Turning the record over: Sabres finally part ways with Lindy Ruff
I’ve been sitting here for at least the last two of those eight trying to put words together to assess what today means… coherently, at least. It’s not just a hockey move that we can accurately analyze and come to a consensus before moving on. This is a big one.
As soon as the story broke, the lines about the amount of coaching changes and ownership changes and whatever else has happened since Lindy stepped behind the bench in Buffalo came flooding out. It was tired, but almost necessary. It’s hard to really gain perspective on how things have changed since he came in without making it a joke. But he’s been here forever.
Seriously, just think about the goalies who’ve seen time since he came in: Ryan Miller, Jhonas Enroth, Drew MacIntyre, Patrick Lalime, Mikael Tellqvist, Jocelyn Thibault, Ty Conklin, Martin Biron, Mika Noronen, Bob Essensa, Peter Skudra, Dwayne Roloson, Steve Shields and Dominik Hasek.
Some of those guys were here for a long time, too.
Ruff was behind the bench for more than a third of the franchise’s history. Anyone in their mid-to-late-20’s or younger who has watched this team their whole lives spent their formative years watching their Sabres coached by Lindy Ruff. I was 10 years old when he came in, and I’ve watched an obscene amount of games where he’s behind the bench. I joked on twitter about it being upwards of 99%, but in reality, it’s probably somewhere in the 96-97% range. And he coached 1,165 games here. Do the math.
All that said, it was time, if not overdue. The team showed it. Things couldn’t stay the same. Everyone saw the need to change. The same song has kept repeating for years now. Even still, you’d be lying if you said it wasn’t jarring to hear the news. And that’s a good feeling whether you realize that yet or not.
The malaise that has infected the fanbase here has sucked the life out of all of us. Ruff seemed to be invincible. It was disheartening, thinking that no matter how bad things got, the answer wasn’t going to come from a coaching change. The owner loved the guy, even going so far as to say he “ain’t going nowhere.” What was going to get us out of this funk, then? They would never dump Lindy. It was always going to be the players. If the players weren’t working, they’d get new ones. We were stuck with the same coach and the same general manager, because the owner liked them and was giving them contract extensions. What was going to save us? What’s the point then?
But then today came, and the franchise has turned a corner.
This move was the impossible. The one the owner wouldn’t make. They wanted to win, and win with this guy behind the bench. They said a coaching change wasn’t an option. Turns out, it was. And if this was really an option all along, despite being told and assuming otherwise, what isn’t?
Any doubt that the upper management here isn’t willing to make the changes needed to win should be shed today. Is their timing perfect? Shit no. This move could’ve been made before. Probably should’ve been made before. But it was made.
Ruff being relieved of his duties presents a paradigm shift for the Sabres and their fans. No one is really safe. Maybe that was the case all along. It’s just a matter of knowing when to pull the trigger. Knowing when to turn the record over and hear what might be on the other side.
Now we know the alleged impossible is really possible. Everything is on the table. Does this completely change the culture here? No, there’s still things to address in the organization that coaching has nothing to do with. A new coach isn’t going to change the atmosphere in the arena. But it can change the mindset. Loyalty is great, but becoming a better organization means that even good people can be shown the door if the results aren’t there.
I’m not sure what interim head coach Ron Rolston is going to bring to these Sabres. Maybe we’ll learn it really was Lindy bringing the team down. Maybe the team just isn’t that good. Either way, it’s good to know that better sense will eventually prevail.
All of a sudden, it’s an exciting time to be a Sabres fan. It’s a nice feeling. With over 30 games remaining, this may change everything for this season. Who knows what the future brings? We’ll find out on the flip side.