Should Lindy Ruff be Fired?

Last night, the Sabres dropped yet another critical game to yet another losing team.  This time, the Sabres fell to Ottawa 4-2 fresh from their third period collapse against Atlanta.  With the most recent loss to Ottawa, the Sabres are now 1-5 against the 12th ranked Senators this year.

If the season ended today, the Sabres would miss the playoffs – again.  Of course, the season doesn’t end today, and the Sabres could still go on a run over the last 12 games of the season to make the playoffs.  But what if they don’t? 

This is Lindy Ruff’s 11th year as head coach of the Sabres.  Together, Ruff and General Manager Darcy Regier are the longest tenured GM/Coach combination in the NHL.  With 890 games under his belt, Ruff has 431 career wins – a career 48.4 winning percentage.  The Sabres have made the playoffs 6 times during Ruff’s 11 years as coach (assuming they don’t make the playoffs this year.) 

That record seems pretty good.

But if you take the Dominik Hasek years out of Ruff’s career, the Sabres have made the playoffs just twice out of 7 seasons.  2 out of 7.  And the two non-Hasek playoff seasons were 2005-06 and 2006-07 – the two seasons led by Chris Drury and Daniel Briere.

And consider this – before Ruff, the Sabres were led by John Muckler and Ted Nolan. Muckler led the Sabres to the playoffs in all four seasons he coached, while Nolan took the Sabres to the post-season 1 out of 2 years. 

The age old dilemma is assessing sports management is determining whether the core issue is resources (the owner’s fault) talent (the general manager’s fault) or motivation and system (the coach’s fault).  There is little doubt this Sabres roster is worse than the 2005-07 teams with the loss of Drury, Briere and Campbell.  So part of the blame has to go to Darcy Regier. But Ruff has failed to turn this team into one that can consistently beat bad teams; indeed, the Sabres will likely miss the playoffs because of losses to some of the NHL’s worst teams. And if Ruff can only win when his team is composed of the world’s best goalie or co-captained by Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, is he worth keeping?

For years, Ruff has been untouchable around Buffalo.  Since he took over the Sabres job, Bills management and fans have rightly run three head coaches out of town – Wade Phillips, Gregg Williams and Mike Mularkey.  And the fourth is hanging on by a thread. 

With 11 years behind the Sabres bench, we certainly should have enough information to decide whether Ruff is worth keeping. 

Is he?

  

About the author  ⁄ bluedevil

37 comments
sabresbaby30
sabresbaby30

i think that if firing ruff and getting a new coach gives buffalo a very strong shot at winning the cup im all for it. but i dont want to see lindy go. hes done so much for buffalo and is a tremendus coach and shouldnt be let go unless there absolutely sure that someone new can make a huge difference.

suburban_hillbilly
suburban_hillbilly

Winning starts with ownership. The Bills and Sabres have garbage ownerhip. Fire Darcy. He dropped the ball. Can you fire "managing partner" Larry Quinn? Him and Hockey fit together like pepperoni and ice cream.

assaroni
assaroni

PS Enzo, you are right on...

assaroni
assaroni

Let's revisit History: Scotty Bowman won 12 Stanley cups with every other team he coached EXCEPT buffalo. Tom Barrasso won 3 cups with Pittsburgh. Dominik Hasek won 3 Cups with Detroit. Dave Andreychuk won his Cup with Tampa Bay (WTF TAMPA BAY!!!!)

These were all long time Sabres who left Buffalo and enjoyed Major Successes. If that doesnt say alot about the organization then I dont know what does.

ENZO
ENZO

Don't be confused, Miller sucks. He is no Hasek. This team would still be losing the games even if Miller was in net.

nick
nick

Elderly,

By my math that was approximately 10 years ago that he made his best trade. If you in your job had done your best work 10 years ago, would you still have that job?

It's regier's job to put a winning product on the ice, they didn't last year, may not this year, and haven't made the playoffs in 5 of 7 years, that is failure.

elderlywoman
elderlywoman

ENZO...why in the world would anyone support moving the team out of Buffalo. you are not making any sense, if they move then there is no team to ***** about and no chance of turning things around. moron! who cares how many years Darcy played in the NHL, he made the single greatest trade of all time...March 23, 1999 Mike Wilson to the Florida Panthers for Rhett Warrener and a 5th round draft pick which turned out to be....Ryan Miller!

Scott Norwood
Scott Norwood

At no time in the original article did Bluedevil take shots at Lindy Ruff as a human being. It seems like a large number of the comments are focused towards Lindy as a person rather than Lindy as a coach.

I think he is a great guy, who was a very good coach for his decade here, but doesn't there come a time for every team to try new things. The last few years have been less than stellar and the prospect of more of the same seems disheartening. I don't know what the problem is, but it seems to me that perhaps the coach is quite having the effect we need him to have. I don't know what it will take to get some of you to admit that this team is definitely broke, and needs fixing....and if it isn't the coach, then what exactly is it?

