Tonawanda News — Pegula, however, was running out of options in his bid to turn the Sabres into a Stanley Cup contender, an objective he made clear upon purchasing the team two years ago. Ruff's firing comes nearly two years to the day Pegula formally took over as the Sabres owner on Feb. 22, 2011.
"The hockey world knows how I and the entire Buffalo Sabres organization feel about Lindy Ruff not only as a coach but also as a person," Pegula said in a statement released by the team. "His qualities have made this decision very difficult. I personally want Lindy to know that he can consider me a friend always."
Under Ruff, the Sabres made the playoffs in each of his first four seasons and eight times overall. That included a surprising run to the Stanley Cup finals in 1999, when Buffalo was eliminated by Dallas in six games.
The Sabres, however, haven't been the same since reaching the Eastern Conference finals — losing both times — in both 2006 and '07. Buffalo has missed the playoffs in three of the past five seasons.
Last season, the Sabres were one of the NHL's biggest busts in missing the playoffs with a high-priced roster. The previous offseason, Pegula committed nearly $140 million in salary to add talent and re-sign players.
The high expectations coupled with the team's slow start in a lockout-shortened 48-game season were both factors in Ruff's dismissal.
Regier acknowledged that Ruff was having difficulty identifying the reasons behind the Sabres struggles. At no point, Regier said, did he feel players had tuned out their coach.
"Communication has never been better, so there were huge strides he had done in that regard," Regier said. "Unfortunately, it didn't translate to the ice."
Ruff's 571 wins rank second in the NHL with one team, trailing only Al Arbour, who had 740 wins with the New York Islanders.
Ruff's ties to Buffalo go back to his days as a player. Selected in the second round of the 1979 draft by the Sabres, Ruff made the team later that year. In November 1986, he replaced star Gilbert Perreault as the Sabres captain.