End of an era: Looking back at Ruff’s time in Buffalo

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On Wednesday, the Buffalo Sabres fired head coach Lindy Ruff, ending his reign as the longest active tenured bench boss in the NHL, and second-longest in North American professional sports.

Ruff took over in Buffalo on July 21, 1997, from Ted Nolan, becoming just the 15th head coach in franchise history.

To put his longevity in perspective — from the time Ruff was hired to the time he was fired, there were 170 different NHL coaching changes.

His tenure as head coach is longer than the history of four NHL franchises (Nashville, Columbus, Minnesota and Atlanta/Winnipeg.)

Ruff also held a distinct mark within the world of pro sports. Of the “big four” in North America — MLB, NHL, NFL and NBA — he was second only to Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs (who has been at the helm since Dec. 10, 1996).

With Ruff’s firing, Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz moves into first among active NHL coaches — he took over on Aug. 6, 1997 — and second among all active coaches in the aforementioned big four.

The others?

Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels (1999), Bill Belichick, New England Patriots (2000), Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins (2002), Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals (2003) and Doc Rivers, Boston Celtics (2004).

In terms of NHL coaches, the next longest-tenured are Trotz, Detroit’s Mike Babcock (2005), Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault (2006) and Boston’s Claude Julien (2007).

But back to Ruff, and a list of his accomplishments in 16 seasons on the job:

— 571 wins with Sabres, second-most by a head coach with a single franchise, trailing only Al Arbour (Islanders, 740).

— 2006 Jack Adams winner for NHL coach of the year.

— 1999 Eastern Conference champion, Stanley Cup finalist.

— 2007 Presidents’ Trophy.

— Eight playoff appearances.

— Two Northeast Division banners.

— 57-44 playoff record. Most playoff wins of any Sabres head coach.

The Sabres have yet to name a replacement. GM Darcy Regier will address the media at 5 p.m. ET.