Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
After nearly 20 year behind the bench, the Sabres have ended their relationship with the longest tenured coach in the NHL.
Lindy Ruff was long thought to be unimpeachable in Buffalo. Media reports about his firing today say he "lost the room", but as our own Chris Boyle pointed out, how many times has Ruff lost and then regained the room in the last decade alone? That's a bad excuse to fire someone who's had as much success as Ruff has.
Ruff's ties to the community in Buffalo are strong, and this has to factor in for his replacement.
The Case for Cunneyworth
There's only really one man in the NHL coaching circuit who's both available and has those ties to the community. Randy Cunneyworth was a Buffalo Sabre as a player twice in his career, and was drafted by them in the 8th round in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft.
He was a hard nosed defenseman during his 866 NHL games, and he brings that same edge to his coaching strategy.
Upon his retirement, he went straight to work on the Sabres' AHL coaching staff, where he was a head coach for nearly a decade, missing the playoffs just twice in 8 years.
He was stolen from the Sabres by Division rivals the Montreal Canadiens two years ago to coach their AHL team, where had instant success in the 2011-12 season, getting the Bulldogs to the 3rd round of the AHL playoffs.
The following year, he was promoted as Jacques Martin's assistant coach, and after the Habs stumbled out of the gate, he got his first cup of tea as a head coach in the NHL with Martin fired by panicky GM Pierre Gauthier.
Cunneyworth had his legs chopped out from underneath him when Gauthier hired him, then called a press conference to apologize to everyone for hiring him because he was English, but that wouldn't happen in Buffalo.
Cunneyworth would represent a fresh start in an organization that has gone stale, with a little Sabres history thrown in for good measure.
Another added advantage that Cunneyworth has is his penchant for toughness. He loved playing Michael Blunden and others a lot more than any other coach would dream of playing them last season, which is great for Darcy Regier's prize UFA acquisition John Scott, as well as the main piece in the Derek Roy trade, Steve Ott.
The Boston Bruins running Ryan Miller last year seemed to shatter the Sabres' organization, and they felt that they had to re-evaluate and add some team toughness. No one can add team toughness like Randy Cunneyworth. Under his watchful eye, the Habs almost beat the Bruins last year one time. Look forward to it, Buffalo.