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Takeaways from Lindy Ruff’s Introductory Press Conference

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Lindy Ruff Kevyn Adams Terry Pegula Buffalo Sabres

Lindy Ruff was introduced Tuesday afternoon as the new head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, beginning his second stint in the role with the organization. The coach touched on many aspects including his return to the club, his vision of the team and their direction, and how he’s evolved as a coach.

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Sabres owner Terry Pegula and general manager Kevyn Adams also spoke as part of Ruff’s introduction. Four players – Connor Clifton, Peyton Krebs, Jacob Bryson, and Alex Tuch – were on hand to take in the conference. Tuch lent his thoughts to the media on the team’s new hire as well.

Return to Buffalo

Drafted in 1979, Ruff first joined the Sabres organization as a player. After 10 seasons as a player and eventual team captain, he rejoined the franchise as a head coach in 1997. He became the longest-tenured coach in franchise history with 15 seasons behind the bench.

“There is some personal there for sure,” Ruff said. “I’ve lived in this city and I’ve owned a house in this city since 1979.”

When it comes to memories of the fanbase’s passion, Ruff alluded to how Sabres fans are some of the best in the entire league.

“I think I understand from my playing days and my coaching days how great this city is when you have a successful hockey club,” Ruff said. “This building shook in some of the playoff series that I’m involved with. I can still remember the 8-0 Philadelphia win and sitting in the office and thinking ‘the building’s shaking’.”

In 2024, Ruff is getting one last chance to accomplish what he has set out to do – bring a Stanley Cup to Buffalo.

“I’m humbled by the opportunity. I get the chance to do something I wasn’t able to do as a player. Then I became the coach of the team and didn’t succeed in what I set out to do. Now I’m getting one more opportunity.”

Accountability

It’s no secret that the last 13 seasons in Buffalo have been a disappointment. Ruff is partly responsible for the beginning of the playoff drought, and knows the attitude in the locker room needs to change.

“You transform the attitude of any club by having each player believe in what their strength is, what they can bring on a nightly basis, the level of compete they can bring,” Ruff said.

“When you win hockey games, that belief really becomes contagious.”

On top of belief, is accountability. The term was a buzzword throughout the team during exit interviews and is something Ruff has clearly defined in his mind.

“Accountability to me, starts with the player himself. Before you can be accountable or look for accountability from somebody else, you got to be accountable to yourself.”

Ruff continued, “The next level of accountability when you become a good team is the players themselves will all hold each other accountable.”

Finally, Ruff put the onus on the coach. “The last part of it is the coach who just can’t yell and scream at players anymore. My biggest tool is taking ice time away. I believe that your best players should be on the ice at all key moments.”

The Vision of the Sabres Under Ruff

Some parallels between Ruff’s past teams and the current Sabres roster can be drawn easily. Buffalo’s young group of players is reminiscent of the days of Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, and Thomas Vanek all promoted to the NHL in 2005-2006.

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“When you look at a group like we have here – highly skilled players – you can execute that highly skilled part of the game. You can use it for offense, you can use it for defense, but you have to have the discipline side of the game to do the right thing at the right time.”

Miller, Pominville, and Vanek reached out to Ruff specifically after the hire. The message?

“You’re the guy that can get them there.”

Assistant Coaches

Asked about rounding out the coaching staff, Ruff inferred that he is looking to add assistants from outside the organization.

“[I’m] looking to get all the pieces in the right place and make us one of the best staffs.”

Evolution as a Coach

Ruff brings a nearly unmatched coaching resume, from the World Championships to the Olympics to coaching with and against some of the NHL’s best. His tenure behind the bench has rolled into four decades. You don’t get that far without learning and adapting along the way.

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He went from coaching the Dominik Hasek era, defensive-centric Sabres to the high-flying, uptempo post-lockout Sabres in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007.

His most recent stint in New Jersey harbored a roster similar to Buffalo’s, with young talent leading the charge.

“The game has changed so much…Lindy Ruff has changed so much,” Ruff said of himself.

11 years can make a big difference in anyone’s life, and Ruff’s is no different. “I actually laugh at some of my coaching style,” Ruff said, “because a lot of things have changed.”

“I’m a lot better coach now than I was when I left.”

Analytics

Part of the evolution of the sport has been the introduction of advanced statistics into decision-making. When it comes to analytics, Ruff said he’s a huge fan.

“I love analytics. We were a huge analytics club in New Jersey,” Ruff pronounced. “There’s a fine line there sometimes there’s an eye test that goes along with analytics.”

He cited expected goals and entries and denied entries as clues to form the best possible lineup.

“It’s a tool I like to use, but I also like to pass the eye test at the same time.”

Message from Ruff for Sabres Fans

It’s been a rough 13 seasons for Sabres fans, and Ruff, Adams, and the entire organization can feel that. Ruff believes in what the Sabres are trying to do, and what they’re on the cusp of achieving.

“The only thing I can say is when we hit camp, we’re going to prove [it to] them. We’re going to get to the next level.”