While giving a vote of confidence to his Head Coach recently, Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said if he had to pick a coach to shore up a team’s defense it would be Lindy Ruff. With all due respect, the historical data does not back up that claim.
Team defense, or lack thereof, has been the Sabres biggest problem in their 5-8-1 start. Buffalo is ranked 27th in the NHL in average goals against at 3.43. For the first time in Ruff’s 14 plus seasons behind the Sabres bench, they gave up at least four goals in six consecutive games.
The perception of Ruff, held by many Sabres fans, is that he is a defense first coach who stifles offense but the stats would prove different. Here are the defensive numbers under Lindy season by season with the average goals against followed by where that ranked in the league:
Since Dominik Hasek was traded back in the summer of 2001, the Sabres have finished better than 10th just one time. In 2009-2010, Ryan Miller produced the best season of his career en route to the Vezina Trophy and rookie defenseman Tyler Myers looked like a polished veteran while skating away with the Calder Trophy.
The offensive numbers are better, post lockout. Ruff guided offenses that finished 5th, 1st and 4th. They slipped to 12th, 10th,9th and 17th the next four seasons and are currently 13th. Since the lockout, in every season except one(2009-2010), the Sabres offense has finished with a higher league ranking than the defense.
Here are some bonus numbers for you, under the category of did you know?
*Buffalo has led after the first period in only three of the 14 games(they’ve led after two periods only once)
*Buffalo has the second worst home penalty kill in the NHL at 72%(the road power play is 1-30(3%) for the season which is also second worst in the league)
*Overall, the power play is 1 for 26 over the last 7 games
*Buffalo is 3-4-1 against Northeast Division teams(last season they were 13-6-5)
*Still looking for their first goal of the season are: Drew Stafford and Jochan Hecht(14 games), Nathan Gerbe(9 games) and Patrick Kaleta(8 games)
*Buffalo has won only one time in the seven games when the opponent scores first