Three reasons why shock Lindy Ruff-Buffalo Sabres reunion might fail to take off

New Jersey Devils v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Five
New Jersey Devils v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Five

The Buffalo Sabres and Lindy Ruff are all set to be reunited in the 2024-25 season. On Monday, the franchise announced the hiring of its former coach, who led the Sabres to the 1999 Stanley Cup final.

The announcement surprised many, considering that Ruff was recently let go by the New Jersey Devils after failing to make the playoffs this season.

While Lindy Ruff may bring back some good memories, there is reason to believe things will not go as planned between Buffalo and the fifth-winningest coach in history. Let’s explore three reasons why the Ruff-Buffalo reunion might fail to take off.

3 reasons why Lindy Ruff may not work out this time for Sabres

#1 Times have changed

Sabres fans would love to party like it’s 1999. That season, the Sabres, led by legendary goaltender Dominik Hasek, fell to the Dallas Stars in the final. The club featured leading scorers Miroslav Satan and Michael Peca, while Hasek took the Vezina Trophy.

This time around, the game has changed, and so has the roster. While the Sabres feature key pieces in No. 1 D-man Rasmus Dahlin and leading goal scorer Tage Thompson, the club lacks the depth needed to make a significant run in the Atlantic Division.

Also, the club lacks a true No. 1 netminder, even with default starter Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen posting 27 wins and a .910 save percentage in 2023-24.

Given these numbers, it’s fair to say that Ruff will need to live up to general manager Kevyn Adams’ words, as reported by Sportsnet:

"He has experience, a proven track record, familiarity with young players, and so much more."

Sabres fans will hope Lindy Ruff can get the most out of his young players to keep pace in the Atlantic.

#2 The Atlantic Division is stacked

The Atlantic Division is arguably the toughest in the NHL, with the Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs dominating the division. Plus, the emergence of the Detroit Red Wings from their rebuild put them within two points of the final playoff spot this season.

Additionally, the Ottawa Senators will look to compete next year. At the same time, the Montreal Canadiens appear to be ahead of schedule in their rebuild. Lindy Ruff and the Sabres may struggle to compete against that sort of competition.

The Sabres will need to outpace the Senators, Canadiens and Red Wings if they hope to clinch at least one of the wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference. Catching a top-four spot in the division seems unlikely unless the wheels fall off a team like the Lightning or Leafs.

#3 Things went poorly in New Jersey

It’s hard to pin the blame solely on the coach when things don’t work out for a team. But in New Jersey’s case, the blame fell squarely on Ruff. The Devils were expected to compete for the top-three spot in the Metropolitan Division, especially since they were a surprise playoff team last season.

However, things went poorly for the Devils in 2023-24. Issues such as poor goaltending and inconsistency caused the Devils to miss the playoffs. Devils’ management felt a change was needed, so Lindy Ruff was let go.

While Ruff has an admirable track record (including a Jack Adams award on his resume), there’s no telling if this season was an outlier in New Jersey. Perhaps it’s a signal that Lindy Ruff’s coaching style is falling out of style with the pace of today’s NHL.

Sabres fans and management hope this year was only a blip on the radar, as the best is yet to come.

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