Constant calls to fire Lindy Ruff leads to the question, if not Ruff, then who? We defined the five “must haves” for the Sabres next head coach. [read more]

Who should replace Lindy Ruff?

Who should replace Lindy Ruff?

Since 1997, when the Sabres installed Lindy Ruff as the replacement for popular head coach Ted Nolan, there has been a strong and vocal contingent questioning the decision.  In 2012, with the team missing the postseason for the third time in five seasons, the anti-Ruff sentiment hasn’t gotten any quieter.

Calls to get rid of Ruff lead to the question:  if not Ruff, then who?  Let’s try to realistically define five “must haves” for the Sabres next head coach.

1 – Experience

Terry Pegula and company have been clear. They’re here to win the Stanley Cup.  With no time or patience for a rookie coach to learn on the job, the candidate should know the league inside and out and have already made and learned from his own mistakes.

2 – Record of Success

The inclination might be to go with a guy who’s already won a Stanley Cup but the truth is that Scotty Bowman is the only coach to win multiple Cups in the past 20 years. So, since the road to the Cup involves making the playoffs and winning playoff series, it makes sense to look for a coach who’s shown he can do both.  Things to look for would include:

  • A winning record in the regular season and the playoffs.
  • Some division titles…  maybe even a President’s Trophy.
  • Playoff series victories… 10 or more.

3 – Developer and Motivator

Not all relationships will thrive, but there should be a track record of getting the best out of players in the majority of cases.  Players should flourish under the coach, with some having career-best years while playing for him.   Since some rosters aren’t as stockpiled with offensive firepower as others, the coach should also have the ability to turn marginal talent into a productive, overachieving NHL squad.

4 – Leadership and Respect

The coach should have already earned the respect of players and the NHL’s ruling class — the guys who, for better and for worse, set the tone for how the league runs.  So, a coach with an NHL career and proven leadership on teams he played for would be a plus.  Success in international competition (World Championships and Olympics) would be another bonus.

5 – Passion, Authenticity, and Likability

Here’s a little secret that many sports leagues tend to forget. At the end of the day, all this stuff is supposed to be entertaining.  So for our sanity, the ideal coach would be at least somewhat engaging, not just another cliché machine.  Just think about the refreshing difference between the stylings of Dick Jauron and Chan Gailey.  The coach should have the willingness and guts to  speak out when he thinks it’s justified.  Buffalo eats that stuff up.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about the criteria established above but it’s helpful to lay it all out there.

Now, do you know of anyone who might fit?


  1. I’m with Kathy. Looking at the criteria, Lindy has it all (except MAYBE 10 series, because I get to seven easily, but am unsure of ten). It’s a tough road to walk. And when I look at it, there is no one who stands out as available that would be BETTER than Lindy. Because if the answer isn’t someone who is better, then you’re doing nothing but grabbing headlines.

    • 1997-98
      Beat Philly, Montreal
      Lost to Washington

      Beat Ottawa, Boston, Toronto
      Lost to Dallas

      Beat Philly
      Lost to Pitt

      Beat Phiily, Ottawa
      Lost to Carolina

      Beat Islanders, Rangers
      Lost to Ottawa

      There’s your 10 series wins.

      57-44 playoff record overall.

      • Derrick, you have a valid point that Lindy meets the set standards of the above artical. However, do you know the definition of the ‘insanity’? Insanity: doing the SAME THING over and over, while expecting a different outcome. My hats off to Lindy but all things MUST come to an end. On a personal note, I would much rather see Darcy gone than Lindy.

        • That definition of insanity quote is the stupidest quote ever and doesnt even with in this situation. The sabres have never had a complete team that could have competed for a cup. Our problem isnt our coach it’s our roster. Dont even try to say our post lockout team fits that thet had many problems too. you can’t win a cup with bargain players

  2. I don’t doubt that Lindy Ruff is a great coach, but we can’t forget that he collaborates with Darcy Regier on the roster of this team, so our failures in certain areas are just as much his fault as they are Darcy’s. Worth considering when you talk about whether or not he should still have a job, especially when the ultimate goal is winning the Cup (which he hasn’t done.)

