Ted Black confirmed to a number of sources that the Sabres will retain Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff in their respective roles as general manager and head coach for the 2012-13 season. This should come as a surprise to no one.
I just posted some thoughts on how the pair did this season while wondering if it is time for them to be replaced. That post was written knowing that there was a better than good chance the pair would be retained. It was also written not knowing that this announcement would be made minutes before it going up. My goal was to evaluate where the two stood after yet another season without a playoff berth, not to speculate whether or not they would remain with the team.
The choice to retain Regier and Ruff was likely made sometime in December or January, when the injury bug had a firm grip on a team mired in a franchise-record losing streak. While nearly everyone in Hockey Heaven wondered if the organization would make a change at the top, Ted Black identified the course of action the team planned to take. By saying they were not married to any particular “core” players should have told everyone that Regier and Ruff were safe and it was the players who should be on watch.
To his credit, and Regier’s, they stuck with the plan. Regier moved a cornerstone member of the locker room while also trading away a useless defenseman and a highly touted prospect this season. I would imagine he had been working the phones to move additional players, but the offers probably weren’t there. Expect to see at least one or two players from the post-Drury/Briere era shipped off in the summer.
If Regier is able to move out additional pieces of the old core he constructed, he will be doing two things. First, he will have identified the players that no longer fit within the organizational mission. Second, he will be acquiring – or making room for – players whom he has deemed as the right fit for this team moving forward. If the Sabres endure another sub-par season, then some serious questions will need to be asked.
Ruff had to deal with an ever changing roster this season, but has come under fire from his players and those outside the organization recently. Anger from his skill players, repeated mistakes and the general lack of offense from the Sabres has caused many to question Ruff’s place within the organization. There won’t be much more wiggle room if his team misses the playoffs again.
While there are probably a large number of infuriated fans out there, there is no reason for an uproar. Not yet. It isn’t as if this news came out of left field. Not to mention, it isn’t as if the Sabres have been a lottery team for three years with the same GM (Edmonton).
Terry Pegula and Ted Black determined that Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff are the two people they feel will guide their team to a deep playoff run and a possible Stanley Cup. Asking whether or not they’re right for the job is an entirely different argument. What I respect about this decision is the fact that ownership has set a clear path, there is no waffling going on just yet.
The important evaluation will come next spring. If the Sabres miss the playoffs again, no matter the reason, there should be no hesitation on firing both the coach and GM. It is ok to carry on with Ruff and Regier because ownership expects them to make the necessary changes. They should be removed if they prove they aren’t capable of doing the job, simple as that.
Many people are already clamoring that they aren’t capable of doing so, but that is truly an entirely different argument. At this point fans should see what path the team follows this summer before grabbing their pitchforks and lighting up the torches. The bar has been set and if Ruff and Regier fail to reach the standard set by ownership, I expect that next season would be their last.