Update: The Buffalo Sabres have hired Lindy Ruff to be their head coach. This article was my argument for not hiring the beloved former coach which was posted originally on April 17, 2024. I sincerely hope I am wrong, here. Ultimately I want what we all want: to win. If Lindy gets them back to the playoffs then I am happy to be wrong about him. 

Originally posted on on April 17, 2024:

The Sabres need a new coach, and a familiar face is available. Please don’t do it.

Before we get into why the Buffalo Sabres should not hire Ruff let me be very clear: I love Lindy Ruff. Both as a coach and a human being. Lindy is one of Buffalo’s best. He’s a giving, kind, and interesting person to talk to who we all have very fond memories of. There is no doubting his success here when coaching the Buffalo Sabres from 1997 to 2013. Which, by the way, is an almost unheard-of amount of time to be with an NHL team as a head coach. Lindy is a good hockey man and should be considered for head coach anywhere. Just not here. 

Nostalgia is Nice, Not Successful 

We’ve done this before: nostalgia plays for the fans. Ted Nolan coached here for a second time from 2013 to 2015. That was a disaster. Pat LaFontaine as President of Hockey Operations. That ended horribly and ruined our relationship with one of this franchise’s greatest players. Marv Levy was GM of the Bills… when he was 80. Total disaster. Remember when this team brought back Dave Andreychuck and Donald Audette? That was fun for a season but also failed. 

Nostalgia is nice. It’s comfortable. Everyone loves it. However, it’s not successful. It fails to produce most of the time. 

You simply cannot go back and make it all work the same way, or better, again. Not just in sports but in life. When something good happens to a person, it’s not just them who made it so. It’s the people around them. The environment they're in. The literal place in time it’s happening. Where a person is in their life at the time and how it lines up with the people around them. In sports, it’s also what the league demands at the time, what other teams are or aren’t doing, what players' trends are today, etc. It’s a lot of things, and it never is as simple as rolling it back to how it was.

That’s not the only reason to not hire Lindy Ruff, though. More on that in a second. 

An Argument For Hiring Ruff

Is there an argument for hiring Lindy Ruff? Of course, there is. He’s a somewhat successful coach who has seen a lot in this league. While he has never had the same success as he did in Buffalo as a head coach, he’s made the playoffs in both Dallas and New Jersey. He even went to the Stanley Cup with Florida as an assistant.

READ MORE: Stefon Diggs Takes Another Shot at Bills Mafia

He helped New Jersey become the talk of the league last year, taking a very young team to the second round. He has had success with young players, and as we know in Buffalo is not afraid to hold people accountable. These are things GM Kevin Adams stressed that he is looking for in his next head coach: experience, accountability, and success. Ruff has all of these and is a Buffalo lifer. This is a person who understands hockey here and beyond. Yes, hiring him would also make a lot of fans excited.

However, let’s temper that excitement with some cold, hard truths. 

An Argument For NOT Hiring Ruff

He’s not that successful. He hasn’t made it past the second round as a head coach after he was fired from Buffalo. This is a coach who fizzled out with talented rosters in both Dallas and New Jersey. 

Let us also not forget: the reason the Sabres went to the Stanley Cup in 1999 is not because of Ruff. It’s because of Dominik Hasek. It’s not to say he and the players get no credit, but Hasek was, and is, the greatest goaltender of all time. Those teams were offensively inept and let Hasek get 40 shots a night on the regular. Yet, they still won 1-0, 2-1, etc. His early coaching was carried by true greatness in the net. 

Where he gets credit are what I consider to be his two best seasons as a head coach: 2005 to 2007. The Drury, Briere and Miller years. Those teams were innovative, fast, and he adapted them to the new game post-lockout very well.  Many of us consider those teams to be the greatest in franchise history.

Here is the hard truth though: they lost in the conference finals. Injuries the first year, failure the next. They did not get it done. 

The cold reality is this is a coach that has never won a Stanley Cup. He’s only taken a team to one as a head coach, and that was on the back of a once-in-a-generation talent. In his 23 seasons as a head coach he has missed the playoffs 12 times. 2 of those seasons he was fired before the end of it. 

Is this what we want?

Dear Buffalo Sabres: Don’t Hire Lindy Ruff

I love him. We all love him. Plenty of fans want it because of the nostalgia. Plenty of fans want it because he was successful here long ago. That's just not good enough, though. The same fans yell shoot with 6 bodies in front of a player and want Rob Ray to coach this team to teach them to fight. No offence to Rob or those fans, but that's a stupid idea.  

It would feel amazing to bring him back, and I’d be willing to bet Terry Pegula would love to do it and is probably in Kevin Adams’ ear about it. I totally get it. There's a bigger than small piece of me that wants it since my teams, the Sabres teams I feel in love with, were the ones Lindy coached. 

The thing is, Kevin said he's hiring a coach with NHL head coaching experience who can hold these players accountable. We need a coach who has been there and done that with a team in recent history to make that happen. Not a coach who has failed twice in recent history. Someone who really does know the complexity of today’s players and game, and can manage egos. 

READ MORE: Open letter to the Buffalo Sabres: You're Soft. 

This is, as I previously wrote, a mentally soft team. Plenty of talent, but put the blame for their failures on fans and negativity. They need a coach who can get them to hold themselves accountable, immediately. Someone who carries weight in the room by having a Stanley Cup ring, or at least real success, in the last 5 years. Egos, and mentally soft players and people, need accountability. They need someone who can call them on their crap because they have been there and done that. After all, no one likes working for someone who has never done the job, had success, and can speak from real experience. They also don't like working for someone who had success a long time ago and act like that translates to today.

Lindy has had some success in his career, but it’s been a long time and his current track record is concerning. He’s just not the right move.

He is and should be for another team. 100%. Understand that I would love nothing more than to eat these words and opinions. I would love for him to either get a job somewhere else and win it all, or even get the job here and win it all. I would LOVE to be wrong and have to own it. What an awesome thing that would be.

I just don’t think I am wrong, unfortunately. I think hiring him is giving the "SHOOT!" guy who hangs up a listens what he wants vs. making good decisions not based on emotions, nostalgia, and fan pressure. This team buckles to fans enough, let's not do it again. Let's hire the right person and end this embarrassing drought. 

Oh, and Lindy please forgive me. Despite these words, you'll always be my Sabres coach. It hurt to write this, honestly. Also, Razor please don't hit me too hard. 

Pat McMahon hosts afternoons from 3pm to 7pm on Buffalo's Real Rock, 92.9 WBUF.

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