I haven’t been shy about saying I don’t think firing Lindy Ruff was a necessity (then again, I also thought there was a chance the Sabres could very good this short season). I totally understand the move and think it can be an impetus for the organization to move in a better direction, but I certainly don’t think it was Option No. 1. It happened. Your team can’t be one of the exceptions to the dime-a-dozen coaches mentality when your team is brutal. Time to move on.
Ron Rolston is the easiest way to try to salvage this season. The Amerks power play is No. 3 in the American League and his system is very similar to the one Lindy Ruff has employed for the past few years. Perhaps him telling Cody Hodgson what to do in his own zone will embed itself in the young centerman. Probably, actually; he’s young and “get the slot guy” isn’t a revolutionary concept.
If Rolston cannot push all the right buttons and this team misses the postseason — he certainly has a favorable stretch here to give it a go — it will be unfair to judge him as a head coach (much like Randy Cunneyworth in Montreal last year).
Why? Cause this team simply doesn’t have a good mesh of skill and experience. They needed Mikhail Grigorenko to be outstanding immediately. He hasn’t been. They needed Drew Stafford and Marcus Foligno to score. They haven’t. They needed Ryan Miller to be Vezina-worthy, Tyler Myers to return to form and the power play to be Arnelian. Nope-nope-nopity-nope.
Frankly, they could use the trip to the bottom they won’t get (barring a lottery miracle). Why? For the same reason those four first-round picks Edmonton dangled for Thomas Vanek wouldn’t have Top Five picks. Vanek, Pominville, Ehrhoff and Miller will be responsible for enough wins to keep playoff math alive well into April. Ennis has quietly been a line saver as well.
1) Florida has no goaltending and their best offensive threat is 19.
2) Winnipeg is in better shape than the Sabres, but still dealing with the travel schedule of a Western team in the Eastern Conference.
3) Remember the nothing Columbus got in exchange for Rick Nash? It’s still nothing.
The move was more business-related than hockey. Buffalo’s media and fans were far more done with Ruff than the players. Think that’s nuts? Remember Sunday when they worked their cups off against the Penguins and everyone said, “Man, they were so close except for that Crosby fella” (See: hitting bottom)?
There’s a sentimental attachment between Ruff and this community. He’s the best coach not named Scotty Bowman to stand behind the Sabres bench and he’s going to see his name in the rafters of First Niagara Center at some point. After Dominik Hasek and Gilbert Perreault, he’s arguably the name most synonymous with the Buffalo Sabres. Even his detractors would admit Ruff being the coach to lead the Sabres to the Stanley Cup would fit the club.
But he won’t. It’s likely he gets a Cup before the Sabres (he’ll have his choice of openings). Heck, as I posted this afternoon, I half-expect the Flyers to fire Peter Laviolette so we can watch the Briere/Ruff combo bring Philly to Cup glory.