January 19, 2008
No sympathy for the SabresBuffalo's had it Ruff with Briere, Drury gone
By TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA
Paul Maurice finds it hard to have sympathy for Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and what he has done," Maurice said. "He has done a marvellous job ... In terms of feeling for any other coach in the league, I probably get more calls on that than I make."
Such is life for Maurice, who has to wonder what his future will be if Cliff Fletcher indeed replaces general manager John Ferguson in the next week or so.
Where Ruff did nothing wrong in Buffalo but lost high-end performers such as Daniel Briere and Chris Drury because of decisions that were out of his control, Maurice has tried to make chicken salad out of, well, a lineup that was not deep to begin with.
"It's a tough league," Maurice said.
"There are two (coaches) in the basement of our league who have Stanley Cup rings (John Tortorella in Tampa Bay and Marc Crawford, now in Los Angeles, who won with Colorado). It might not look the same, but Buffalo still has a very good team."
The Sabres, in town tonight, remain quick and fairly relentless, and when goalie Ryan Miller is in a groove, he shows potential to be among the top netminders in the NHL. But without Briere and Drury, it's pretty clear they have lost their compass.
"They lost two main guys and others are taking over, but maybe they were thinking Briere was the leader," Leafs winger Alexei Ponikarovsky said. "They're kind of floating (without a rudder)."
As Ruff has no choice but to work with what he has, the same goes for Maurice. With that in mind, he is glad there appears to be some chemistry on a line that consists of Matt Stajan between Ponikarovsky and Jason Blake.
Stajan scored the game-tying goal in Boston against the Bruins on Thursday night, a game the Leafs won in a shootout.
"They have made a good line," Maurice said. "It's a little different. Stajan can use some speed and Poni brings a little bit of size so that has some promise. I think it has gone well."
But Blake, never one to keep his thoughts inside, wants more.
"There is a lot more to give, to be honest with you," Blake said. "We can be a lot better as a line as far as offence goes."