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A New Direction



blog-0967655001361411853.jpgTomorrow night at the Air Canada Center against division rival the Toronto Maple Leafs the Buffalo Sabres will have a new coach behind the bench for the first time in 14 years. Lindy Ruff was relieved of his duties today as head coach of the struggling Sabres. Although I've been calling for it and after last night expected it I was still shocked. Ruff coached the Sabres in 1165 games and had a 571-432-78(ties)-84 record for a .559 winning %. He led the Sabres to the playoffs 8 times in 14 years. He led the Sabres to one cup final and three conference finals appearances. Under Ruff the Sabres won the Northeast Division two times. Ruff also won the Jack Adams Award in 2006 while leading perhaps one of the best Sabres teams in franchise history.

This move is something I believed the Sabres should have made after last season. Ruff is not a bad coach and will likely have another job in the NHL soon if he wants it, but his time in Buffalo was up. The reason it was down today mid-season was because the Sabres needed to save face with the fans. The fanbase was turning on Terry Pegula and his honeymoon period had run out. He was left with no choice and had to do something.

I have a few reasons why Ruff needed to be let go and I won't give you the "he lost the room" speech because I think that is just something people run with. I'll start with the way Ruff has handled the young talent in Buffalo. This is a bigger deal that most people would think. Ruff is a big reason Luke Adam is out of favor with the franchise. He went from leading the Sabres first line to being irrelevant. Ruff hammered on him and just hammered defense first into his head and ruined the kids offensive ability. Adam will likely never play for the Sabres again and won't surprise me if he is not tendered when his deal is up at the end of this year or traded before that. Tyler Myers won the Calder Trophy and after that season Ruff wanted Myers to focus on his defensive game more. Since then Myers has never been the same. Finally with Grigorenko this year Ruff tried the Barry Melrose method and that is not how it is done in today's NHL. Young players are given the chance to play and be a big factor in their first season. With Joel Armia, Brian Flynn, Brayden McNabb, Jake McCabe, Andrey Makarov, and Zemgus Girgensons coming through the system a coach who know how to hand young talent is vital. I'll get back to that later.

Another thing to look at is Ruff's system. Let's start with his PP over his 14 years as coach from 97-13 the Sabres PP has finished 19, 21, 28, 17, 27, 20, 19, 3, 17, 14, 17, 9, 16, and 28th this year for an average of 18th place. All of the top teams in the NHL have excellent PP's and the Sabres have never been able to get out of their own way. I think a new coach with a fresh idea on how to use the players on the roster will improve the PP. Also Ruff's system he jammed into the Sabres head was starting to hold the Sabres hostage. If they got a lead it was time to focus on defense, the Sabres had no killer instinct under Ruff. Almost a play not to lose attitude.

So ends the Lindy Ruff era and begins the Ron Rolston era. Rolston the current coach of the Sabres AHL affiliate the Rochester Amerks will take over as the interm coach for the rest of the season. Rolston is the older brother of NHLer Brian Rolston. The 46 year old coach was vital in the growth of USA hockey as a coach of young USA players as he climbed through the USA hockey ranks. Rolston has been the Amerks coach for the last two years and is familiar with a lot of the young talent now playing with the Sabres now and in the future. Rolston is perfect for infusion of youth coming through the system and on the current roster. He knows how to handle young players and develop them. Rolston has a big hand in the development of Marcus Foligno. His goal will be to get a grip on the Veteran core of this team in Vanek, Miller, Stafford, and Pominville.

If Rolston is not kept as coach next season I think Tony Granato and Patrick Roy are a few names to watch. Regier is fond of Roy and the former junior coach of Mikhail Grigorenko. Granato is a name to watch as well because of the Sabres management connection to Pittsburgh and I think he's due for a chance.

Also look for players like Brayden McNabb and Brian Flynn to crack the Sabres lineup in the next few weeks.


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