Tag Archives: Lindy Ruff

Should Rolston Stay?

Sabres Maple Leafs Hockey

With the season winding down, the Sabres will head into the offseason with a bevy of difficult decisions to make. One of the hardest decisions they’ll have to make will be who the head coach will be come next season.

The real question is, will Ron Rolston be brought back? If the Sabres really do decide to go into a major rebuild mode, Rolston would be the perfect fit seeing as how he’s known for being a great developmental coach.

It’s also a very strong possibility that Rolston is sent back down to Rochester to continue working with the young talent that could be the future core of the Buffalo Sabres.

With all of that being said, let’s break down some stats that can be a big determining factor in re-hiring Rolston.

Since taking over the Sabres bench, Rolston has posted a 10-8-5 record thus far. Rolston has earned 54% of the 46 possible points since he took over the Sabres bench. When Lindy Ruff was fired, he posted a 6-10-1 record, earning 38% of the possible 34 points.

If you were to project Rolston’s current record over this years 48 game season, the Sabres would have 52 points. It just so happens that 52 points is the projected cut line for 8th place.

The biggest problem Rolston faced when taking over as Buffalo’s head coach was the blue line, and he did make an improvement in that area. The Sabres give up 2.6 goals a game, whereas with Ruff, they were giving up 3.3 goals per game. That’s a huge difference.

However, on the offensive side, the Sabres posted 2.7 goals per game with Ruff through 17 games. Rolston’s offense is producing 2.3 goals per game through 23 games.

As far a special teams go, Rolston hasn’t really made any improvements in that department.

The power play, which has been atrocious, is at an 11% conversion rate with Rolston. With Ruff it was virtually the same at 12%. The penalty kill, however, was better under Ruff. The Sabres were killing off 80% of penalties under Ruff. Since Rolston took over, the Sabres dropped to a 75% penalty killing rate.

One of the biggest differences Ron Rolston made was winning close games. Since taking over, Rolston is 7-3-5 in one goal games. Thats 19 0ut of a possible 30 points, giving him 63% point rate. Ruff was 3-5-1 in one goal games, leaving him at 38%.

No one really knows what the Sabres will do in terms of a head coach. My theory is, if Buffalo does decide to deal away more players in the offseason and truly rebuild, Ron Rolston will be behind the bench next year.

Advertisements

Lindy Ruff: A Man Of Class

RUFF RAMSEY JUNEAU SYLVESTER HOLZINGER PRIMEAU

On February 20th, the Buffalo Sabres announced that they had relieved Lindy Ruff of his coaching duties. Ruff being fired ended his tenure as the NHL’s longest serving head coach, and second in the four professional sports (Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs was No. 1).  Today, Lindy finally addressed the media two days after being fired.

Just like he entire career, Lindy Ruff defined the word “class” throughout the press conference.

“First, I would like to thank the Knox family for drafting me, and giving me the opportunity,” Ruff said to start the conference. Lindy was selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the second round (32nd pick overall) of the 1979 NHL draft. Lindy would go on to play 10 seasons for the Sabres, and was the team Captain for his final three seasons in blue and gold. Ruff was traded in 1989 to the New York Rangers for a draft pick. Who would the Sabres use that draft pick on? Richard Smelhnik, who would play for several years under Lindy Ruff.

Ruff’s reputation as a player was one Buffalonians love: A tough, hard nosed player with perfect character. An example of Ruff’s toughness came in a game against he New York Islanders in a playoff game on May 10th 1980. Islanders goaltender, Bill Smith, struck Ruff across the head with his stick as Ruff skated in front of his net. Ruff turned around, and without hesitation, tackled him to the ice.

Ruff became an assistant coach for the Florida Panthers from 1993-1997, and was a part of the 1996 Panthers team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals, but lost to the Colorado Avalanche.

Ruff was named the 15th head coach of the Buffalo Sabres on July 21st, 1997. Nobody knew a 16 year “Ruff Era” would be born on that Summer day.

