x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Lindy Ruff seasons averaged out

The longest-serving coach in the NHL was undoubtably popular but his success was only mediocre.

Lindy Ruff at a news conference in his first public appearance two days after being fired as the Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey coach. Gary Wiepert / AP Photo
Lindy Ruff at a news conference in his first public appearance two days after being fired as the Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey coach. Gary Wiepert / AP Photo

Lindy Ruff was the longest-serving coach in the NHL, at nearly 16 years, when the Buffalo Sabres dismissed him last week. He deserves kudos for lasting so long with such modest success.

The Sabres forward Thomas Vanek, like others, spoke fondly of Ruff, noting that any organisation that hires him will be getting a "great coach".

Perhaps, if popularity outweighs sparkling results. His Buffalo record was 571 wins, 516 defeats, including overtime losses, and 78 ties.

In his 14 full seasons (2004/05 was lost to a lockout), the Sabres reached the play-offs eight times, and the Stanley Cup Finals once, in 1999, losing to Dallas. Sixteen of 30 teams make the play-offs each season, suggesting Ruff's numbers are statistically average.

Compare them with his longest-tenured North American counterparts. Basketball's Gregg Popovich has reached the play-offs 15 of 16 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, with four championships. The NFL's Bill Belichick has taken the New England Patriots to 10 play-offs in 13 seasons, winning three Super Bowls. Mike Scioscia's Los Angeles Angels have been in baseball's (hardest-to-reach) post-season in six of 12 seasons, with a World Series title.

Ruff was a Sabres draft pick and team captain. He played 10 seasons in Buffalo.

His status as a local hero was cemented when he coached the team to the finals in his second season – an early high note of promise that lingered perhaps longer than it should have.

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