After sixteen years as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, Lindy Ruff has finally been relieved of his duties. He was the longest-tenured coach in the NHL and the second longest in all of professional sports, behind San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich.
Ruff led the Sabres to four conference finals, including a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1999, but the team has been struggling as of late. Their Tuesday night loss to the Winnipeg Jets was the nail in the coffin for Ruff, but don’t expect him to be jobless for too long. If I were the head coach of a struggling team right now, I would be sweating just a little bit. Any franchise teetering on the edge of axing their coach just got one more reason to go through with it.
This is a big move for the Sabres organization and one that needed to happen. The energy and commitment clearly just wasn’t there from the players and sometimes the only way to change that is by going in a totally new direction—starting with a new voice in the locker room. Look how well it worked out for the L.A. Kings last year…
Ron Rolston of the AHL’s Rochester Americans will take over as the interim head coach for the rest of the season. It’s going to be a trial run for Rolston. As General Manager Darcy Reiger put it, “it will provide him and us with an opportunity to get to know each other.” We’ll just have to wait and see if he can turn this team around or if coaching was never even the issue.