Vulgar Opinions: Eulogizing Lindy Ruff’s Tenure
I liked the idea of Lindy, a homegrown former player who’d been here forever and seemed as much a part of the Buffalo Sabres as the Blue and Gold Buffalo crest itself. For a while I liked the reality, a gritty coach that wouldn’t take any crap, that won by forcing less talented teams to play an ironclad system. For a while they were the perfect fit, and then at some point in the past five years or so, the idea and the reality grew further and further apart.
He became a man that was unyielding, that forced players to play a game they were ill-equipped for while his general manager kept up a steady supply of ill-equipped players. J.P. Dumont and Jay McKee left. Ales Kotalik and Dmitri Kalinin didn’t. Dainius Zubrus and Dominic Moore were the Lindy-type players that didn’t stay. Raffi Torres, Steve Bernier, and Brad Boyes probably never should have come here to begin with. And let’s not forget the players themselves who certainly share some of the blame for the past few seasons. Was Ruff terrible, was Regier, was the team? Probably none of the above, but those three things need to work with, not against one another.
All the while, his history, and his tenure, and some of the moments he had, ordering Mair, Peters, and Kaleta to go after Heatley, Spezza, and Alfredsson for example, endeared him to us in a way that probably wasn’t healthy. I can’t think of any other organization in any sport that has fans threatening to give up their season tickets if their championship-less coach is fired after over a decade of trying. I think we used Lindy Ruff as an extension of ourselves, as a way to be closer to the team. The joy in watching the Sabres win games isn’t necessarily about hockey, but about seeing your community happy, if even for a little while and for something as meaningless as a game. We liked seeing one of our own find success, and we wanted it to be one of our own that led us to the promised land. It’s rare in an era where even the most home-grown of players eventually end up playing somewhere else. And we loved it.
That’s why it’s so disappointing today, even if the rational among us know that Lindy Ruff’s faults had long started to outweigh his positive qualities. It’s not the cold, emotionless move of firing a failing coach, it’s watching one of our own be sent off into the sunset. No matter what, that hurts a little.