Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 22, 2013 14:02
A 53-year-old man stood in front of the team he coached for 5,693 days. On Wednesday afternoon, exhausted and defeated, he walked out of the silver, blue and gold locker room door for the last time.
While browsing through my twitter feed, I read 140 characters that many Buffalo Sabres fans have been eagerly waiting for. Lindy Ruff, the longest-tenured coach in the National Hockey League, was relieved of his duties.
This move may have come as a surprise to many, but when put into perspective, Ruff’s firing is well overdue.
I have been a Sabres fan my entire life and I can’t even remember a time when Ruff wasn’t out there turning as red as a tomato while he argued with officials.
But this season has been different.
Ruff has looked uninspired behind the bench and has seemingly run out of solutions. The Sabres – who are 6-10-1 on the season – have gotten off to yet another slow start, and after 14-plus seasons of coaching, Ruff once again was left in the dust.
I, like many other fans, find myself looking for answers to Ruff’s decisions.
Let’s start with Ruff’s decision to sit his best player and put Jhonas Enroth – a young backup goaltender – between the pipes in only the third game of the season.
Enroth was exposed by the Carolina Hurricanes and was scored on six times, as the Sabres suffered defeat. That game began to open my eyes about Ruff’s lack of direction.
Ruff claimed, on multiple occasions, that gifted first-round draft pick Mikhail Grigorenko could learn by watching the game in the press box. He recently listed the young Russian as a healthy scratch. What Ruff failed to realize is that Grigorenko can only advance his game further by being on the ice.
Lindy Ruff has failed to find the right combination of accountability and inspiration in his players, most notably in one of the team’s top forwards, Drew Stafford. Stafford entered the season with expectations to be one of the Sabres’ leading scorers. Too bad he didn’t score his first goal until the 15th game of the season.
Ruff may be the winningest coach in Sabres history, with 571 wins in his 14-plus seasons at the helm, but a .490 winning percentage is nothing to keep him around for. It’s time to trim the fat.
The Sabres have only made the playoffs five times in the past decade and in three of those appearances Buffalo has been sent packing in the opening round.
Ruff has brought home a President’s Trophy and a Jack Adams Award, but he has failed to bring home the only hardware that actually matters: a Stanley Cup.
But despite not being able to deliver the big prize, Lindy Ruff has been a part of this city for as long as I can remember. I will always welcome him in Sabres country.
It breaks my heart to know that the last thing Lindy Ruff will remember about his coaching career in Buffalo is being booed on home ice during a frustrating 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. But it absolutely had to happen.
I hope when Buffalo fans look back on 2013, we will see it as the year our professional sports franchises finally put their past failures behind them. It’s time to achieve something we can celebrate.