Do you remember where you were this time last year? It was shortly after 3pm on Wednesday February 20, 2013 when the news broke that shook the foundation of Buffalo.
Lindy Ruff was fired as the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres.
Did that just really happen? Who made this decision? Why now?
At the time of the firing, Lindy Ruff had lost his team. The Sabres had seemingly stopped responding, and Ruff’s team did not compete hard enough under his leadership. Darcy Regier made the decision to let go of his head coach just 17 games into the start of a lockout-shortened 48-game season. Ruff had been the Sabres’ head coach for nearly 15 seasons, and posted a 571-432-78-84 record in that time.
“I’m disappointed for myself. I’m disappointed for Lindy. And when I see the players, I’m disappointed for them, too.” Regier said. “We should all be disappointed. As far as anger, we have too much work to do.”
With Ruff’s pink slip, the Sabres decided to promote from within, and named Ron Rolston their interim head coach. Rolston had been coaching the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League, and was thought to be a smart hiring at the time.
Rolston led the Sabres to a 15-11-5 record to finish the 2012-13 season, but the team finished tenth in the Eastern Conference and missed the playoffs again.
Even though Buffalo missed the playoffs, Rolston had his interim tag removed right after the season ended, and was officially named the head coach of the Sabres.
Rolston started the 2013-14 season with some new faces including Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov, and Zemgus Girgensons. This was supposed to be the year to see Mikhail Grigorenko bloom and become the star we expected him to be. This year was also supposed to answer whether or not Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, or Steve Ott would stay in Buffalo for the future.
After a preseason full of hope and fisticuffs, the regular season got off to an abysmal start with the Sabres starting 4-15-1 under Rolston. We saw Thomas Vanek get traded to the Islanders, and Matt Moulson step in for a bad Sabres team. Rolston came under fire from the media, and people questioned whether or not he could coach an NHL team properly.
On November 13, the Sabres organization took a drastic turn and relieved both Darcy Regier and Ron Rolston of their duties. Pat LaFontaine was brought in as the President of Hockey Operations, and LaFontaine brought Ted Nolan back to coach the Buffalo Sabres. Nolan’s objective was to bring together the players locker room and while instilling compete and grit to the Sabres lineup.
“I want people who compete,” Nolan said. “The bottom line is to make sure we compete at a certain level, and make sure when the fans leave here they don’t feel cheated. We want them to walk away here feeling good about themselves, and us feeling good that we gave everything we had.”
Nolan has gone 11-19-7 with the Sabres since November, and has done a decent job passing his message of being competitive to the team. Nolan has gotten contributions from players including Tyler Myers, Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford, Matt D’Agostini and others. Sabres general manager Tim Murray has said that the interim tag could come off Nolan at any time, but Murray has yet to remove it.
Besides Nolan and the Sabres, how has Lindy Ruff been since his firing last season? In June, Ruff was hired as the head coach of the Dallas Stars. Ruff has been having a good year in his first season with the Dallas, going 27-21-10 in 58 games played. The Stars are currently fifth in the Central Division and in contention for a playoff position.
Currently, Ruff is one of the assistant coaches under Mike Babcock for Team Canada in the Sochi Olympics. This is Ruff’s second appearance in the Olympics as an assistant coach for Team Canada.
The Sabres have had a rough 365 days since the firing, and seem worse for ware than Ruff. Buffalo has gone 30-45-13 since February 20, 2013. Lindy almost has just as many wins in one season as Buffalo has in a year.
The Sabres had a decision to make, and they decided to make a change in the organization. A full year later, it has been a long road of losing, suffering, and changes for the Sabres. Once the season has ended, there will be evaluation, and the Sabres will have to choose whether to keep Ted Nolan or to keep the coaching carousel turning.