Note: This will be a 3 part series looking at Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff’s careers as GM and Coach of the Buffalo Sabres. Part I: Lindy’s Career vs longest tenured coaches in league. Part II: Darcy’s Career & trades+signings. Part III: Deals of other long time GMs in comparison.
Now-a-days, everyone seems to be calling for change, but not in terms of trades or signings, but rather in terms of personnel. They all ways Darcy AND Lindy’s “heads.” I hear the arguments on the radio, see the articles and comments online, but I have yet to see anyone look back on their tenure and compare them to other long standing coaches. There is only a few main arguments out there: “they’re message is stale,” “Darcy won’t get rid of the core,” and “They haven’t won the cup.” Now, don’t get me wrong these are all valid points. But let’s take a look, shall we?
Lindy Ruff started his coaching career as an assistant for the Florida Panthers, and went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996. In the summer of 1997, the Buffalo Sabres made Lindy the 15th head coach in the team’s history. He found immediate success with a star studded team with Miro Satan, Dominik Hasek and Michael Peca, and took them to the Eastern Conference Finals. In his second season, the team went to the Cup Finals and lost to the Dallas Stars in a controversial series we all know as “No Goal.” In the next two seasons, the Sabres were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by Philly and the second round Pittsburgh respectfully. From 2001-2004 the Sabres were in the midst of a huge scandal involving then owner, Adelphia Communications, which left the team with many financial problems and bankruptcy. During the 2005 lockout, the team was bought and brought out of bankruptcy by Tom Golisano, who kept Lindy on as head coach. Lindy went on to lead a team consisting of rising stars Danny Brier, Chris Drury, and Ryan Miller to back to back Eastern Conference Finals vs the eventual Stanley Cup Winners Carolina Hurricanes, and the Ottawa Senators. In 2005-06 Lindy Ruff won the Jack Adams Trophy for NHL Head Coach of the Year. In 2006-07, Ruff led the Sabres to their most successful season ever with 52 wins and a President’s Trophy and was once again nominated for the Jack Adams Trophy, losing to Alain Vigneault of the Vancouver Canucks. Following the 2007 season, Lindy’s leaders and stars were removed from the team and the Sabres missed the playoffs for 2 straight seasons. They returned in 2009-10 and 2010-11 where they lost each time in the first round to Boston and Philly respectively. Following the purchase of the team in February 2011, many believed it could be Lindy’s last season, but Terry Pegula stated that “Lindy isn’t going anywhere,” and he offered Lindy a contract extension for three years with an optional fourth year. However, Lindy failed to impress his new boss by missing the playoffs this past season, but his job is not in jeapordy. On January 8th, 2011, Lindy Ruff became the winningest coach, who only coached for one team, in NHL history, with their 501st victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.
Now lets look at other coaches throughout the league who have stayed with their teams for years. Starting with Alain Vigneault of the Vancouver Canucks. He currently is the 4th longest tenured coach in the league. His coaching career began in Vancouver in 2006. He has coached a total of 492 games with a record of 287-155-50, with a winning percentage of .634. In his coaching career with the Canucks, Vigneault has won one Jack Adams, two President’s Trophys, and has coached his players to one Selke, one Jennings, two Art Ross, one Ted Lindsay, on Hart Memorial, a Conference Championship and one Cup Final.
Mike Babcock is the third longest tenured coach, beginning his career with Detroit in 2005. Babcock came into a team with a history of winning and a star studded team with players like Yzerman, Lindstrom, Datsyuk, and Zetterberg. His record with the team is 352-154-68 in 574 games coached with a winning precentage of .672. Babcock has lead his constantly strong to a flurry of trophies such as: one Jennings, four Lady Byng, four Norris, three Selke, two President’s Trophys, two Conference Championships, one Conn Smythe, and one Stanley Cup.
Thirdly, Barry Trotz entered the league in the same year as Lindy Ruff, 1997. He was signed as the coach of the Expansion Franchise, Nashville Predators and has since been its coach. In 1066 games, Trotz is 503-424-79 and 60 ties. That’s a winning percentage of .537. Leading an expansion franchise in any sport is a difficult task. Usually you have lesser known players who are not star’s in the league. It usually takes quite a while to build a winner and it has for the Predators and Trotz. The Predators never made the playoffs in their first five seasons. Beginning in 2003-04 they made their first playoff appearance in franchise history. Over the next few seasons the Predators never made it out of the first round until last season when they advanced and lost in the second round of the playoffs, similarly to this season. They have never won a division title and have only won one NHL player trophy, The Bill Masterson Trophy in 2007-08.
In comparison, Lindy Ruff is 565-422-72 and 83 ties in 1148 games coached with Buffalo. That’s a winning percentage of .562. The Sabre’s don’t have the storied history of winning that the Red Wings and the Canucks have over the past few years. While they were using their cap to keep stars on their teams, Buffalo was in the midst of scandal and bankruptcy, and also had to deal with a stingy owner for several years, whom kept a leash on the GM. Lindy has his two nominations for the Jack Adams and one victory, winning that trophy. He has lead his team to one President’s Trophy, one Calder Memorial, one Hart Memorial, one Lester B. Pearson, three Vezina, one Jennings, one Conference Championship and one Cup Final. The Sabres have also won the Division twice with Lindy as coach.
However, an argument can be made for getting rid of Lindy. A total of twelve coaches were hired either before the 2011-12 season or during the season. Of these twelve, five of them led their respective teams to the playoffs: Ken Hitchcock – St. Louis Blues, Paul MacLean – Ottawa Senators, Kevin Dineen – Florida Panthers, and two of these coaches are in the Stanley Cup Finals: Peter DeBoer – New Jersey Devils and Daryll Sutter – Los Angeles Kings. Also Glen Gulutzen of the Dallas Stars and Claude Noel of the Winnipeg Jets kept their teams in the tight race for the playoffs this season. So there is a case to be made for finding a new coach. So many coaches who were behind the bench for only one season, or even less than one season, have led their teams to winning records and turned them into playoff contenders.
What do you think? Has Lindy had a good career coaching the Blue and Gold? Should we give him another year? Two? Let him finish his contract? Or just get rid of him ASAP? Let me know what you think.
Part II will come sometime tonight, if not then tomorrow.