BY BILL WOLCOTT
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Followers of the Buffalo Sabres didn’t mourn the firing of coach Lindy Ruff on Wednesday at Applebees. They felt it was just a matter of time and took the news in a matter-of-fact manner. They were a bit surprised, but not crushed.
Ruff coached 16 years and, for the younger fans, he was the only Sabres coach they knew. For the older fans, Ruff is a good man, but it was time to go. There has been a turnover of 170 NHL coaches since Ruff got the Buffalo job in 1997.
The Sabres are in last place in their division, with only six wins in 17 games. The home team was booed by fans at the First Niagara Arena while losing to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. That was Ruff’s 1,165th game as coach in the National Hockey League, all with Buffalo.
Dreams of a Stanley Cup diminished drastically. Hopes of just making the NHL playoffs are dim in a season cut short by the owners’ lockout.
Kelly Roeser, who was wearing a Sabres cap Wednesday, said, “It doesn’t surprise me at all. It seemed to be a good move. Players weren’t responding to him anymore. It’s a step in the right direction. They had to do it.”
With the shortened season, Roeser feel it’s too late to for Buffalo to make a playoff run.
”I think Darcy Regier should go too. I want someone to show a little more emotion on the bench. Talent wise they’ve got two decent lines, but a few guys aren’t pulling their weight. They’re too soft,” Roeser added.
Eric Fry, who was 5 when Ruff was hired, feels indifferent the shakeup.
”It had to happen,” he said. “He’s an all right coach, but he’s been here 16 years. It was time.”
Fry wants a younger coach, somebody new.
”With guys that have been around, it’s the same old...same old,” he said.
Tony Weiland, the manager of Niagara First Impressions in Lockport got a text message from his wife about a minute after the announcement was made.
”Lindy will go down as the greatest coach in Buffalo history, but it was time to do so (fire him.) Things need be changed,” Weiland said. “As a human being I always thought he was a great guy. He was very personable, very funny and he did a great job directing the team for a lot of years. Over the years, players have changed. His style of coaching was more geared to players of his generation. The younger players need a different motivation.”
”It was his time. I had mixed emotions. I was happy that the Sabres were making a move. At the same time, he’s the only coach I’ve ever know for the Sabres. It’s kind of a culture shock,” Anthony Weiland said.
Nick Roberto of Lockport gets to a few games and was not surprised.
”He needed to be fired,” he said. “It was a matter of time. He was a ticking bomb. We needed a lot of changes.”
“I am surprised,” said Lisa Manning of Clarence. “I thought it would have been awhile ago. Usually there’s a high turnover in coaches and they haven’t won in awhile. He hasn’t won any cups or anything.”
Bob Spencer of Lockport gets to five or six games a season.
”I’m happy about that. It’s about time. They needed a change,” he said. “I think the change will help. The players will get together a little bit and the new coach will come in with a new direction. It’s a good thing.”
Spencer hopes the new coach puts a little excitement and more offense into the Sabres.
”Let the players play,” he said
Not everyone favored the firing. Andrew Janik sure didn’t.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to get rid of Lindy Ruff. We get rid of all our key players on the ice,” Janik said. “Our chemistry is key. We get all of these players and they don’t have chemistry. That’s why we’re losing.”