Lindy Ruff talks to his players during his first stint in Buffalo. ©2024, Dan Hickling

He’s back in Buffalo: Sabres name Lindy Ruff coach

BUFFALO – When he addressed the media after firing Don Granato, Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said he knew the exact type of head coach he wanted to hire.

Adams coveted experience. His new coach would be an NHL veteran capable of pushing the Sabres, who own an NHL-record 13-year playoff drought, to the next level.

It wasn’t hard to tell who he was talking about.

Late Monday afternoon, the Sabres made it official, naming Lindy Ruff, the franchise’s all-time leader in wins, their new coach. Adams, of course, knows Ruff well, having been an assistant coach on his last staff in Buffalo.

Ruff, 64, will be introduced at 1 p.m. in the KeyBank Center pavilion.

He served in the same capacity from 1997-98 to 2012-13, compiling a 571-432-162 record in 1,165 games over 15 seasons. He led the Sabres to eight playoff appearances, four trips to the Eastern Conference final and the 1999 Stanley Cup final.

Ruff illustrated his ability to evolve during his first stint by winning in two distinct eras. He won low-scoring games in the clutch-and-grab NHL and reached the conference final in 2005 and 2006 with a slick, high-scoring team following a lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season.

Adams moved quickly to fill the position. He dismissed Granato last Tuesday, hours after the Sabres’ ended their disappointing 84-point season.

Ruff, whose 864 career wins rank fifth all-time and second among active coaches, became available when the New Jersey Devils fired him March 4. Following a 52-win, 112-point regular season and a first-round playoff victory last year, New Jersey missed the playoffs this season.

“I am thrilled to welcome Lindy back as the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres,” Adams said in a statement. “As I went through the hiring process, it quickly became clear Lindy was the person for the job. He has experience, a proven track record, familiarity with young players, and so much more.

“I want to be clear though that this hire was not made with nostalgia in mind. Lindy is the right person for the job now and any history with our organization and community is simply an added bonus. I believe wholeheartedly that Lindy can help our team reach their goals and am excited to get to work with him.”

Monday, coincidentally, marked the 13th anniversary of the Sabres’ last postseason win.

In a statement, Ruff thanked Sabres owner Terry Pegula, Pegula’s family and Adams for another opportunity and said “this is a team ready to take the next step.”

“I am both humbled and honored to be trusted to help this team win now,” he said. “It is not a job that I take lightly. It is my goal to ensure that players believe in each other, play for each other and love being a Buffalo Sabre. There is no doubt that we all need to embrace the challenge ahead of us. The work starts today and I could not be more excited.”

Ruff’s popularity and past success will likely help sell tickets, a legitimate concern for the Sabres given their recent history.

Following his first run, the Sabres sank to the bottom of the NHL, finishing dead last four times and missing the playoffs every season. They burned through six coaches.

Only Granato, who moved the Sabres from the basement to within one win of the playoffs last season, made a significant impact. But he couldn’t end the team’s postseason drought, so Ruff’s back in town.

After moving on to coach the Dallas Stars and New Jersey – he served as an assistant with the New York Rangers in between – Ruff never lost touch with Buffalo. He kept his home in Clarence.

Having spent most of his adult life in Buffalo – he joined the Sabres as a teenage defenseman in 1979-80 – the city is close to his heart.

He played 608 games for the Sabres over 10 seasons, moving between the blue line and forward and serving as captain for three years.

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