This is not a happy man.
I've gone on many, many times about how much I love and adore Lindy Ruff. But that guy up there? That's not my Lindy. He hasn't been himself for weeks and yesterday was pretty much the culmination. He looked and sounded exhausted and frustrated and beat down. I was half expecting him to announce his resignation right there at the podium.
I'm still not sure I'd go as far as saying I think Lindy should be fired. My primary problem with firing the coach and/or the GM is that I think it absolves the players. Let's face it, these guys are a bunch of douchebags. As individuals some of them might be okay (Goose, I'm looking at you, buddy) but collectively? Douchebags. They don't play hard for the 15 or 20 minutes they're called on to play every night. They shrug off any responsibility for the outcome of games with lame excuses. They repeat the same things they've been saying for two years about needing to play harder, sticking with the system, getting pucks in deep, plugging away. They're young but they're not babies. They're professional athletes. It's their job to play hard all the time. They should not need an older man to inspire them and spur them on. That's bullhonkey.
But I suppose it's the way of sports. There's something rotten at the core of the Sabres and unless ownership is ready to deal one of the primary pieces - Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Jason Pominville or Paul Gaustad - it might be time to say goodbye to Lindy Ruff. You can change the pieces around those five and hope the dynamic changes but I don't think it will. How many times has Jason Pominville said the same thing over and over after a defeat? How often has Derek Roy refused to play the way Lindy has repeatedly told them to play even though we've seen that when they play that way, they win?
Say what you will about Tom Golisano and Larry Quinn's hockey knowledge - and I'm pretty sure it has all been said at some point - but they're good businessmen. They have to realize the natives are getting restless. I think it's interesting that, unlike in past years, we haven't had any triumphant announcements about the booming season ticket renewals. It's early yet and I'm sure there probably are some people who will renew who just haven't gotten around to it yet - it's not like anyone needed those playoff tickets - but you'd think shrinking numbers would give people like Golisano and Quinn pause.
A new coach is the easy fix. It's the worst fix because it involves getting rid of the one person on the team I actually still like but it is the easiest fix.
Bucky Gleason said in the Buffalo News today that the rumors going around HSBC were that Lindy would be getting the axe while Darcy Regier stayed on so it's not like I'm going out on a limb talking about Lindy leaving. I do find it curious that despite the rumor being that Darcy was keeping his job, the replacements Bucky pitched were all GMs. As scary as it is to think about being on the same wavelength as Bucky, I'm wondering if he's thinking the same thing I am: No way Darcy Regier stays with the Sabres if they fire Lindy Ruff. I don't know how it'll all shake out but Darcy has always been very public about the fact that as long as he's the GM of the Buffalo Sabres, Lindy Ruff will be the coach. Will he stick with that? I dunno. At some point you think they'd have to go their separate ways - what, are they gonna work in tandem forever? - but maybe they want that parting to be on their terms.
I'm very, very curious to see what happens over the next few weeks and months in Sabredom. I suppose it's very likely that nothing will happen - it wouldn't be the first time - but it doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize there are problems with this team's make-up. I believe they would've made the playoffs had Ryan Miller not gotten hurt but despite what I said earlier in the season, there's not a chance they'd make a deep run unless Ryan put them on his back and carried them. The Stanley Cup is so difficult to win because the NHL playoffs are a grueling grind, physically, emotionally and mentally. These guys, as a group, are too fragile for that. Someone from within the organization has to see that. I think there will be changes. I don't know if they'll be good or bad or major or minor, but I think there will be changes.
As for what's going to happen here at Top Shelf for the next few weeks and months, well, I'm not entirely sure. I do have a couple more Sabres wrap-up posts started. I'll be watching and probably blogging about the playoffs, adopting and discarding teams on a whim. If there are any goings-on with the Sabres I will, of course, give you my take. I'm definitely planning on continuing the series of posts I started last summer about exploring places and activities in and around Buffalo. I'll be watching a fair amount of baseball. And they'll probably be odds and ends of other things to pass the summer - TV, books, movies, work, trips. I don't know. I do know I'm planning on passing the off-season here somehow so hopefully some of you will stick around and see what's going on. If you're moving on from your hockey blogs for the year, thank you so much for reading. Believe me, every comment and email is read and appreciated. I'm sorry we couldn't have shared a better season.
Oh, that reminds me! I've been meaning to tell you this story. Mark and I went to the Detroit game last week. We went out to dinner beforehand and while we were standing at the front of the restaurant, waiting to be seated, a gentleman walks over and says to me, "Are you Heather?" I say yes and start to panic a little because I do not know this guy. But as I'm scrambling through various scenarios he adds, "My name's Doug. I'm a loyal reader. Your blog is excellent." You guys, I'm a celebrity! Poor Mark had to put up with me making cracks about how famous I was for the rest of the night ("Where's my food? Don't they know who I am?!") long after it had ceased to be funny. If you ever see me out and about, please don't hesitate to say hello. I can't promise I'll make the best impression in person but I won't bite. Doug, again, you made my night. And the kids loved your joke. (Why is the calendar so tired? Because it just completed a 31 day March.) One of them walked around the rest of the day telling it to everyone else in the building.
In honor of the closing of the Sabres season, I offer you a battered and bruised but nonetheless heartfelt, Let's go Buff-a-lo!