ENZO
ENZO

It is time for the Sabres to move to Hamilton where an ownership group will spend the time and money to get this team to advance to the Stanley Cup.

Darcy's career as a GM in my mind has been as successful as his career in the NHL. He was "a pro" hockey player from 1974-1984 and guess how many NHL games he played in that time?? Wait for it...26...yes, 26 games over 10 years. As a GM, he has been in charge when the Sabres drafted and developed such players as Maxim Afinogenov, Henrik Tallinder, Ales Kotalik, Ryan Miller, Paul Gaustad, Derek Roy, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek. Some winners, mostly losers.

Golisano bought the sabres for $92millon. A bargain price because of the turmoil with Rigas and Adephia. He was just looking for an investment in a distressed asset and never had and never will spend money to keep this team competitive. He is a cheap bastard.

Larry Quinn, he is just a douche. Enough said.

Ruff, move him with the team to Hamilton.

Give it Jim Balsillie, he has the desire and the money to take this team to the next level.

ENZO

VGS
VGS

no wholelotta there is not enough talent, a few skilled players that would fit nicely on a third line but no win at all cost players that will step in front of bus for the team. We are soft, passionless and void of work ethic and especially important, we are average to slightly above average in goal. Some of this can be laid on the coach, but from what I've seen the players just do not have it in them to do what is neccessary to win games night in - night out.

nick
nick

I hate that the team has just become the "cool" thing and the games have become a night on the town, with seemingly less and less of a connection to the sport, and more entertainment. I'm not old, but I did grow up watching this team in the Aud, before the entertainment factor. It seems winning is no longer a priority. I don't so much blame Ruff as I do the management who has given him weak, heartless players, but it appears the community at large has embraced them, and is less concerned with how they perform on the ice. Why has accepting mediocrity become ok? I think it reflects an overall mindset in Buffalo that enjoys being comfortable and doesn't expect the best. Here in Philly, Ruff would have been fired after Tuesday's game, because losing is not acceptible. The games are played to win, not to be good guys.

Gioia
Gioia

I'm with all of those who said Lindy's not the problem. We love him. We just need some more skilled players and to continue to motivate those who are talented to work harder. Lindy for Mayor!

newbuffalo
newbuffalo

fire the owner, this team keeps losing its talented players EVERY YEAR. This team will only be medicore with this philosphy.

WholeLottaJibbaJabba
WholeLottaJibbaJabba

3 more years with them. no cup. see you later. there is enough talent in the system to do it.

VGS
VGS

Bottom line...we don't have good enough players to win. They are soft and lack the instinct and will to grind with the better players in the league. They do not have a legitimate first line and at best they have one legit second line, that leaves an entire team of third and fourth line players. When given a hardworking and talented team, or just a couple key ingredients, Lindy has taken the team to impressive heights. Gut the meat of the team and bring younger/cheaper players through the system to early and this is what you get.. a bunch of wet behind the ears juveniles having the time of thier lives, traveling, partying and playing superstar.

The real tragedy is the ownership/management has managed to completely f$%^ up the greatest thing this city experienced (maybe ever). Interest and sales were at it the highest in the history of the franchise, but instead of building off that.... well you know the rest of the story.

whatever
whatever

In determining winning percentages for coaches or teams, each tie is supposed to count as half a win and half a loss.

For example, a team or coach having 4 wins, 4 ties, and 4 losses has a .500 winning percentage (not .333).

WIGS
WIGS

No, definitely not.

I think the better question to ask is: Should bluedevil be allowed to post more inane articles on Buffalo Rising?

elderlywoman
elderlywoman

what kind of question is this anyways? I have looked up to and admired Lindy Ruff since, well, i guess i would have twelve years old. I would fall asleep ever night to hockey hot line with Roby and Brian Blessing. Lindy has always had something worth listening to. It wouldn't feel right without him around

elderlywoman
elderlywoman

how many teams have a better overall record in the same time period as ruff has been our coach. it doesn't really seem that any team except detroit really stands out. Who is going to do a better job? There is so much parity in the NHL and i think darcy and and Ruff have done an outstanding job considering current realities.

Kimon
Kimon

Sports! Sports! Sports!

I like Lindy. He's got spunk.

NorPark
NorPark

It would be a dumber move than the wingate hotel. But hey, we could build the wingate and have pitts coach the sabres, Shanghai Reds would be a boomtown.

BUFFALOSF
BUFFALOSF

Hey, BlueBalls check your facts before you post crap like this again. Your argument does not hold up once you take the comments of TorBuffChester into consideration –

mjd1001
mjd1001

No, he shouldn't be fired.

