Last night was tough for a lot of Buffalo Sabres fans.
The calls for Lindy Ruff’s head have been growing steadily louder since the beginning of the season, and may now be the loudest they have ever been. Last night, Ruff’s squad played one of the most uninspired 40 minutes of hockey that a Sabres team may have ever played. They weren’t playing to win, but they were playing just well enough to keep the game respectable, which they did, losing 2-1 to the Winnipeg Jets.
Every team has an off night, but not like this. There was no battle in any of the Sabres, besides a stellar Ryan Miller, for the first 40 minutes. In the third, they came out flying and reasonably could have at least come away with a point, but that’s not what this team should be about.
It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating watching a power play struggle to keep offensive zone possession against a penalty kill that was successful just over 65 percent of the time coming into yesterday’s game. It’s frustrating that two awful defensive zone lapses led to both of the Jets’ goals, again.
It’s frustrating that Ruff felt shuffling lines by basically picking names out of a hat was a reasonable option.
The calls for Ruff’s heads are different this time. This time they’re actually warranted. Not that Ruff has deserved the leniency he’s received in years past, but, as anyone will tell you, he’s a top-notch coach and did what he could most years. This year, he just looks tired and almost disinterested.
We’ve talked about his future and history suggests he’ll be able to finish the season for a number of reasons including loyalty and logistics (all of the coaches on the Sabres wish list are likely currently coaching). But if the Sabres continue on this path, and lose to the Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow night, Terry Pegula may have to make an interim move to bridge the gap to keep the fans interested.
Roster moves are a given. Cody McCormick has already been waived. The need for change and his play as of late will likely mean Jordan Leopold’s price has come down to “priced to sell” levels. Mikhail Grigorenko is practicing with Marcus Foligno and Drew Stafford (although it may be because Tyler Ennis seems to be getting a maintenance day).
But more needs to happen for the fans to back the team as fervently as they have in the past. Darcy Regier has a tough call ahead. Seen by many as a package deal, he and Ruff have essentially been bulletproof in the past. Will the dismissal of Ruff lead to a similar fate for Regier at the end of the year?
Basically, what it comes down to is the determination of Pegula to win that Stanley Cup he promised Sabres fans two years ago. If there’s anything that can be gleaned out of last night’s embarrassment, it’s that things are stale in the Sabres’ locker room right now. Ruff is the easiest change, but should it end there? Do you try and get as much for guys like Miller and Jason Pominville now?
We shall see, but something’s got to give Sabres fans. Something’s got to give soon.
Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season: @SwordPlay18.