By AARON GARLAND
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — A 2-1 loss on home ice to Winnipeg Tuesday turned out to be the last straw for Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff, who was fired Wednesday.
Ruff was the longest tenured coach in the National Hockey League, in the midst of his 16th season behind Buffalo’s bench. On the heels of the firing, there were mixed feelings among local residents about the decision to get rid of Ruff.
But for Niagara Falls resident Chase Giarrizzo, who was at the game Tuesday, the move came as little surprise.
“The team needed a change, the players weren’t responding,” Giarrizzo said. “I was actually at the game (Tuesday night), and they got booed for two periods and I think they deserved it.”
Speculation in Buffalo recently has been that Ruff lost the locker room and the players were no longer responding to his stale message. North Tonawanda resident Chris Sklarski agreed with that account.
“I was happy about it, it’s about time,” North Tonawanda resident Chris Sklarski said. “I think change needed to be made the past couple years — I think it was overdue. … He wasn’t getting through to the players anymore — his voice got old.”
“Glad he’s gone. Love the guy, but 16 years? Done. Glad. Get him out of there,” Niagara Falls resident Michael Valenti added.
The verdict that came from General Manager Darcy Regier did not win rave reviews with all fans, however. With the team just 6-10-1 this season and sitting in last place in the Northeast Division, some feel the onus should also fall on the players.
“I don’t think they should put the whole blame on (Ruff),” Tonawanda resident Steve Wutz said. “It has a lot to do with the players, and I think he’s taking the fall for everybody.”
“I didn’t like it. He’s been around for a very long time and he knows what he’s doing,” Niagara Falls resident Lynn Quiet added. “He just doesn’t have the players that he needs to win.”
Tonawanda's Kim Dabek also feels the players are just as responsible for the team’s shortcomings this year, but noted an even more radical way to send a message.
“I think the team should also have some kind of consequence, like a reduction in pay, because it’s not just one person, it’s a whole entire team,” she said.
Whichever side fans take on the decision to can Ruff, at the end of the day, the NHL is a production-based business. And fans in a city that has yet to see a Stanley Cup champion found that out yesterday.
“He’s been here what, 15 years? He hasn’t won one cup,” Amherst resident Phillip Chmiel said, supporting the firing.