  3. lindy is a great coach. is his time really done in buffalo though? if you can find somebody that has met or exceeded the 5 qualifications your talking about and stanley cup series experience, then yes its time to move on from lindy. the real problem is darcy tho not lindy.

    • Why is it only me who realizes that the criteria were created specifically to fit Ruff’s resume? It’s just as easy to come up with criteria that don’t fit Ruff’s resume : How about winning a cup or perhaps making the playoffs 80% of the time. Or when making the playoffs advancing past the first round 2/3 of the time.

  4. I think in a perfect world all these criteria have to is met and maybe there is no one out there more qualified to be a head coach but out of everything you said the one thing a coach needs more than anything is the ability to get the best out of his players. Lindy has not been able to do that with this team since drury and briere left. I’m not blaming him for all of it but its about time for a fresh message l and system. I don’t doubt he will go somewhere and in the right situation win a cup. It just isn’t here. Also fire darcy and somehow get Rick dudley. All he does is build cup champs, see Tampa and Chicago.

  5. Honestly Ruff is a good coach. Sometimes his strategy works and sometimes it doesnt. For example this year wasnt his fault, the players understood what they had to do but they couldnt do it. The slump plane and simply killed them. At the end of the year when the team was into it and listened to the coach they were nearly unbeatable. Would it be nice to have a better coach? Sure but right now not one name comes to mind. i say though that Regier is a joke, get rid of Hechet, all he does is play 5 games all year then he is done…

  6. Lindy Ruff seems to meet every one of the criteria, so we should change coaches, just because it hasn’t happened yet. Let’s see what happens with a healthy roster.

    • I think the criteria was created in order to fit Lindy Ruff’s resume. I can think of other criteria that doesn’t, such as:

      1. Having won a Stanley Cup.
      2. utilizing and maximizing each player’s skill set rather than a one size fits all approach.
      3. coaching by teaching and constructive criticism rather than through mind games and intimidation.
      4. the ability to motivate players in private rather than call them out by name to the press.

      (and so forth)

  7. My thoughts on Lindy:
    Experience : A
    Record of Success : C+
    Developer and Motivator : C-
    Leadership and Respect : B
    Passion, Authenticity, and Likability : B-

    IMO I’d rather go back to Ted Nolan. At least his teams were exciting to watch. Watching Ruff teams is like watching paint dry.

  8. My concerns with Lindy aren’t about his resume. As you said, only Bowman has won multiple Cups as a coach in recent memory. My take from that, and my take from the Sabres winning the Presidents’ Trophy with Ruff in 07 but finishing last in the division with him for 3 straight years pre-lockout, is that it’s a player’s league. Players win Cups. And players get tired of coaches, especially coaches with certainly styles. Is it unreasonable that Ruff could be tuned out at some point after about 15 years behind the bench? Also, end of the year issues seemed to suggest that Ruff doesn’t want a strong captain in the locker room, which is a role I wish we’d fill (although Pommer did really well, at least on the ice). Lindy’s never managed his goalies well, consistently overplaying Miller which could stunt Enroth’s development. Do you remember how lame the team played in front of Lalime and Thibault? I remember lots of nights where it looked like playing our back-up was a surrender. I put that on the coach. Lastly, Ruff’s style puts Vanek on the ice for fewer offensive possessions than almost any other team’s top scorer. I think he could get 40 with the right chances.

    You’re right that we people talk about casting off Lindy with careless assumptions that other great coaches are just sitting around, but how many teams have won the Cup in years where their head coach was replaced midseason (the Kings this year)? I just don’t believe that “Lindy’s System” is the path to victory. Great players are, and we need more of them like everybody else.

    • Look in Montreal. They have two assistants they just hired. Both former Sabres. One is a former coach, the other a former coach and very good GM. Both of these x-Sabres would make a great coach and GM for the Sabres. Dump the two idiots we have now and hire these guys.

  9. How can anyone think ruff is a good coach he has had plenty of time to win with this team and can’t. The sooner he’s gone the better. Look at last years record

    • I totally agree Bob. I find the constant changing of lines to be disconcerting. It seems that if a line goes 2 or more games without scoring, Ruff breaks that line up. I’m glad Ruff wasn’t coaching during the French Connection years.

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