Friday, February 8, 2013

On Regeir, Ruff and the Sabres defense

Lindy Ruff received a vote of confidence from GM Darcy Regier on Wednesday. In other news, the sun rose again.

When the Buffalo News' Mike Harrington asked Regier if changes were in the air--either player or coaching--due to a 1-6-1 record after a 2-0 start, Regier proclaimed, "It won't be the coach."

In any other town it could be construed as the kiss of death. But as we've seen after 15 seasons Regier remains staunchly behind his head coach, and one would take his word as gospel.

But Harrington points out that Ruff and owner Terry Pegula had a meeting early Wednesday morning. Ruff, of course, did not divulge any specifics with Ruff stating simply that the owner always meets with his coach and GM.

Fair enough.

But the growing discontent amongst the fan-base and Ruff's longevity without recent success, which Harrington points out, begs the question, is the Lindy Ruff era be coming to a close?


Ruff's defense is a mess, still. They're tied for last in the league in goals-against, and if there were a statistical category for odd-man rushes against, one would think they be near the top in that category as well.

Regier acknowledged that the defense is in shambles, but also noted that Ruff is a defensive coach. "Lindy has an area of expertise within an expertise of coaches." he said on WGR's Schoppsie and the Bulldog yesterday. "I believe it is to solve those problems defensively."

Not sure what to make of that. Yes, we know Ruff's a defensive coach. His assistants, or those with coaching "expertise" on the back-end, are James Patrick and Teppo Numminen. While Numminen was just brought on board in 2011 and has been upstairs, Patrick has been an assistant on the bench since 2006.

If Ruff's arse is on the line, his defense is to blame. And if he wants to get it out of the hot seat, he needs to take the reigns of the defense.

In that same segment Bulldog posed the question to Regier, "Is it too complicated a question to answer, why you have the defensive problems if he's such an accomplished coach?"

Regier answers by saying, "This is a very short-term area where we have problems. This team has historically been pretty good defensively."

And now for the league rankings since the end of the first lockout:
  • 2005/06:  G/G--#5; GA/G--#10; PK--#2
  • 2006/06:  G/G--1;   GA/G--13;   PK--20
  • 2007/08:  G/G--4;   GA/G--22;   PK--11
  • 2008/09:  G/G--13; GA/G--14;   PK--14
  • 2009/10:  G/G--10; GA/G--4;     PK--2
  • 2010/11:  G/G--9;   GA/G--18;   PK--13
  • 2011/12:  G/G--17; GA/G--18;   PK--19
  • 2012/13:  G/G--8;   GA/G--29;   PK--19
In gymnastics they take out the lowest and highest scores to get a solid look at the performance. Using that here, the GA/G average for the years between the lockouts excluding this young season is 15th.

Historically pretty good indeed, Mr. Regier. In fact, middle of the road, which is where the team has finished in four of those seven years.

Assistant coach James Patrick is an all-around good guy and has been an assistant since 2006. He has incredible amount of experience gained from his 1,280 games played in the NHL. He's also no stranger to scoring either having accumulated 639 points during his 24 NHL seasons.

Yet, there seems to be a disconnect between what he's done, what he wants his players to do and what the players are actually doing.

The inability to consistently defend a two-on-one is something we've been seeing for years. Players not pinching at the right time is another problem area which leads to the aforementioned odd-man rushes going the other way. The inability of the defenseman to get the puck out of their own zone has been a constant for years.

Oddly enough, these were all traits that Patrick excelled at. Yet his defense has had trouble with all of the above.

And, when leading after two periods:
  • 2005/06:  #8 (.892)
  • 2006/07:  12 (.842)
  • 2007/08:  25 (.800)
  • 2008/09:  26 (.794)
  • 2009/10:  1   (1.000)
  • 2010/11:  20 (.833)
  • 2011/12:  10 (.893)
For as calm and collected as Patrick was throughout his career, his players are choking.

Those are just the facts. Players regressing, vets looking older and slower than they should and the Keystone Cops comparisons are not easily quantifiable, yet have been evident for a few years now. And although the names have changed, the tandem of Ruff and Patrick have remained.

Simply put, if Regier isn't looking to oust Ruff, perhaps there should be more scrutiny of Patrick's performance as Ruff's defensive assistant.

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