Ruff had immediate success in Buffalo. He led the Sabres to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first season as the head coach, and the year after took them to the Stanley Cup Finals — we all know how that ended. The following two seasons, Ruff would bring Buffalo back to the playoffs. One, a first round exit courtesy of the Philadelphia Flyers, and a second round exit the following year by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The next three seasons, Ruff’s team failed to reach the playoffs preceding to the NHL lockout amidst the teams bankruptcy and financial problems due to the Adelphia Communications corporate scandal. After the 2004-2005 lockout, Ruff would lead the Sabres to back-to-back Eastern Conference finals appearances. In ’05-’06 Ruff’s defensive unit was crippled by injury in the Conference Finals, and lost game seven to the Carolina Hurricanes. Carolina went on to sweep the Edmonton Oilers for the Stanley Cup. The next year, Ruff’s team started out 10-0-0, and would go on to win the Presidents Trophy — the award goes to the best team in the regular season. The Sabres would make it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year, but would be Unknownbounced out by the Senators in five games.

After that, things headed south for Ruff and the Sabres organization. Buffalo failed to reach the post-season in four out of Ruff’s last six seasons, and wouldn’t win a playoff series since the  ’06-’07 Eastern Conference Semi’s against the Ottawa Senators.

One of Ruff’s most memorable moments as Head Coach of the Buffalo Sabres came in February of 2007, “The Brawl”. For those of you who live under a rock, “The Brawl” took place in Buffalo after Chris Neil delivered a cheap shot to co-captain, Chris Drury. Drury would spill blood on the ice, and Neil wouldn’t be called for a penalty. So Lindy decided to take matters into his own hands. The ensuing shift, Ruff sent out Adam Mair, Andrew Peters, and Patrick Kaleta — three of Buffalo’s bad asses. They would be on the ice with Spezza, Heatley, and Mike Comrie. As soon as the puck dropped, all three Sabres players attacked Ottawa’s forwards, and the brawl begun. Ray Emery and Martin Biron would leave their creases, remove their masks, and drop the gloves. Ruff was fined $10,000 for “precipitating” the brawl after Neil’s hit. The City Of Buffalo started to raise money for Ruff so that he wouldn’t have to pay the fine, but Ruff proudly refused the offer — If that isn’t a sign of class, I don’t know what is.

Those were the good days for Ruff, but unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. The past three seasons, including the 17 games Ruff coached this year, the Sabres underperformed and the fans grew restless. This past Tuesday, the Sabres played host to one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference: the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets beat Buffalo 2-1 and that made Sabre Nation erupt with boo’s, and even chants of “Fire Lindy” started in the 300 level. Ruff explained how he felt after his last game as the Sabres head coach, “To take that step back against Winnipeg, that was a real kick in the gut for me.”

When the game was over, Darcy Regier was walking down the hall of the press box with a look on his face that explained what the future would hold. Lindy would be relieved of his duties.

“I saw him, and I said ‘I know,'” Lindy said this morning, talking about Darcy Regier showing up to his home to deliver the news. “I said, ‘Don’t say your sorry.’ I said, ‘You’ve been my biggest backer all these years.'”

Ruff would go on to thank a long list of people: Owners, assistant coaches and trainer, several players, and the fans.

45521Lindy said he already misses coaching, and will plan on doing it again. He will, however, continue to live in Buffalo, NY.

“It’s a hard tough game,” Lindy explained. “It’s been a strange feeling, but I got to keep going. I love the game.”

He watched hockey last night, and tried watching the Sabres 3-1 loss in Toronto. “I watched one period, and found it incredibly strange,” Ruff said. “I turned it off. It’s something I wanted to, but couldn’t.”

In this predicament, some coaches won’t show respect to the GM let alone praise them. Ruff did just the opposite.

Lindy said of GM Darcy Regier: “I know through 16 years theres probably 99 percent of GM’s in the league that would’ve whacked the coach at a certain time. We went through some tough stretches where he believed in me and said, ‘You can get these guys through it.’ He’s a good friend. He’s a great hockey man. We went through a lot together, an I’m indebted to him for trusting me in a lot of tough situations.”

