Sabres: New team tone doomed Ruff

Though a number of Buffalo Sabres fans are celebrating the dismissal of Lindy Ruff as coach, there are many others who are lamenting it.

Ruff, who coached the Sabres for 16 years, went through a lot during his tenure. Three ownership changes, a bankruptcy and two work stoppages. He had weathered it all until Wednesday afternoon.

His strongest trait, it seemed, was getting the most out of his team when fans and National Hockey League pundits were not expecting it. Though playing with one of the best goalies ever in Dominik Hasek, the rest of those 1998 and 1999 teams could be summed up by one player: Dixon Ward.

Ward was never a superstar, but always had a knack for working hard and scoring big goals, especially in the playoffs. But Ward was like the rest of that lunchbox gang of Sabres players, none of whom was making big bucks. We always will remember the efforts of those payroll cash-strapped teams more than the names.

Fast forward to the Terry Pegula era. All of a sudden – for the first time during the Ruff coaching years – money starts pouring in to the team and its players, including some of them being rewarded with big bucks though never having a proven track record.

No matter the effort demanded by Ruff, a new mindset of spending by the owner set the agenda for the team. Accountability was no longer demanded for players after big contracts were handed out.

That was not Ruff’s doing. But this week, he is the only one being held responsible in the organization.