Niagara Gazette

Sports

February 20, 2013

DUVALL: Too bad Ruff Era had to end like this

Niagara Gazette — Like many, when I learned the news of Lindy Ruff's firing, I was stunned but not all that surprised.

Not unlike the death of a someone terminally ill, you know it's coming but when it happens you're still taken aback.

And it does feel a bit like a funeral in Sabreland right now, doesn't it? Part of me wants to hug Sabres fans and say "at least Lindy isn't suffering anymore." Mostly, I'm left to shake my head and try to imagine what a Sabres team will look like without Ruff there.

Fans could be forgiven if they can't picture it. After 16 seasons as coach, after 10 years as a fan-favored player and captain, there is arguably no single person more closely identified with the Buffalo Sabres than Ruff. He was behind the bench for more than half the games in franchise history, after all.

Many will argue Ruff had overstayed his welcome. With only two playoff appearances in the last five seasons and one-and-done turns when they did make the postseason, it's easy to make the case.

But for a franchise that's as insular as any in pro sports, there was a staunch belief that there wasn't a better guy available to turn it around than the one already in the chair. Tuesday's game in Winnipeg was quite obviously the straw that broke the camel's back. The utterly uninspired performance from a team loaded with high-priced players had Ruff's Sabres rightly booed off their home ice.

Fans were angry — and they had a point.

Never one to mince words (except where injuries were involved), Ruff was reminded by Buffalo News beat writer Mike Harrington of the team's standing. "This fan base clearly hates this team. Do you understand their reaction to this point with the way these guys are playing?"

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