by PuckStopsHere on 02/23/13 at 11:16 PM ET
I have wanted to comment upon the Buffalo Sabres firing of Lindy Ruff this week but have yet to find the time. Ruff was the longest serving NHL coach. He had been hired in 1997 and has successfully taken the Buffalo Sabres to the Stanley Cup finals. He finally fell for the "what have you done for me lately?" mindset that often sees good coaches get fired. Buffalo was off to a 6-11 record with one regulation tie point.
This was not the result that I was predicting. During the lockout, I picked him as a likely Jack Adams Trophy winner should there be a season this year. This wasn't really an endorsement of Ruff as the best coach in the league but rather as a good coach who looked likely to see his team improve. Incorrectly, I thought Ryan Miller would bounce back into shape this season. Strong goaltending would turn the team around. That hasn't happened. In fact Buffalo has the most goals against in the league right now (but its close enough that with games underway that may change before the night is through).
To be fair, Miller is not the problem in Buffalo. He is posting a solid .913 saves percentage and a 2.94 GAA. The problem is defence. Buffalo has allowed more shots than any other team in the league this year. Their defensive defencemen in Tyler Myers and Robyn Regehr have not succeeded this season and that cost Ruff his job.
Replacing Lindy Ruff is Ron Rolston, who was coaching the Sabres AHL affiliate in Rochester. Rochester is fighting for a playoff berth in the AHL. There is nothing we have seen from Rolston to suggest that he is as good a coach as Lindy Ruff. Buffalo has problems in the make-up of their team and firing the coach and replacing him with an unproven weaker coach won't solve them. It may give the Sabres a short term boost from the shake-up, though they lost their first game under Rolston.
Lindy Ruff is probably the best unemployed coach available. I don't think he will remain unemployed for long. He will likely succeed in his new gig and leave Buffalo looking for a competent coach.
Ruff coached for a long time in Buffalo. I give the Sabres credit for sticking with a good coach instead of cycling through many coaches in that period but in the end they gave in to pressure and fired him despite the fact the problems are not coaching related and they have now weakened themselves in terms of coaching. Given the short season and the poor start for the Sabres I think they are out of the picture and will remain that way into the foreseeable future at least until they find another good coach.
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