June 17, 2024

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour speaks during a news conference following the Hurricanes' loss to the New York Rangers in Game 6 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, May 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

Sabres ‘ready to get going’ for new coach Ruff

BUDAPEST, Hungary — A new coach brought a renewed excitement for the Buffalo Sabres when Lindy Ruff was hired April 22.

Forward Dylan Cozens is excited to play for the 64-year-old after briefly meeting with him on a couple of occasions since the hire.

“He’s a very determined coach, very hungry, very smart,” Cozens said Thursday from Budapest while preparing for the 2024 IIHF World Championship in Prague, Czechia. “He obviously means a lot to the city of Buffalo. He wants it really bad and so do we. I’m excited to see how he is as a coach. It’s going to be fun.”

Ruff replaced Don Granato and coached the Sabres for 15 seasons from 1997-98 to 2012-13. He holds team records for regular-season games (1,165), regular-season wins (571), Stanley Cup Playoff games (101) and playoff wins (57). He was fired by the New Jersey Devils on March 4, one season after coaching them to a franchise record 112 points and the Eastern Conference Second Round, a five-game loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Sabres will open next season against the Devils at the 2024 NHL Global Series Czechia presented by Fastenal at O2 Arena in Prague on Oct. 4-5.

“Everyone’s excited,” Sabres defenseman Bowen Byram said. “We have another opportunity, and we have to make the most of it. Lindy’s going to come in and I’m sure there’ll be some tweaks to our game. We’re all really excited. Obviously, the goal there is to be in the playoffs, so it’s going to be a fun year.”

Granato, assistant coach Jason Christie and video coordinator Matt Smith were fired April 16 after Buffalo finished sixth in the Atlantic Division (39-37-6) and missed the playoffs for an NHL-record 13th consecutive season. They were one point out of the second wild card from the East in 2022-23 despite a 7-2-1 run to end the season.

“It was a very tough and disappointing year,” Cozens said. “Being so close the year before, we set the bar pretty high for ourselves and set expectations high for everyone else. Might’ve let the pressure get to us a little bit, but we just didn’t perform as players the way we needed to, and we let a lot of people down.

“A lot of guys are really hungry to come in next year and show what we can do and how good we can be, because we know we’ve got a lot more than we gave this year.”

The Sabres haven’t qualified for the playoffs since 2010-11, losing in seven games to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. It was their fourth postseason appearance in six seasons.

“Obviously it wasn’t good enough this year,” Buffalo defenseman Owen Power said. “We’ve got to hold ourselves to a high standard. Going into next year there’s been some changes and we’ve got to go in holding ourselves accountable and with high expectations.”

Ruff will be the Sabres’ sixth coach since he was replaced by Ron Rolston on Feb. 20, 2013. He is 864-679-153 with 78 ties in 1,774 games over 23 NHL seasons with the Sabres, Dallas Stars and Devils, fifth in NHL history in wins and games coached and second behind Paul Maurice of the Florida Panthers (869) among active coaches in wins.

The 2006 Jack Adams Award winner voted as NHL coach of the year was runner-up to Alain Vigneault of the Vancouver Canucks the following season. Ruff guided the Sabres to the 1999 Stanley Cup Final, a six-game loss to the Stars, and was an assistant with the Panthers under Doug MacLean when they were swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the 1996 Final.

“Excited,” Power said. “Before I came here, I met him in Buffalo. He seemed like a good guy and someone that’s going to help the team a lot. I think the whole group is excited and ready to get going.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *