4 check: Sabres reintroduce Lindy Ruff

4 check: Sabres reintroduce Lindy Ruff

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — What’s old is new again in Sabreland. Reprising the glory days of Buffalo hockey by rehiring the club’s all-time coaching wins leader, general manager Kevyn Adams was adamant about Lindy Ruff being the right man to lead the Sabres into a winning future.

From the surreality of forward-thinking nostalgia, here are some highlights from Ruff’s reintroductory press conference Tuesday.

‘Accountability is a big word’

A concept that coach Don Granato struggled to implement and explain during his disappointing final season behind the Sabres bench turned into a postseason theme. Granato was held to account for Buffalo’s inability to end the longest playoff drought in NHL, and several players spoke of the new for greater accountability in the dressing room during their exit interviews.

“A lot of times this year we got away with some stuff that we shouldn’t have gotten away with,” top-line center Tage Thompson said. “We felt comfortable maybe sometimes a little too much deviating from game plans.”

Ruff, whose 1,774 games as an NHL head coach rank fourth all-time, gave a clear summation of how accountability will factor into his Sabres renaissance.

“Accountability to me starts with the player himself,” Ruff said. “First thing he does is hold himself accountable. Did I do enough to get this team to where it needed to go? Before you can be accountable or look for accountability from somebody else, you’ve got to be accountable to yourself.”

Sabres GM Kevyn Adams: Lindy Ruff ‘is here to win’

Ruff acknowledged that doesn’t yell at players today as much as he might have when taking over the Sabres for the first time in 1997. But he maintains a tried and true method for holding players accountable, which Granato rarely employed.

“My biggest tool is to take ice time away,” Ruff said.

To that end, Ruff elaborated, “your best players should be on the ice at all key moments. Your top players should be the guys that lead the way. First, they’re accountable to themselves first. Accountability is a big word. Accountability starts with each player taking a look in the mirror.”

Return to better days

Alex Tuch grew up down the Thruway in Baldwinsville, cheering for the goatheaded Sabres during their run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2006-06 and Presidents Trophy winning season after, singing along to the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Better Days” tuned that soundtracked the era.

“I’ve probably watched Lindy coach about as many games as I’ve actually played or more than the amount of games I’ve played for the Sabres,” Tuch after cleaning out his locker last week. “He was my favorite coach growing up. Those were the teams that I watched, or sat on the couch and watched with my dad. To see what he was able to do with those teams was really cool. It was really special.”

The youngest team in the league over the past two seasons, the Sabres at times evoked the spirit that upstart team coming out of the 2005 lockout. Now with Ruff back behind the bench, there will be more comparisons to draw.

“This this team is so similar to where we were at back then,” Ruff said. “Deep with talent. It just we needed to play the game the right way.”

Ruff said he heard from former players Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek, receiving the message that, “you’re the guy that can get them there.” Wiser in retirement, those Sabres might not yet have realized Ruff’s virtue back in 2005.

“If you remember, I was pretty hard on like a Thomas Vanek,” Ruff said. “And Jason Pominville, we we actually waived him and sent him down just before he became the player he was.”

Terry Pegula hails Lindy Ruff as ‘most competitive person I’ve ever met’

Ruff around the edges

Told of Tuch’s backing, Ruff joked Tuesday that the Sabres winger might feel differently once they get a week into training camp.

“You know what? Not everyone is going to love him and at times we’re all going to hate him,” Tuch said. “That’s what happens when you have a coach that asks a lot of you. With that is going to come a lot of success.”

Tuch indicated he is “super excited for the opportunity to be coached by such a legend,” and that his teammates will appreciate Ruff’s sometimes abrasive style.

“We’re pumped,” Tuch said. “I think he fits the mold of what we talked about as a team and just talking to individual guys about what we need to make it to that next level. I think he’s perfect for it and guys knew he was a serious candidate so we were talking about it. I’ve only talked to a few guys since it happened but we all think it’s going to work out for us.”

Ruff noted how his coaching methods have evolved since behind fired from the Sabres in 2011.

“The game has changed so much,” he said. “Lindy Ruff has changed so much.”

Evaluating himself during his time as an assistant with the New York Rangers, he vowed to communicate better with players, and to let go of losses easier when he returned to head coaching with the Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils

“I actually laugh at some of my coaching style because a lot of things have changed,” Ruff said. “I won’t go into a lot of detail, but I’m a lot better coach now than I was when I left.”

Personal business

Ruff has now been part of the Sabres as a player or coach during every decade of the organizations history. He stayed connected to Buffalo during his time elsewhere, rooting for the Bills and returning regularly to area golf courses during the offseason. He was a prominent participant in last summer’s memorial for legendary broadcaster Rick Jeanneret.

‘RJ is proud of the job you’ve done’: Don Granato draws praise from Lindy Ruff

“I’ve lived in this city and have owned a house in this city since 1979,” Ruff said. “So, I think I understand from my playing days to my coaching days what a successful team – and how great this city is when you have a successful hockey club. And really enjoyed all that time. Enjoyed that time as a player and enjoyed the time as a coach. It would mean a lot to have this group of players experience what I was able to experience as a player and as a coach.”

Ruff would also like the current Sabres players to experience something that eluded him during his first run as coach — winning a Stanley Cup.

“I’m humbled by the opportunity that I’m getting,” Ruff said. “I get a chance to do something that I wasn’t able to do as a player. Then I became the coach of the team and didn’t succeed with what I set out to do. And now I’m getting one more opportunity in which I really feel I’m blessed to have that opportunity.”


Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to News 4 Buffalo.