It may not always be easy but sometimes change is the best course of action.
Truer words have never been spoken when it comes to the Buffalo Sabres.
Since the 1996-97 season, the Sabres have been the definition of mediocrity.
Saying goodbye to head coach Lindy Ruff and general manager Darcy Regier might get the franchise moving in the right direction.
Ruff is currently the longest tenured coach in the NHL. Since taking over as the Sabres’ bench boss to start the 1997-98 season, Ruff took the Sabres to new levels.
In his very first season, he took the team all the way to the Eastern Conference final, where they lost to the Washington Capitals. The following year, Ruff took the club one step further when he led them all the way to the Stanley Cup final, where they lost to the Dallas Stars in a tough six-game series.
Ruff also took the team to the Eastern Conference final in the mid-2000s, where the club fell short to the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators, respectively. He made the Sabres a winning hockey club and did so by getting the team to buy into his message of playing a tough, physical and skillful style of hockey.
It appears this particular style has worn off. Heading into Tuesday’s action, the Sabres find themselves in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with a 6-9-1 record and having blown many leads in that span.
For a team that did not make the post-season last year and in a season where every single point matters, it is unacceptable.
With that said, the blame cannot solely be put on Ruff’s shoulders. Regier, the team’s longtime general manager, deserves some of the blame as well.
After the team had the league’s best record in the 2006-07 season, he failed to re-sign both Daniel Briere and Chris Drury, the club’s two offensive stars that season.
With Briere and Drury, the Sabres were an astounding 105-46-13. In 2008, Regier then traded the team’s most mobile defenceman in Brian Campbell.
We aren’t alone as someone started a group/campaign on Facebook to get the two fired while Buffalo News columnist, Bucky Gleason, said the following:
“Most are stunned Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff have survived when common sense called for their dismissal long ago.”
Gleason also pointed out an interesting stat to show why Ruff and Regier might deserve to be relieved of their duties:
“The Sabres missed the playoffs six times in 14 seasons under Regier and Ruff, matching the DNQ total for Buffalo in all other seasons combined. They’ve missed three times in five years.”
Getting rid of any long-serving member of an organization is a hard thing to do and that will certainly be the case should the Sabres decide to let go of both Regier and Ruff. But it might also end up being the best move they could possibly make to help get the Sabres’ back to being a competitive hockey team.
What to Do with Pegula
There is no doubt that Sabres owner Terry Pegula has tried to do the right thing for the franchise.
What is really in front of Pegula right now is very ugly. Based on some of the above mentioned stats about Ruff and Regier, a smart hockey owner probably would have removed both of them and inserted new management and a new coaching staff.
This is not the time to be a fan. Yes, it is admirable and may be even an endearing quality but it will not help a team win games in the NHL.
Either Pegula needs to hire someone else who can do a better job with hockey operations and building the right team with the right management or coaching staff or he needs to go back to the business world and stay there.
Without these suggested changes, the Sabres might not end up seeing the playoffs for quite some time.