Lindy hop: Sabres rehire Ruff after Devils exit

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The Buffalo Sabres have rehired Lindy Ruff, the last head coach to lead the franchise to the NHL playoffs back in 2011.

Ruff, 64, was fired by the New Jersey Devils after 61 games this season. He replaces Don Granato, whom the Sabres fired after three seasons.

Ruff coached the Sabres for 15 seasons, from 1997 to 2013. He ranks fifth all time and second among active coaches with 864 career regular-season wins for the Sabres, the Dallas Stars and the Devils. His 935 combined wins in the regular season and playoffs are tied for fourth in league history.

“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,” Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said.

Adams worked as an assistant coach under Ruff in 2011-12 and during the 2012-13 season, when Ruff was replaced by Ron Rolston.

The Sabres have gone through six different coaches since Ruff was fired.

“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,” Adams said.

Ruff led the Sabres to the playoffs eight times during his tenure in Buffalo, including the Eastern Conference final in his first two seasons and the Stanley Cup Final in 1999.

He is the winningest coach in Sabres history, having set franchise records in regular-season games coached (1,165), regular-season wins (571), playoff games coached (101) and playoff wins (57) during his first stint with the organization.

“I think I’ve probably watched Lindy coach about as many games as I’ve actually played [in the NHL] — and more than I’ve played for the Sabres,” Buffalo forward Alex Tuch, who was a Sabres fan as a youth in Syracuse, New York, told reporters last week. “He was my favorite coach. That was the team that I watched, that I sat on the couch with my dad. … Lindy’s a great coach, a really smart guy. I’ve always been a huge fan of his.”

Ruff won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s coach of the year in 2005-06. He was a finalist for the award three other times.

Ruff was credited with helping a young team in New Jersey take a leap to the postseason in 2022-23 with a 49-point improvement year over year. But the Devils regressed by 48 points this season, leading to his dismissal.

The Sabres have gone 13 seasons without a playoff appearance since Ruff last took them there in 2010-11, which is the longest current drought in the NHL. That included a disappointing 2023-24 campaign in which Buffalo appeared poised to reach a new level of success with a roster of solid young players but finished with a lower points percentage (.512) than they did in the previous season (.555).

“This is a team ready to take the next step,” Ruff said about the Sabres. “I am both humbled and honored to be trusted to help this team win now. 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 will be formally introduced in a news conference on Tuesday.

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