Sabres Welcome Back Lindy Ruff, Anticipating End to 13-Season Playoff Drought

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Lindy Ruff, the stalwart leader once at the helm of the Buffalo Sabres, is returning to his old post more than a decade after being let go. On Monday, the Sabres enthusiastically welcomed Ruff back into the fold. He steps into his old shoes after serving time as the head coach in both Dallas and New Jersey, breathing new life into a team mired in an NHL-record 13-season playoff drought. Ruff takes over from Don Granato, who was let go last week after over three seasons at his post.

This appointment marks more than just a new chapter in the Sabres’ history; it’s a grand homecoming for Ruff. A pillar in the Sabres family, Ruff has been a defense titan, a captain, and integral in leading the team through 14-plus seasons including its last appearance in the postseason – a teeth-clenching, first-round seven-game loss to Philadelphia in 2011.

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His reemergence also stirs up remembrances of his defiant stance during his contentious last week with the Sabres when he vowed, “It’s on me to clean up this mess. … And I’m not done trying.” But since his dismissal a month into the NHL’s lockout-shortened 2013 season, the metaphorical mess has only grown astronomically bigger.

The sobering truth during his 11-year departure reveals that the once mighty Sabres have recorded the NHL’s worst record four times, cycled through seven coaches and four general managers, and weathered various rebuilding periods. The youngest roster in NHL in the last season testifies to the daunting rebuilding task lying ahead.

Evidence of general manager Kevyn Adams’s vision was echoed in the hiring of Ruff, a coach rich in experience. Ruff, in his illustrious career, won the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL’s coach of the year with the Sabres back in 2006. He has cemented his name in the annals of NHL history, ranking fifth with 1,774 games coached and 864 victories, with a franchise-record 571 occurring in Buffalo.

Ruff, who oversaw the New Jersey Devils for the past four seasons, including a trip to the second round of the playoffs last year, was let go in March and was replaced by Travis Green, while the Devils still failed to reach the playoffs.

Ruff captures the hopes of the Sabres’ squad and their fans, saying, “This is a team ready to take the next step,” further voicing his humbled and honored emotions to be given another chance to help the team surge ahead. “It is not a job that I take lightly. … There is no doubt that we all need to embrace the challenge ahead of us.”

Buffalo’s coaching riddle appears to be solved with Ruff, especially with the vocal support from players like forward Alex Tuch, who has credited the return of Ruff with stimulating his personal and professional growth while praising his competence.

It is safe to say that Buffalo Sabres, with the rejoining of Ruff, stands on the precipice of a potentially dynamic new era, filled with hopes, anticipation and a shared determination to end their 13-season playoff drought, tied for the longest active streak in North America’s four major pro sports.