Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier made it official late this afternoon, announcing the team has relieved Lindy Ruff of his head coaching duties 17 games into the 2012-13 strike shortened season. Taking his place in the interim will be Rochester head coach Ron Rolston.
Regier indicated will remain the head coach for at least the rest of the season.
Rolston won’t have much time to get better acquainted with the team he’s inheriting before they take the ice. The players are already in Toronto preparing to face the Maple Leafs tomorrow night. He wasn’t at today’s press conference because he was still en route to Buffalo from Rochester. He’ll go to Toronto with Regier this evening.
While not at today’s press conference, team owner Terry Pegula issued a statement to the media that read as follows:
“The hockey world knows how I and the entire Buffalo Sabres organization feel about Lindy Ruff not only as a coach but also as a person. His long tenure with the Sabres has ended. His qualities have made this decision very difficult. I personally want Lindy to know that he can consider me a friend always.”
Regier revealed that the decision was made today and was “discussed” between himself, Pegula, team president Ted Black and senior adviser Ken Sawyer.
Regier insists, however , that the final decision was his. “Ultimately, it was my decision. I made this decision.”
Regier stressed that he and Ruff had multiple conversations about the state and direction of the team over the past several weeks and acknowledged to reporters that last night’s ugly 2-1 home loss to the lowly Winnipeg Jets was a “tipping point” in today’s move.
“For whatever reason, we couldn’t get any traction, especially defensively. … It was really hard to get a grip on it.” Regier said regarding his team’s surprisingly abysmal performance this season.
Regier delivered the news to Ruff at his home early this afternoon as the coach went home following a 90 minute practice and brief session with the media to pack for his trip to Toronto. Upon learning of the news Ruff insisted to driving to the team bus in Amherst before it left to speak with his now former players.
One of the final questions Regier was asked regarded how Ruff should be remembered as a head coach in Buffalo.
Clearly emotional, Regier choked back tears and said “as a great coach.”
Rolston becomes the 16th head coach in franchise history and joins the Sabres after spending the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons as head coach of the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League (AHL). As head coach of the Americans, Rolston compiled a 63-44-17 regular-season record.
Ruff finishes his Buffalo coaching career with a record of 571-432-78-84. He led the Sabres to a Stanley Cup appearance in 1999-2000 and was the Jack Adams Award winner for NHL coach of the year in 2005-06.
We didn’t produce the wins that lost him his job. Very hard day. But he’s the top free agent out there.” Sabres leading scorer told WKBW’s Jeff Russo. “Lindy is the only coach I’ve had. We had our ups and downs but had a good relationship. Both wanted to win”
Ruff’s 571 wins with the Sabres is the second-most by a coach with the same team in NHL history, trailing only Al Arbor’s 740 with the New York Islanders.
Ironically when Regier first sought advice on Ruff before hiring him in July of 1997 he spoke to Scotty Bowman. Regier said that when he asked Bowman who Ruff reminds him of, Bowman said “Al Arbor…. with a sense of humor.”
Regier also announced that Kevin Porter would be called up from Rochester to join the Sabres Thursday night against Toronto. He’ll take the roster spot of forward Cody McCormick, who was waived earlier today.
Porter leads Rochester this season with 44 points in 48 games and also is a team-best plus eight. The 26-year old has 45 points in 163 career NHL games between Colorado and Phoenix.
We’ll have reaction from players, media members and others around the league as it becomes available.
Courtesy of the Buffalo Sabres, here is the complete audio from Regier’s press conference.