Even Lindy Ruff could sense that it was time. The mistakes, the hesitation, the tension between the team and its fans was getting to everyone, coach included.
When he opened the front door at his home on Wednesday afternoon to see Darcy Regier standing on his porch, he simply said "I know".
That's how it went down, according to Ruff, who held a final press conference today at the First Niagara Center. Framed by a black backdrop and with the words "Sabres Alumni" under his name on the web stream, Ruff demonstrated the class, heart, and humor that we've come to expect from the greatest coach in Sabres history.
Ruff started with a long list of thank yous, including each ownership group he's played or coached under, giving special thanks to the Pegula family. "My biggest disappointment is not getting it done for him," said an emotional Ruff. "He will get it right."
The longtime coach continued his thank yous by moving to the players, thanking them all from past to present (and even name-dropping Richard Smehlik) before moving on to his fellow coaches and staff.
He ended by thanking the fans, saying that they helped make this place special, and that they helped him through some tough times, including helping him get through his daughter' illness. "The fans of Western New York are #1. I owe you," said Ruff. "I see the [Thank You Lindy] sign on the fence outside and I want to put a sign right next to it."
Ruff stayed to answer a few questions, saying that he absolutely wants to coach again ("I miss it already") and that he wasn't able to watch last night's game, saying, "I watched one period and had to turn it off. It was too strange."
Ruff ended his press conference by showing the sense of humor that endeared him to fans for over 15 years, saying "If you want to know what I've been doing lately, I've been driving around from Tim Horton's to Tim Horton's, rolling up the rim. Haven't won anything yet. Thanks."
It was as professional yet heartfelt a press conference as you'll see from a former coach. No matter what your opinions on Ruff as a coach, it's impossible to deny that he's a class act through and through.