TAMPA The Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres have clearly had their hockey battles over the years. Hard feelings spilled over even in their first regular season game against each other this season when Sabres coach Lindy Ruff called a timeout late with a lead Bruins forward Brad Marchand called the move disrespectful in a game that had already been decided.
But those hard feelings for Ruffs methods dissolved on Wednesday morning when the team learned that the Buffalo Sabres had fired their longtime coach after a brutal start to the season.
The Sabres were last in the Northeast Division with a 6-10-1 record, had lost seven of their last 10 games, and dropped a heartbreaking loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night that set the stage for Ruff's sacking.
Ruff was the longest-tenured coach in the NHL after being hired way back in 1997 and took the Sabres to the conference finals four times and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Dallas Stars once in a losing effort.
Claude Julien paid respect to a fellow member of the coaching fraternity whose firing leaves the Bruins coach as the longest-tenured coach in the Eastern Conference.
When you see a coach like that last that long behind the bench of one team, you have to be proud of his accomplishments. Ruff deserves a lot of praise, said Julien. Ive said all along if I last that long in place like Ruff then Id be extremely happy. He did a great job there.
I know he brought his team to the Finals that one year against Dallas with the controversial goal. That will always stick with the Sabres organization. He didnt always have the best teams, but he always got the best out of his players. Ive always said he was a good coach, and unfortunately those things happen in our game whether theyre fair or not.
Barry Trotz, Alain Vigneault and Mike Babcock all have been at their respective posts in Nashville, Vancouver and Detroit longer than Julien, but hes now the senior head coach among Eastern teams. Daniel Paille was the only Bruins skater to play under Ruffs tutelage in Buffalo, and had nothing but complimentary things to say about the longtime head coach.
He was obviously there for a number of years, but the team wasnt doing well. The coach is the easiest one to go after. Thats unfortunate, but its part of the game, said Paille. He definitely changed my perspective as a person and what I needed to achieve in my life and goals. He definitely helped out early on in my life with that.
Now the Sabres will move on to a new coach while looking for a spark, and Ruff may get a well-deserved rest after a nearly two-decade run as the head hockey man behind the Buffalo bench.