Lindy Ruff was the NHL’s longest tenured NHL coach until today, when he was fired by the Buffalo Sabres. He’d been at the helm in Buffalo since 1997-98 (think Donald Audette and Alexei Zhitnik), losing in the Stanley Cup Final on the controversial Brett Hull goal in just his second season. He coached a total of 1065 games for the organization, and compiled a 562-452-78-84 record (yes, there were actual ties allowed at one point) along the way. He was also named the NHL’s coach of the year in 2006-2007.
During his time in Buffalo, there were 170 coaching changes around the NHL. Barry Trotz is now the NHL’s current longest-running coach (with Mike Babcock and Alain Vigneault in his rear-view mirror.)
The problem for Ruff this year was pretty simple: the team got a new owner, threw some money at a pretty good team, compiled a pretty good roster, and promptly headed in the wrong direction.
We talked about it on the podcast today:
When you can’t find an obvious reason or two for a decent roster failing, down comes the guillotine on the coach. Their goaltender, Ryan Miller, is world class. He’s having an off-year, and still has a .915, a hair above league average. Their d-corps is better than a lot of teams – Tyler Myres, Christian Erhoff, Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold and others. They have some skilled players like Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Cody Hodgson, and Tyler Ennis. They have toughness in guys like Steve Ott and Marcus Foligno (I won’t mention their hired thug). They just…haven’t won.
Miller certainly could have been better, and probably will be, but this was simply a group playing below expectations, and the organization has been growing impatient for some real success for awhile now. I like Lindy Ruff as a coach and a man, but the team was due for a new voice, some new ideas, and a new direction. At the very least, this is the large-scale version of ”pulling the goalie in a game” to say “wake the hell up” to your team, and to let them know that if things don’t change soon, more changes were be made. Ruff, ironically, had been hinting at “big changes” himself pretty recently.