Ruff saved the last part of his speech to talk about the fans in Western New York.

“The fans of Western New York are No. 1. It really came to the forefront when my I dealt with my daughter’s medical condition, got us through a real tough time in our lives. There was a ‘Thank You’ outside on the fence. I’d like to put my ‘Thank You’ right next to it because it’s a special group. It’s a place I call home, always will call home. I don’t feel like I have anything to be ashamed of or any regrets. Western New York is where I’m going to live. I love Western New York.”

Lindy Ruff had to be fired. It was needed, and we all know that. Aside from the team, the playoffs, the NHL, the media, Lindy Ruff is a class act all the way around. From the amount of criticism he dealt with, to the pressure of winning in this city, to defending his team after taking cheap shot after cheap shot, to officials missing a skate that was clearly in the crease, to his daughters medical condition, Lindy Ruff fought for his team, his family, and this city.

Lindy Ruff, this city will be indebted to you. You’re the definition of class, and you will always be loved in the City Of Buffalo.

Not only are we proud, but we are all extremely lucky to call you a fellow Buffalonian.

823352_10151458644625540_1406170349_o_zps008a8873

Sabres – Leafs Recap

162307265_slide

Ron Rolston loses his first game thanks to JVR’s two goal performance, as the Maple Leafs beat the Sabres 3-1.

The past 48 hours leading up to this game, the Sabres were the most talked about team in the league after Lindy Ruff was relieved of his coaching duties. Ruff coached the Sabres for 15 seasons. His replacement, Ron Rolston, was the coach of the Rochester Americans this season before he was called on to be the Sabres new head coach. James Van Riemsdyk (JVR) used to play under Rolston for Team USA when he was a junior, and told the media that if it weren’t for Rolston, he wouldn’t be the hockey player he is today. For those of you who don’t know, JVR is a very talented forward and is having a very productive season thus far.

Sabres Defenseman TJ Brennan, who spent a great deal of time in Rochester with Rolston, said that the difference between Ruff and Rolston is that Rolston is more in your face and energetic. Whereas Lindy was more independent.

162307159_stdIn the first period, Buffalo looked like a rejuvenated squad on the ice. The controlled the puck in Toronto’s zone, kept skating, won the physical battles along the boards, and most importantly — weren’t chasing the puck around in their own zone.

Both teams would get their fair share of chances throughout the opening twenty minutes, but Buffalo would capitalize on one of their opportunities 13:20 into the opening period.’

Buffalo lost the draw in their own zone (how many times have we said that this season?) but recovered it after a shot by Bozak never made it’s way to the net. Ennis scooped up the loose puck along the half wall, gently bounced it off the boards for Stafford in the neutral zone, and headed up ice setting up a give-and-go. Stafford saw Ennis all the way, and gave him a nice lead pass into Toronto’s zone. Ennis flew past Gunnarsson, skated to the middle of the left face-off circle, and sniped a beauty to the top left corner to give Buffalo the lead.

The Stafford-Ennis-Foligno line is finally starting to feel it offensively. This is all thank to Stafford. Earlier in the year, Foligno and Ennis were doing their jobs (not to the fullest), but Stafford was nowhere to be found. Ennis does his part getting free and creating rushes, Foligno does his part when it comes to physical play especially around the boards, but Stafford was non existant earlier in the season. His job is to lead that line on the ice, shoot, pass, hit, etc. Now that Stafford is finally getting in a groove and skating much better, this line might go back to it’s old ways from last year. When I say old ways, I mean unstoppable.  Continue reading Sabres – Leafs Recap

Grigorenko Stays

xGrigorenko8.jpg.pagespeed.ic.fh3dqqLDO_

Sabres GM Darcy Regier has announced this morning that Mikhail Grigorenko will stay with Buffalo, and play tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Grigorenko’s five game tryout didn’t bring any goals or assist’s, but his play on the ice showed Lindy and Darcy that he belongs in the NHL.

