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Ex-Sabres boss Ruff won't be unemployed long

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raleigh, N.C. -- One man's completely haphazard collection of NHL notes, random thoughts and half-baked ideas we like to call... 'Just thinking out loud here... '

 

-- The boos started early Tuesday night in Buffalo and were only occasionally broken up by a cascade of Bronx cheers. And so if you were at the First Niagara Center during the Winnipeg Jets' 2-1 win over the Sabres -- as dominant a one-goal victory as we've seen in a while -- the firing of Lindy Ruff in the aftermath would come as no surprise.

Comments like these, in the aftermath of the loss to the Jets, certainly don't help:

"We're not playing the calibre of hockey this city deserves, so yeah, we deserve to get booed -- from the top down, every player," said goaltender Ryan Miller. "People, they just want you to work hard. They just want you to give them something to cheer about. We've been letting them down."

And now the Sabres' awful start has cost Ruff his job.

Firings are inevitable in the coaching business, but this one just looks and feels different, mostly because of Ruff's long association with the Sabres. He played for the club right out of junior, was a team captain and became the team's bench boss on July 21, 1997. Until Wednesday, he was the second-longest-tenured coach in North American pro sports to Gregg Popovich of the NBA's San Antonio Spurs.

Just to put that in perspective, during Ruff's time in Buffalo, the Atlanta Thrashers were born and then exited for our fair burg and hired and fired six different coaches.

Methinks a coach like Ruff, with a career record of 571-432-84 with 78 ties, won't be unemployed long.

 

-- One thing yours truly hates about the condensed NHL season that sees teams play only in their conference: Aside from Chicago's record start and the saga of the Vancouver Canucks goaltending situation, these eyes are almost exclusively fixated on what's happening in the Eastern Conference. The NHL can't realign soon enough.

 

-- Not sure about the Jets' experiment of moving Dustin Byfuglien from the point to the front of the enemy net on the power play, but it's sure worth a look for a couple of reasons: 1. Even though they are giving up the big man's howitzer from the point, Byfuglien isn't just a nightmare for opposition goalies, he's the equivalent of a human eclipse. 2. Maybe the decision to replace Byfuglien with Olli Jokinen on the point -- he played there some in Florida -- can help get the Jets' top off-season signing on the scoresheet.

 

-- More on Jokinen: Nobody asked me, but it's asking a lot of the veteran centre to crank up his point production when his latest linemates -- Eric Tangradi and Kyle Wellwood have combined for ZERO goals.

 

-- The Jets continue to be linked to trade rumours involving holdout Colorado Avalanche centre Ryan O'Reilly, who is reportedly seeking a five-year deal worth $4.5 million per season. Question: How much, if at all, does the rantings of O'Reilly's dad -- Brian, who is a life coach and has been very vocal during his son's divorce from the Avs -- influence any trade talks?

O'Reilly put up 55 points last year, is just 22 and finished fourth in voting for the Selke Trophy. He'd look great in Jets colours, but at what cost to the current roster and financially?

 

-- If the Jets were to call St. John's IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge for a player to be promoted right now, we wonder who he might suggest? Maybe centre Eric O'Dell, who has 24 points in 36 games? But it says something as to how thin the Thrashers' depth was when the players currently popping off the page the most in the system -- players like Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Adam Lowry and Scott Kosmachuk -- have all been drafted in the last two years.

 

-- And, finally, this has nothing to do with hockey or sports whatsoever, but should you be concerned about growing older and changing tastes if you find yourself intrigued by the walk-in bath tub commercials on TV? Asking for a friend...

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 21, 2013 D3

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