Most of the drama around the NHL right now should be about the playoffs; which teams have a chance to go all the way, which teams won’t and everything in between. But yesterday in Buffalo, Sabres center Derek Roy decided to stir up some drama by publicly criticizing his head coach Lindy Ruff after the coach called out the Sabres veteran core!
What has become an increasingly familiar site, yesterday was the annual locker clean out for the Buffalo Sabres who failed to make the playoffs. It was the 6th time in the last 10 seasons the Sabres failed to make the playoffs, it was also the last chance for fans to hear from players before they head to the golf course, Europe or anywhere other than the rink. But yesterday’s locker clean out turned into quite a dramatic scene and could spell the end for one long time Sabres player. It all started a couple of weeks ago when Lindy Ruff appeared on WGR radio and had a message for his core players!
“Oh for sure. I think you’ve got to look at it that way. We can’t look at it any other way, we put it on the core group of players and for me it’s a tough situation to be in because we battled hard to get back, but we didn’t get there.” He also added “Guys had a chance to make a difference and didn’t make a difference.”
The core group of players were clearly identified at the beginning of the season when Ruff named Jason Pominville captain and gave Derek Roy, Thomas
Vanek and Drew Stafford the role of assistant captains. While Pominville stepped up to the plate and had a solid full season, his “support” team of assistant captains was lacking for the vast majority of the season. Vanek was a solid player during the first half of the season, racking up 19 goals and 40 points in the first 40 games. But in the final 38 games Vanek had just 7 goals and 21 points! Stafford was the opposite of Vanek and stepped his game up in the second half of the season after being put on a line with Tyler Ennis. But the one player who did absolutely nothing all season and was dangled in front of every NHL team at the Trade Deadline; Derek Roy who had statistically the worst season of his career.
Roy, of all the players should be keeping his mouth shut and leave Buffalo until further notice. But he just couldn’t keep quiet and voiced his displeasure about his coach.
“Behind closed doors it’s fine. It’s not fun, but it’s good to be hard on your players. Behind closed doors, on the bench. I’m not a coach, but I don’t think it’s right thing to be saying it to the media.” Roy did go on to say he had a good relationship with his coach; “Behind closed doors, it’s good. He expects a lot of me and wants me to be a leader. I try to bring that in practices and games.
“Try” is not something Roy could be accused of much this season, he was criticized by the media and coach for his complete lack of effort this season. Like usual after a lack luster season players start to blame injuries for their lack of production, and of course Roy’s blaming a ligament in his knee, a shoulder injury and a mysterious hamstring no one knew about for his lack of effort and rough play this season. If he was that badly injured he should have gotten off the ice and opened up a opportunity for rookies like Luke Adam. Playing through his injuries this season hurt the Sabres more than it helped. In all likely hood Roy has played his last game in a Sabres uniform as Darcy Regier was shopping him around at the trade deadline and he just couldn’t get his game together!
Roy’s comments are not the first to arise about the Sabres “core” and Lindy Ruff, although they are the first to come directly from the dressing room and a veteran player. Isn’t it odd that Thomas Vanek (a constant scapegoat for Ruff) just suddenly stopped playing so well? WGRs Paul Hamilton thinks so and he took to the radio to share what he’s been hearing from the “silent core”.
“I hear the rumblings.” said Hamilton “The players aren’t going to say it publicly, but they’re starting to get tired of Lindy Ruff’s act. It’s the constant berating inside the room, and the constant berating in the media. Thomas Vanek’s never going to say it, but I just wonder if he had just gotten tired … He’s a main target of Ruff.”
It’s starting to look like players are tuning out Ruff, after missing the playoffs 3 out of the last 5 seasons and 2 early exits why should the players listen to Ruff? With 15 seasons behind the Sabres bench he’s the longest tenured coach with same NHL team, fans and players are both calling for a change in authority behind the bench. The way Ruff has managed, or mis-managed, young players (Adam, Ennis, Foligno), and thrown players “under the bus” in the media, his style has really come into question this season.
Whether you want to blame players like Roy and Vanek, or Ruff’s unique coaching style one thing’s for certain the entire organization, from the players to the owner all agree this was a waste of a season, some even went as far to call it an embarrassment! Things are going to change in Buffalo this offseason, stay tuned Sabres fans!
Caitlin is a former goaltender who turned journalist after a few too many concussions. She’s a Buffalo Sabres fan living in the hockey crazed market of Toronto. She’s spent time writing with Chat Sports, Fansided and The Fourth Period. Her work has been featured on Puck Daddy, Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated and Grantland among others.