So where were you when you heard that the Buffalo Sabres had fired Lindy Ruff? I don't think that I'll ever have any trouble remembering where I was. That's because I was live on the air in the middle of a rant about how obvious it was that Ruff needed to be fired.
I have to tell you, that was more than a little weird. While I've been saying for weeks that I thought the Sabres had a real problem brewing with their head coach, hearing that he had been fired was still shocking.
This is partly because many of us who cover or follow the team regularly had felt for a long time as though Ruff would never get fired. For quite a long time I admired that about the Sabres and General Manager Darcy Regier in particular. Not allowing the millionaire players to get the coach fired works for me in theory and in practice it worked for the Sabres for a time.
Like many fans, I grew up with Lindy Ruff being a part of the Sabres. He fought Billy Smith of the Islanders who was the dirtiest goalie I ever saw. He yelled No Goal at a rally after the Sabres lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. He made Ken Hitchcock, then the coach of the Flyers, swear at him during a playoff series. He almost fought Ottawa coach Bryan Murray when Chris Neil of the Senators cheap shotted Chris Drury. He was one of us and that worked for us for a time as well.
That time ended, maybe as long ago as a few years ago according to some observers. This past spring there was a lot of talk from the Sabres as they went their separate ways that Ruff was too harsh at times. Derek Roy was on the front line of the criticism and perhaps for his trouble, was traded to Dallas in July. One veteran player who has played for at least one other team in his NHL career told our Paul Hamilton that Ruff was the harshest coach he had ever experienced. So the signs were there. Rather than act on them over the summer, the Sabres engaged in meetings with certain players in an effort to improve communication and perhaps not have players who have been with Ruff for so many years be so fatigued by his methods.
It didn't take. Watching the games and failing to see the consistent effort, especially in the less glamorous aspects of the game led me there. The rest of the opinion is filled out by some information from a few well placed sources telling me that certain veteran players on the team had reached a breaking point with Ruff. Last night,Ruff sounded exhausted and at his wits end to explain the performance of his team. Add it all up and the time had come. Even in Buffalo.