-
tenured GM in club history and was given an unspecified contract extension
before the start of this season, but it's hard to believe he'll be around to
see the end of it.
Regier's contract extension likely hastened Ruff's demise. After all, it
wouldn't reflect well on Pegula if he handed his GM an extension in January
only to hand him a pink slip a month later.
In the end, it was Ruff who had to pay for Buffalo's slow start, but it would
be unwise for Regier to breathe a sigh of relief. As a billionaire natural gas
tycoon, Pegula can afford to lose money on Regier and it's unlikely he'll
think twice about giving him the axe should the Sabres' downward spiral
continue much longer. In fact, if things get much worse this season, Regier
might not be around long enough to pick a permanent head coach to follow
interim bench boss Ron Rolston.
Pegula has said in the past that he doesn't consider the Sabres to be a
business venture, once remarking, "If I want to make some money, I'll go drill
a gas well."
Of all people, Pegula should know when a well has run dry. He realized it was
time to say goodbye to Ruff and you better believe he's already sizing up
The Sports Network