Into the Fire

by Ryan

Let’s say the Sabres lose tonight with the same effort they had on Monday. What do you do? The team is officially going nowhere, the attitude hasn’t changed, and everything is stale. Well, what if they emulated Carolina and fired Lindy Ruff, replacing him with Ted Nolan?

That’s crazy, right? I mean, Lindy has been here for so long it would be almost unthinkable for him to get fired for a bad showing in the first 25 games. Plus we all know what Darcy has said about the head coaching position under his tenure. There’s a better chance the entire team catches ringworm from the puppies they cuddle with in their spare time than Lindy getting the axe anytime soon.

Let’s face it, it’s very rare Lindy sees any criticism at all out of Sabres fans. Somewhere down the line he got an exemption when it comes to the problems with this team. In so many other leagues the head coach is the first to take the blame, but around here it is the immaturity of the players and their own lack of focus instead of an inability to coach.

I’m not writing this in an attempt to get crucified, but I’m genuinely curious to see where people think the responsibility lies. The past two years we’ve talked so much about the system Lindy has in place and how some players just can’t adapt to it. That’s a completely valid response to the problem, but here’s my question: why can’t the system change to fit the players?

Our general manager has a notoriously slow trigger finger, and has made only a small handful of moves before the trade deadline throughout his tenure with the team. Despite the struggles of players and the desperate pleas from fans and pundits to trade them, it seems unlikely anything will happen for another few months. The only moves that have affected this team have been plane rides to and from Maine, and only so much change come of that.

I’ve slowly come to realize the players on this roster aren’t going anywhere. Darcy has plans for Max/Timmy/Ales sometime down the road, but I would be shocked if they weren’t on team in some regard going into 2009. When is it, then, that winning with the group of guys we currently have supercedes the importance of the system in place? If the players aren’t capible of sucessful hockey with these rules, why not change it?

I see nothing wrong with “The System” becuase, as I’ve said before; by design it is flawless. Only the players can perform badly within a perfect construct, but when these players continue to fail when it is the responsibility of the head coach to come up with something more effective?

To be harsh, I’ve seen little to no ability to adapt in this coaching staff since the lockout. The plans they laid out worked very well coming out of the work stoppage, but sometime after the Ottawa Brawl things started to break down. This Sabres team has played the same style of mediocre hockey for over 110+ games now, so when do the adjustments kick in?

Again, I agree that the players must take a lot of the blame. Some guys we previously thought had star potential may only be bit players, and some contracts may be too heavy. That means Darcy messed up as well, and that’s something you can’t overlook. However, a head coach is supposed to do more than just put a system in place. I haven’t seen Lindy “coaching up his boys” in quite some time now, and it makes me wonder what direction this team is really moving in.

I feel the need to stress here that I don’t think Lindy Ruff is a bad coach. He’s done a great job at times and his foresight during the lockout was outstanding. Still, I really feel like it’s been quite some time since he’s shown me something, and I feel a “Coach of the Year” like he is should offer more than he has. Looking at the way his teams have performed last season and thus far this year it’s easy to say he’s overrated, and maybe there’s nothing wrong with that. No one’s perfectly “rated”, so why not guess on the high side?

Get pucks deep. Forecheck. Get to the net. We’ve heard it all over and over again. Now we have a new one. “Start fresh.” The Sabres can say their record is 0-0-0 all they want, but the truth is that they sit 11-10-3 and third in the Northeast. Those are the facts, and that “new season” mentality is only another way the Sabres say all the right things. What I want to see is that they have the ability to do the right things, and do them often enough to consider them a good team again.

I don’t think just Lindy Ruff has the power to make that happen. Hockey is a team game, and every aspect of this organization (Coaches, front office, and players) needs to do what it can to improve this hockey team. All I’m saying is that I haven’t seen the jaw dropping performance you’d expect from Lindy Ruff given his reputation.

But maybe others feel different.


  1. Anne

    With all the usual early season coach firings going on, I did find myself walking out of HSBC Arena a few weeks ago thinking about this team from an outsider’s perspective. If this was another team, I’d immediately think that the coach’s job was on the line. Peter Laviolette won a Stanley Cup and was fired 2 seasons later. We all know Darcy and Lindy are tight so it seems unlikely that a Lindy firing would come from his brain.

    Should he be fired? No. Not at this point, but something’s got to give.

  2. Zach

    In Carolina’s credit, Jim Rutherford has really been trying to get Laviolette out of Carolina for a couple seasons.

    I do agree with you guys though that Lindy’s head should be on the chopping block. With Max, Timmy, and Al there may be a little interest but you are going to have to package someone else with them. You can’t make a lot of changes. So to change this team it would be a head coaching change.

    I honestly just dont think that there is the talent there to really make a run for the playoffs. This team really needs an overall.

  3. woodpeck

    Lindy’s job is safe til’ the end of the season. make the 2nd round of the playoffs and he’s safe. anything less = goodbye. great blog btw! i’ve linked ya up at my site.

  4. Steve

    I don’t think he would ever get fired mid-season, but if he doesn’t turn this team around fast, I think he should be fired whenever the Sabres are officially eliminated from the playoffs (whether that is game 65 or game 82 or even a first round exit). It’s obvious he’s not getting through to these guys, and like it or not this is our roster for at least a few more years with all the big contracts they handed out this summer. If Darcy refuses to fire Lindy I hope he’ll be gone too.

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