As Sabres Slide Continues, is Ruff on a Hot Seat? Is that Even Possible?5
“Lindy ain’t goin’ nowhere.”
So said Terry Pegula. Then, he signed Ruff to an extension. Pegula’s admiration of his head coach is obviously no secret. He loves the guy. Heck, I love the guy. If you approach any hockey fan in Buffalo, he’ll tell you that he loves Ruff, too.
But then, a lot of those same fans will shuffle their feet and add “but I think he’s lost this team.”
And in the back of Pegula’s mind, I’m sure his love for Ruff is up against it with not loving how this team loses, and how soft it plays.
I am not going to pretend I know everything about Lindy’s “The System,” or about all the techniques and tricks he and his staff utilize to get his team motivated. But this team has been soft and glaringly inconsistent for years now (many would say since the departure of a couple certain players).
For all those years, including this one, I’ve stridently defended the notion that we should keep Ruff behind the Sabres bench. He’s taken this team places that likely not many (if any) others could have in his tenure so far. He’s got a gold medal (well, technically, he doesn’t, since coaches are not awarded medals in the Olympics. And he was an assistant under Mike Babcock, whose own Motown “The System” just spanked Lindy’s version with extreme prejudice.)
Hell, Ruff is renowned as one of the best coaches on the planet. If he was ever let go, he’d probably be hired by another team before he could phone home with the bad news.
Still, year in and year out, the Sabres can’t manage to put together “60 minutes of hockey.” They can’t wrap their brains around the simple notion of “protecting our goaltender.” (Lucic was one thing, but don’t forget about the Gomez slewfoot in 2009.)
We do know that Ruff has yelled at this team until his voice is grated. He’s put them through the grinder at practice. But there are only so many times you can bag skate a team before you realize that, yikes, bag skating them isn’t even changing anything.
As for the players, it might not even be intentional. After spending so much time with one authority figure, people learn how far they can push things, how much that they can get away with. Everyone slacks off at work, but the slacking really gets bad once folks get comfy at their desks knowing that the boss doesn’t check up on what websites they visit. It’s sort of a natural instinct to fluff tasks off every now and then.
Of course, these are pro athletes. The level of motivation you need to get to the NHL is monumental. But this team really seems to have lost that. The quotes out of the locker room are so redundant it’s pointless to read up on game wrap-ups after a loss, because you know what those players are going to say. “We need to play harder. 60 minutes. Move our feet. Better passing. Focus. Etc. Etc. Etc.”
Again, this isn’t news. The Sabres have been guilty of shuffling through games for years. Moving a couple of them out to a new city might help.
But after all of these seasons, you cannot look at the glaring inconsistencies of this team and not question Ruff’s tenure. He’s one of the winningest coaches around, and he’s done it all here. (As Tamara pointed out, he’s had his gig here since Tyler Myers was a very tall seven year old.)
Whether he still has this team with him is the question. The Sabres performance on the ice is a pretty damning assessment of that.
We certainly do love our coach here in Buffalo. Maybe we love him a bit too much.
next post: Ted Black Says Lindy Ruff Stays And Some Other Cool Things