TorBuffChester
TorBuffChester

It isn't a non sequitur. The bankruptcy had a huge affect on the team, whether it was keeping certain players or not attaining others. The point I was making is that Ruff has dealt with some difficult times with this organization and he has endured and brought this team to great heights.

assaroni
assaroni

NO. We have the BEST Coach...and yet the WORST GM in the NHL. People in the league do not understand how REgier keeps his job. Rumor has it he has pictures of key Sabres execs in compromising situations. Regier is HORRIBLE

bluedevil
bluedevil

TorBuffChester - fair points on the winning % (though it's odd you'd like to consider ties as wins).

Let's use points percentage instead of winning percentage since the NHL's quirky win/loss/tie/overtime win/overtime loss causes some issues. Of all the points the Sabres were eligible for during his career (2pts per game), Ruff has won 55.7% of those points. That makes him appear even better than the .531 winning percentage you reference. And yes, he has been to the conference finals 4 times during his 11 years in town. That's undoubtedly impressive and makes a case for keeping him.

But there is another side to the coin, you see. The team has missed the playoffs 5 of the past 7 years. They have, for 2 years, continue to struggle in playing consistently in any facet of the game - home, away, power play, penalty kill, against good teams, bad teams, etc. Some of that is certainly the talent, but some of that has to fall on Ruff's shoulders.

As to your last point that Ruff has "endured bankruptcy and a lock-out," I have no idea what that means other than neither of those events caused him to be fired. Your other points certainly make a more compelling case for keeping Ruff than that non sequitur.

HereWeGo
HereWeGo

I'm not taking any credit away from Ruff and what he's done for us in the past. The group of individuals that are playing together now have the talent to excel in this league. What you don't understand is where the coaches role come in. Injuries and roster changes are dealings every coach has to come to terms with. Sure, every coach would love a team filled with superstars but superior coaches can turn a mixed up, injured and ordinary group of people into a winning team.

TorBuffChester
TorBuffChester

Wow you must understand the NHL because you use phrases like, "takes advantage of each players unique talents."

Ruff has done a heck of a job during some tumultuous times, note my comments above with statistics instead of platitudes and cliches. And, again, if you care about tailoring a system to unique talents, look at how Ruff changed his system in the wake of the lockout. My feeling is the roster could use a shakeup, but I do not believe they are THAT far away from contention. Look at how tightly teams 5 through 10 are in the eastern Conference.

HereWeGo
HereWeGo

It IS broken if you can't compete. If you had knowledge of the NHL and the talent that it holsters you would understand that a move needs to be made. We've seen them play some solid hockey this year but we need a coach who pushes them in the right direction and takes advantage of each players unique talents.

TorBuffChester
TorBuffChester

I'll tell you what is a great point, or points, read my comment above in reference to the absolutely terrible arguments made in this post. BUFFALOSF is right, it ain't broke and it don't need fixin'. More pointedly, this team didn't make the playoffs during bankruptcy, no shame in that. Look at the Pens, they were abysmal during economic strife. The only seasons where Buffalo failed to make the playoffs that are worth examining are the last two and I really think they are the result of untimely injuries and not having the right group of players. It's also worth pointing out that Buffalo shared its AHL affiliate for a couple years which in my mind hampered the development of their young players.

BUFFALOSF
BUFFALOSF

Cardiff Giant = *******

That is a great point

Cardiff Giant
Cardiff Giant

BuffaloSF - you make a great point. Oh wait, you didn't any point at all.

What makes them the best tandem in the NHL - missing the playoffs 5 out of the past 7 years? Or is there another quantitative measure you're using?

And if he were the head coach of Ottawa, perhaps we could beat them.

TorBuffChester
TorBuffChester

Wow, what absolutely terrible commentary. So, he has coached 890 games and won 431 so his winning percentage is .481? Well, I'm guessing you counted 78 ties as non-wins. If you excluded ties, his winning percentage climbs to .531. Also, if you exclude over-time losses, which also result in a point, his winning percentage climbs to .563.

As for his playoff appearances, the Sabres have made the ECF 4 times during his tenure. Want to know what teams have gone to more conference finals than Buffalo during that period? None. Buffalo is tied with Dallas, Detroit, and Colorado.

And, with regard to excluding seasons with Hasek, Drury and Briere. That sounds reasonable. So, let's exclude any coach leading NJ since they had Brodeur. Good players and good coaches go hand in hand.

Real quick, prior to Ruff, how many times had Buffalo got out of the first round of the playoffs? Not too many, you'll see.

Point is, get rid of Ruff at your peril. He has been an extremely successful coach that has endured bankruptcy, a lockout and he even modified his conservative offensive strategies for the speed Buffalo had post-lockout.

BUFFALOSF
BUFFALOSF

Yeah, fire the Coach – That works (Morons)

I guarantee we would see Ruff as the head coach of Ottawa next season

The Sabres have the best GM/Coach tandem in the NHL – Don’t fix what is not broke – ya know

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