Buffalo Sabres’ Problem: The Players or Lindy Ruff?


Lindy Ruff has been behind the bench for the Buffalo Sabres since 1997. The way the Sabres have been playing so far this season has Buffalo wondering if 2013 will be his final season with the team.

For a coach that’s been with the team for 15 seasons, Ruff hasn’t had the success to warrant that long of a stint. Ruff only has eight playoff appearances in his first 14 seasons. When you consider four of those seasons were from 1998-2001, Ruff’s lack of success stands out even more.

He only has four playoff appearances in the last 10 years and only made it out of the first round twice. The Sabres haven’t won a playoff round since beating the New York Rangers in 2007, yet Ruff is still the head coach.

For a coach that gets criticized for not having enough offense, the Sabres’ problem this year has been on defense. Buffalo ranks 26th in goals per game allowed. With Thomas Vanek playing at an MVP level through nine games, Buffalo is ninth in goals per game offensively. The problem will be when Vanek comes back to earth; the defense will still be faltering.

The Sabres have been soft and undersized for years, but Ruff has been given new talent the last two offseasons and has not turned them into wins. Through free agency, trades, drafts and rookies breaking in, Ruff has been given Ville Leino, Robyn Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff, Cody Hodgson Steve Ott, John Scott, Marcus Foligno and Mikhail Grigorenko. More importantly, they got rid of Tim Connolly and Derek Roy in the process. Yet, Buffalo only has seven points in nine games through 2013.

By the way, Connolly is playing for Toronto’s AHL team.

In defense of Ruff, the longer tenured Sabres are the problems. Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford and Jordan Leopold have been the three main underachieving culprits. They have the three lowest plus/minus ratios on the team: Myers -6, Stafford -7, Leopold -8.

Watching these three play with a lack of enthusiasm isn’t a new concept though. Either Ruff can’t get through to these players or he has players in roles that give them too much responsibility.

Jochen Hecht hasn’t offered much either. He only has one assist and a plus/minus of -3.

I think Myers is just a confidence issue that will be resolved, especially as he plays with Regehr again. Stafford, Leopold and Hecht look like they need a seat on the bench for a while. Their replacements may not be much better, but they can’t be any worse.

As far as Ryan Miller is concerned, we’ve seen Miller play like the best goalie in the world before. He hasn’t been sharp this year, but I think the lack of defense in front of him has been the bigger problem. Miller has had the capability to cover up defensive problems in the past, but not to the point of the defensive problems the Sabres are having this season.

In my opinion, it’s a lot easier to change one coach than it is to swap or fix 10 players. Ruff has not changed his style of coaching and it’s made Sabres games boring and hard to watch. Judging by how quiet the First Niagara Center has been this season, it sounds like Buffalo hasn’t been given a reason to get excited about its hockey team.

General Manager Darcy Regier still has time to make a move to improve his hockey team this year, but it probably won’t be a coaching change.

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