USA TODAY Sports
Lindy Ruff's release as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres may not sit well with everyone, but it was required for a team that is currently one of the worst in the Eastern Conference.
It had to happen.
It was ugly from the start, as Bryan Little fired the visitors ahead exactly one minute after the opening whistle. Aided by great fore-checking and poor coverage from their opponents, the Jets could have doubled or tripled their lead were it not for Ryan Miller. Jim Slater was thwarted on a break-away and a poke-check kept Evander Kane from bullying his way into a shorthanded goal.
Andrew Ladd capitalized on a poor clearance attempt by Nathan Gerbe in the second period, compounding the misery for Buffalo. Jason Pominville's goal was consolation, as the club hardly looked like they possessed the pedigree to push forward.
Winnipeg, known for channeling energy from the atmosphere they play in front of at the MTS Centre, does not play with such gusto in their travels. Although they were steady and followed the template of how one should compete on the road, the Jets weren't given much of a task.
This was a match that Buffalo could have and, by all accounts, should have won. Kane, out of the goodness of his heart, even took the liberty of shooting wide on an empty net, providing the Sabres with one last-gasp chance to salvage a point and a little pride.
But it was not to be.
Poor passes, inefficient zone entries and intolerable defensive coverage, among other factors, undid Buffalo yet again; however, the warning signs were there to witness before Tuesday's debacle.
Their 2-0 start was aided by good goaltending and a bit of fortune, as three goals against were wiped out by the officials under debatable circumstances—two from Philadelphia and one from Toronto.
Later, they barely scraped out a shoot-out win against a Montreal side that was into its second game of a back-to-back scheduling and using Peter Budaj in net. In Long Island, Ryan Miller stole the plaudits with a 41-save workload and the players in front of him mustered only 15 shots in 60 minutes.
The majority of the wins have failed to be convincing and the body language of the team in its entirety suggested that Ruff's tactics and suggestions were not getting through to them.
Publicly berating core members of the squad for last year's conclusion, which was met with a swift response from Derek Roy before his trade to Dallas, was the first hint that the coach's influence began to wane. It carried over to this compressed season and now, Ron Rolston, as the interim head coach, faces the task of getting the players to work for positive results.
An over-reliance on Miller is haunting the Sabres and the goaltender's anger being directed at teammates in recent post-match interviews shows that he too is not pleased. On average, Buffalo forces more saves from their back stopper than 28 other organizations, with Edmonton barely keeping them from the bottom of the pile.
The powerplay is in shambles, clicking at less than 13 percent and the penalty kill is not doing much better.
Tyler Myers, a former Calder Trophy winner and someone the team is highly dependent upon for results, was twice degraded to being a healthy scratch this month.
And most importantly, this represents another bumpy start for the team under Ruff, as the previous two seasons were reduced to rescue missions when February arrived. Too much went awry to justify keeping him at the helm.
With so many issues to hopefully fix, Rolston will have his work cut out for him and in a condensed season, time will be of the essence.
Coming from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League, where he coached Cody Hodgson and Marcus Foligno during the lock-out months, Rolston will be familiar with some of the faces.
His experience as coach of the United States' National Team development program for seven years and the three gold medals he attained with Under-18 teams serve to solidify his credentials.
It will take a while to get used seeing somebody else commanding the club, as Ruff was hired in July of 1997 and 170 NHL coaches have come and gone since he first entered the scene. All good things must eventually end.
Lindy Ruff was unceremoniously fired, but it should not be long before he receives new career opportunities, as many organizations would value his hockey sense.
The Buffalo Sabres, for almost 16 years, did just that.