One of the great things about The Buffalo News’ Sabres Edge blog is that it gives beat writers a chance to give their opinions. The majority of a beat writer’s job is to report the story and nothing more, but oftentimes they know the team they cover better than anyone else. That’s what I was glad to see Mike Harrington weighing in on the loss last night. Excuse me for quoting almost all of it, but he made a lot of good points:
I wanted to see some real anger from Ruff after last night’s game. But he seemed as defeated as his team. He tried to say the Thrashers didn’t have any real good chances in the last minute, which was true. There were no shots on goal until Ron Hainsey’s point drive. But the Sabres never got the puck out of the zone for the entire final minute either. It looked like that 76-second shift in Philly last month. How many weak clearing passes will this team make? When is sombody going to demand the puck in the final seconds and get it out of the zone?
Here’s a novel thought: When is this team going to take advantage of somebody’s empty net?
Why do we keep seeing soft plays from the likes of Jason Pominville, Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman late in games? How about Craig Rivet or Paul Gaustad on the ice in the late going instead? Dominic Moore? Bad clearing attempt and then got run over in the corner. No help.
Who puts guys on the ice in the late going? Ruff. You can crab about Regier not doing much at the deadline (cue up the “they sure missed Kotalik in the shootout” cracks) but this one was on Ruff. What should never happen has happened twice in the same season against lousy teams.
Yes, the Thrashers are lousy. Don’t tell me about their winning streak. They’re 13th in the East, they were 48 hours removed from a game in Edmonton and their best player was home hurt. Ruff tried to say the Sabres played a strong game offensively. What was he watching for the first 34 minutes? I say they did nothing until Derek Roy woke them up.
Yes, the Sabres got a point. Yes, they lost ground to no one in the East Saturday. But Ruff certainly didn’t distinguish himself at the end of this one. Or after it. He should be happy the owners and the GM — and, frankly, many of the fans — have his back. Because lots of coaches are sent packing for a lot less than what we’re seeing.
Harrington is echoing a lot of the points we’ve made here throughout the season about Ruff’s performance and why there should at least be some discussion about his job security. It’s not a banging of war drums as much as a simple question: is Lindy making the right decisions, and is he getting through to his team anymore?
There are a lot of people who will get caught up in the post-lockout playoff runs, but the fact of the matter is that the Sabres are in danger of missing the playoffs for the fifth time in seven seasons. That’s a lot of failure for a coaching staff that’s practically infallible within city limits.
I’m not saying anything will change. In fact, we all know that Lindy will be behind the bench next season and beyond. As long as Darcy Regier is making front office decisions, Lindy Ruff will be the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres. But for as often as Darcy gets flack for what happens with this team, Ruff seems immune to blame for any wrongdoing. I know many people think otherwise, but to me that’s at the very least… curious.
Nothing will change, but to be honest it was just nice to see a person many respect say the things few people have.