The Buffalo Sabres announced on Wednesday that the Lindy Ruff tenure in Buffalo is over as the coach was officially "relieved of his duties." The longest serving coach in the NHL Ruff (hired in 1997) has been let go after 16 seasons behind the bench of the blue and gold. The news came as a bit of a shock to most as many fans had been calling for him to be fired but didn't expect the move so soon or for their boo's to be heard, but last nights loss to the Winnipeg Jets proved to be the tipping point for GM Darcy Regier in his decision to part ways with Lindy Ruff.
The Buffalo Sabres were off to a rocky start and have quickly found themselves near the bottom of the Eastern Conference and in the running for a top 5 pick in the upcoming draft. The Sabres were playing uninspired hockey and acted like they could care less of the outcome which showed that Ruff's voice was no longer being heard, when that happens it's only a matter of time before a new voice is brought in to turn things around. Ruff enjoyed some early success behind the Sabres bench coaching them to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999 and back to back 50 win seasons in 2005-2006, and 2006-2007 but lately it appeared that his well had run dry failing to make the playoffs all but twice in the last 5 years.
Although I was calling for Ruff to be fired on twitter, it's sad to see Ruff gone and for the first time on Thursday night I will see someone else behind the Sabres bench. Although things lately didn't work out in Buffalo make no mistake Lindy Ruff is an excellent NHL coach and will have no trouble finding another coaching job if and when he choses and he will likely succeed with his new team.
Now that the curtain has fallen on the Lindy Ruff era in Buffalo it's time to start asking what's next for Buffalo- Is a simple coaching change enough to turn the Buffalo Sabres around or is more needed?
Here's what we know, Rochester Americans coach Ron Rolston has been given the task of taking over the 6-10-1 Sabres. With the Americans Rolston has had an opportunity to coach some Sabres- Marcus Foligno, Cody Hodgson and TJ Brennan and is known as a coach who is good at building up and developing young players. He's a good teaching coach who has patience with younger players and will hopefully help to develop Mikhail Grigorenko better than the former head coach. Despite Rolston being the "interim" coach since he has a good track record with young players he could easily take over the reigns full time as the Sabres are a team built for the future with both Grigorenko and Girgensons as the future. If Rolston is able to by some miracle turn around this lacklustre Sabres team look for him to stick around for the foreseeable future.
We also know that the Sabres team that took the ice on Tuesday night will be virtually the same going forward- at least for now. Many people are saying that Ryan Miller could be on his way out next and I agree but for different reasons. Some are saying he has under-performed this season and his meltdown on Sunday is a major reason Ruff is no longer the head coach. Aside from Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller is the only Buffalo Sabre to show up and play well consistently, he needs help and a new coach may be able to help the defence. The only reason Miller will be shipped out of town is because he wants to be, because he doesn't see a bright future with the Sabres and wants a change of scenery.
The Next thing the Sabres need to think about is trading for some players to help improve the team. At the end of this season the Sabres will have 11 players that will either be UFA or RFA and Vanek and Miller will join that list the follow season. There's some tough decisions coming up for Terry Pegula and Darcy Regier- do they continue with the same players or dump the veterans and run with the youngsters such as Cody Hodgson, Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis? Now that Pegula and Regier have shown they are willing to make changes to improve the team, there's a chance they will be willing to party with some of their current players. Could they possibly land a Bobby Ryan or Ryan O'Reilly in exchange for a Drew Stafford, Nathan Gerbe or even Luke Adam (remember him).
Now that a coaching change has been made the onus falls to the players to start actually playing hockey and change the tide for the Buffalo Sabres, it's easier to fire a head coach than 20 players, but if things don't start changing the players will start falling.
It will be interesting to see if the Buffalo Sabres can turn things around under new head coach Ron Rolston. After complaining about Lindy Ruff and his style of coaching. The players wanted a coaching change they got their wish now it's their turn to step it up.