BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was fired on Wednesday after the team’s latest slow start to the season and amid growing criticism from the team’s fan base.
The announcement was made on the team’s Twitter account and confirmed by Sabres spokesman Michael Gilbert on Wednesday. Ruff was relieved of his duties shortly after the team held a 90-minute practice, and a day after the Sabres were booed several times by their home fans during a 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
The Sabres (6-10-1) have gone 4-10-1 since opening the season winning their first two games.
With a 571-432-162 record, Ruff was the team’s winningest coach. In his 16th season, Ruff was also the active leader among NHL coaches with the same team.
The Sabres, who play at Toronto on Thursday, have not yet named a replacement. General manager Darcy Regier was scheduled to address reporters later in the day.
The news came as a surprise only because Sabres management, including team president Ted Black, had spent much of the past week voicing its support of Ruff. Team owner Terry Pegula was also regarded as a big fan of Ruff.
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.
Ruff was becoming increasingly aware that his job was on the line. Last week, he described the Sabres struggles as being “his mess,” while adding that he wasn’t done trying to clean it up.
On Wednesday, he abruptly cut short his availability with reporters by hinting that changes were coming because “it isn’t working the way we’re going.” He didn’t specify what those changes might be.
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 final in 1999, when Buffalo was eliminated by Dallas in six games.
The Sabres, however, haven’t been the same since they reached the Eastern Conference finals — losing both times — in both 2006 and `07. Buffalo has missed the playoffs in three of the past five seasons.