As a fan/citizen journalist/blogger scum/etc… it’s easy to lob verbal and written rocks at the old boys club of the traditional media in this town.
It’s not like they make it difficult or anything; I’m sure we’ve all muttered any combination of expletives after reading Jerry Sullivan columns full of smug, lazy, obvious hindsight conclusions and half-truths told by manipulated stats and convenient episodes of selective memory.
However, every once in a while WGR & The Buffalo News prove to still serve some purpose and release a bit of information that really makes you take a step back and reassess what you’ve come to think of this team and the truth behind the narrative of the past 5 years.
Seeing that series of tweets scroll across my phone before leaving for work this past Monday gave me pause about the Sabres like nothing else in a good long while. While hearsay and he said she said might not be a perfect basis for opinion, I do put more stock into Paul Hamilton’s reporting and connections than that of any other member of the Buffalo media, new or old.
Full disclosure: my policy towards Ruff in the post-Drury/Briere, pre-Pegula world had always been that he’s a capable coach stuck in a horrible situation with a meek and/or incompetent GM along with an ownership group simply going through the motions and looking to mitigate the losses of consecutive playoff-less years with self-destructive internal caps and a give-a-shit attitude towards a restless and success starved city. Why should I have called for Ruff’s head when Roy, Stafford, Pominville and Vanek looked so woefully unprepared to take on the vacant leadership positions? Line juggling and goalie mishandling? Regrettable but what do you expect him to do when absolutely nothing clicks or sticks with this laughable, rotten core enabled by ownership who frankly couldn’t be bothered to G4 it up from Florida for a game?
And then….Pegula. This is it, boys! We’re busting out of these chains…open check books and new cup holders for everyone! Regher? Awesome! Ehrhoff? Amazing! Leino? Sure! We’ll finally get to see what a Quinn-less world is like where Connolly plays for the Leafs, rainbows crisscross Erie County and anything is possible.
And it was good….for a while. And then injuries…and Lucic…and closed door meetings…14th at Christmas? What the hell happened? What’s not adding up here? Everything should be in order beyond the obvious injuries…..could it be Lindy? No, no…surely it can’t. Well, I mean, he’s certainly adamant about trying every line combination by the 2nd intermission but still…Roy & Stafford are dogging it like they always have. Oh come on, give Miller a rest! I know we’re trying to claw our way back into 8th but he’s going to be useless in the first round! I can’t ****-ing believe this…
Which brings us to Monday, which for myself was a time of acceptance and general ambivalence towards Ruff’s employment status with my club even after Regher’s blue line clowning in Philadelphia. The center situation was starting to self-correct with the emergence of Ennis and the acquisition of Hodgson which, in my eyes, would solve the Roy questions by bumping him down to the 3rd line where he’s thrived before for Buffalo. There was also confirmation of Vanek nursing a baker’s dozen of various nagging injuries and ailments which explained his winter/spring swoon.
Bombing out still sucked something fierce however it wasn’t the end of the world in my mind. But hearing that report and seeing those tweets broke a dam of anti-Ruff sentiment just bubbling below the surface of my former whatever-ness towards the man.
You mean to tell me that we’re going to have to shop both Vanek AND Roy, two players poised to shake off the crushing weight of being the focal points of this team which would create MORE yawning holes in the lineup because Ruff cannot stop berating them whether or not they’re producing? Ruff doesn’t want a strong captain? Are you kidding me? Is that why the captaincy has been such a transient joke these past 5 years? He doesn’t want to be challenged in the room???
As pointed out by my esteemed colleague and hockey savant, Charles Oring (@coring) in conversation earlier this week we’ve only ever been good in the Ruff/Regier era with strong captains. Peca, Drury & Briere got it done…Stu Barnes and whatever flavor of the month we had between ’07 and the Pominville era haven’t.
Modern professional sports have begun to transcend coaches – legendary managers are few and far between in the age of instant results and managerial merry-go-rounds. Pegula and Regier can and should be commended for investing in this team and making smart long term moves, respectively. If Ruff cannot keep up with the improved quality of this roster and insists on jettisoning quality players (making sane salaries to boot) because they won’t cater to HIS way and HIS vision; the logical decision is sitting right there for ownership to make.
Hockey clubs don’t revolve around one man anymore so don’t cut off our hockey nose to spite our face, Terry. Your 3 year plan is dependent on this group putting it together within the next year, two at the very latest.
Alienating Vanek & Roy for potentially sub-par returns will not make that time frame feasible, period. It’s been long enough and Ruff’s benefit of the doubt is quickly fading.
I’m on twitter and you should follow me if you don’t want anything unfortunate to happen: @rjandolina