“Is that it?”
If any immediate change came from the firing of Lindy Ruff, that quote is the most obvious. After a five minute press conference, interim head coach Ron Rolston asked the assembled media if they had any more questions on Saturday night. Gone was the quick “Thanks” from Lindy Ruff when he felt he had heard enough. Sabres PR called it for Rolston a millisecond later, but after more than 15 years of Ruff behind the podium it was easy to notice the change.
Post game procedure itself was the same, but things inside the press room were slightly off. An audio tech wondered out loud if the new coach was shorter or taller than Ruff. Two inches shorter, I told him, after Googling it. A soft-spoken Rolston would need as much amplification as possible, media members leaning in with microphones and straining ears to hear. It didn’t help that he leaned to his left on the podium when he answered questions.
Aside from the postgame display, it’s tough to find many differences in this Sabres team. They struggled to score at home on Saturday, then saw their lifeforce drain when the opposition finally lit up the scoreboard. One mistake turned into two, then came the boos and a 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders. Firing a coach usually makes a hockey team notice, but this Sabres squad has shown more of the same in the days following Ruff’s termination.
“Right now the guys need to step away a little bit,” Rolston said after Saturday’s game. “They need to recharge. … I think right now is a good time to just get away and come back Monday, go to work, and go to Florida.”
Rolston dealt with cliches for much of his talk with the media, but I think that’s good advice for everyone involved. If there was ever a hockey franchise that needed some time apart, it’s the Buffalo Sabres and their fans. The problem, of course, is that there are obligations to fulfill. The Sabres held a Bowl-a-Rama on Sunday, which I’m sure wasn’t awkward in any way.
The team itself may be a nightmare these days, but the show must go on. That’s where I’m at with this team, at least. It’s a frustrating experience sitting down to watch these games. Even from the press box it’s hard not to throw your hands up in the air in disbelief when no one decides to take the puck on an Islanders rush into the zone.
But the beat goes on. You take the days off where they are, but there’s nothing you really can do but keep going. Unless you plan on calling this season a total loss and taking up a new hobby this spring, there are 29 more of these things to watch. That’s a lot of hockey, and while it’s tough to say what we’ve learned from the Sabres this year, I’d imagine something of use comes out of the next two months. Lindy is gone, and more changes are sure to follow. Change will be good for this team.
If the last week showed us anything it’s that nothing can stay the same forever. Even if it feels like it can.