Now that Griggy is staying up with Buffalo, he enters his entry-level contract. He’ll earn $925,000 this year. After this season he will become an RFA (Restricted Free Agent), and if he plays at least 23 games this season, he will become a UFA (Unrestricted Free Agent) a year early.

When the 18-year-old found out he was staying with Buffalo he had a huge smile on his face and said, “It’s really amazing news, I’m really excited.”

Grigorenko is the first 18-year-old regular on the Sabres since Pierre Turgeon.

The Sabres will welcome back TJ Brennan and Mike Weber to the lineup tonight, and Thomas Vanek will return afterBuffalo+Sabres+v+Philadelphia+Flyers+AjTgCVfDev-l missing Sunday’s game in Washington.

Brennan and Weber will be filling in for Sulzer and Regehr. Sulzer is a healthy scratch, while Regehr has an undisclosed lower body injury. Lindy said earlier this morning that it’s a short term injury, and that it’s nothing serious.  With Vanek back, Nathan Gerbe is the odd man out tonight.

I’m interested to see if Brennan can ignite a spark in the Buffalo offense. Lindy said this morning, “His shot from the point on the power play is second to none in the AHL.” Brennan leads the Amerk’s with 35 points (14G + 21 A) in 36 games.

The Sabres face the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at the First Niagara Center. Puck drop set for 7:05.

Sabres – Capitals Recap

160204214_slide

The Sabres losing skid hits three thanks to the Washington Capitals.

Buffalo, despite a good effort, chose not to cover one of the best players in the NHL — Alex Ovechkin. The Sabres left Ovy all alone on the power play, and he made them pay with a one-timer goal with 5:11 left in regulation. That would end up the game winner.

The loss was Buffalo’s third in a row, while the Capitals would find their way into the win column for the first time this season. Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno would be the two goal scorers for Buffalo, who were without their leading scorer Thomas Vanek. Thomas was out with a muscle strain he suffered Friday night against Carolina. Continue reading Sabres – Capitals Recap

Sabres – Hurricanes Recap

160072309_slideAfter suffering their first loss of the season to the Hurricanes, the Sabres had a chance to tie the home-and-home series in Buffalo.

The first period started off on the wrong foot for Buffalo. Just 56 seconds into the period, Jordan Leopold was whistled for interference. Luckily for Leopold, the penalty killing unit for Buffalo stayed sharp and didn’t give Carolina anything to work with. The best part about the period was how physical it was. You usually won’t see teams be as physical coming off of a back-to-back and traveling. It’s funny how much energy teams can get when you have unfinished business against the guys you played the night before. Continue reading Sabres – Hurricanes Recap

Sabres: Gerbe Back To Full Practice

gerbe

The Sabres were back at practice today after Ruff gave them Tuesday off as predicted. With 48 games in 97 days, you’re not going to get many chances to give your guys a day off which is key in a shortened season.

Bill Hoppe reported that Nathan Gerbe was back to full practice today, and was skating with Grigorenko and Ott. Gerbe was put on the injured list the first two games of the season, as he is coming off of back surgery that he received this past offseason.

I’m excited to see Gerbe on a line with Griggy and Ott. Nathan’s speed and puck control will open up ice for
Grigorenko’s offensive skill set, and might be the spark to get the 18-year-old on the score sheet. Gerbe would be a good fit for this line because of how well he plays in all three zone’s in terms of puck support and back checking.

Leino, who was supposed to be on the Grigorenko/Ott line, is still out with a leg injury, and will miss his third straight game come Thursday. It’s looking more and more like Leino will be replacing Gerbe on the injured list, and Gerbe will be activated to the 23-man roster. If this happens, Matt Ellis would be the odd man out, and Jochen Hecht would Center Patrick Kaleta and John Scott. Hecht was seen Centering Scott and Kaleta at practice.

Lindy will update Gerbe and Leino’s statuses after practice.

The Sabres will then travel to Raleigh, NC to start the front end of a home-and-home series between the Carolina Hurricanes.