Earlier this week the Buffalo Sabres fired head coach Lindy Ruff, and replaced him with Ron Rolston. Between his time on the ice for the Sabres, as a long-time defender for the team, and his 16 years behind the bench, Ruff has been a fixture in Buffalo for over half of the franchise’s games all-time. It certainly is a new look for the Sabres to not have Ruff involved in an important role with the team.
Given this huge change, it begs the question of what is next in Buffalo. Could a full scale front office shakeup be next? Is long time GM Darcy Regier also working on borrowed time?
Two years ago, when Terry Pegula bought the team, the new owner promised to do whatever was necessary to bring a winner to Buffalo. He’s certainly spared no expense, opening up the pocket book and assuring that Ryan Miller and Tyler Myers were signed to big money extensions. He also authorized Regier to spend to the cap, and a trade for Brad Boyes was one of the GM’s first moves under the new ownership.
After the Boyes deal flamed out, and the Sabres reloaded in the Summer of 2011, further big money free agents Ville Leino, and Christian Ehrhoff were signed. These moves have had mixed results. Leino was an unmitigated disaster last season, scoring just 25 points and never truly fitting in with the Sabres. This season he has yet to play a game, as he’s been out with an injury. Ehrhoff on the other hand has been a pretty good pickup and has played well for the Sabres, but there is still some question if he was worth the 10 year, $40 million deal (heavily frontloaded with 18 million in the first two years) deal that he received. A trade to add defensive stalwart Robyn Regher was also done and the Sabres had much hope heading into the 2011-12 season. At the trade deadline Regier was able to acquire a quality young centre in Cody Hodgson from the Vancouver Canucks, and this deal looks like it might go down as his best move in quite some time as Hodgson has been excellent this year.
Despite it all the Sabres floundered on the ice, finishing in 9th in the Eastern conference and just out of the playoffs.
This summer the Sabres spent the offseason making further tweaks to the team. Feeling that they were not big enough, and not tough enough, Derek Roy was traded for Steve Ott. Enforcer extraordinaire John Scott was brought in to ensure that incidents such as Milan Lucic running over Ryan Miller would not happen again.
Despite all the moves though, the results on the ice speak for themselves. The team is 6-11-1 and in 14th place in the Eastern Conference. Things must improve or Regier may not be given an opportunity to go through another free agent frenzy this summer. If the team does not improve I believe that Pegula will clean house and bring in a new GM to rebuild the club at the end of the season (if not sooner).
The main question to watch now in Buffalo is what will Regier do next. Does he make a move to shake up his NHL roster in an attempt to save his job, or does the management make the decision to rebuild this club leading to veterans like Regher, Ott, Jordan Leopold, Jochen Hecht, and Jason Pominville, being put on the market in an attempt to jumpstart the rebuild. It will certainly be a situation to monitor, especially if Rolston can’t turn this team around.
Thanks for reading. Check back in later in the week for the final part of the February Rankings.
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