By Allan Muir
It’s not tough to guess the exact moment when Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier knew it was time to fire coach Lindy Ruff.
It came during last night’s shambolic 2-1 loss to Winnipeg when Ryan Miller, the face of the franchise, threw his arms into the air in disgust after he’d allowed the Jets’ first goal.
It was another selfish display from Miller, a player whose own tenure with the franchise might be drawing to a close. But it also spoke clearly to how out of control the situation had become.
Surely Regier saw that, and then noticed the slump-shouldered resignation that settled into most, but not all, of the Sabres on their bench.
If he hadn’t been convinced that Ruff had lost the team, that moment removed all doubt
And so Regier, whose blind loyalty to Ruff kept the struggling coach employed years after his best-by date, finally made the call to let him go on Wednesday afternoon.
Ruff is a good man and an excellent coach, but his message had gone stale. It was absolutely the right decision by Regier…and absolutely the last one he should be allowed to make.
The culture of losing that permeates this franchise won’t be any easier to disinfect than the Carnival Triumph. Installing a new man behind the bench might be just the tonic elsewhere, but in Buffalo it’s the equivalent of slapping on a new coat of paint. Regier has assembled an ill-fitting mix of parts. There are too many small forwards, the defense is soft and ineffective and there’s a serious deficit of character. This organization needs to be stripped down to the frame, and rebuilt from there.
And that’s why Regier should have followed Ruff out the door.
It didn’t happen today, but it almost surely will if the Sabres don’t engineer a remarkable turnaround and make the playoffs. The announcement that Rochester coach Ron Rolston had been hired to coach on an interim basis is telling. By not making him a permanent hire, the organization created freedom for a potential replacement GM to name his own man.
That’s a smart move. The second one the team made today. Just one more to go.