It's Ruff being Lindy

Lindy Ruff (QMI Agency files)

Lindy Ruff (QMI Agency files)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:15 PM ET

TORONTO - As rival coaches at the Olympics and in the same NHL division, there’s little that Lindy Ruff has done to make Ron Wilson’s life at the rink easy.

Ruff was on Canada’s staff when it won gold in Vancouver over Wilson’s Team USA and Ruff’s Buffalo Sabres have dominated season series between the Northeast Division teams since Wilson joined the Maple Leafs. But on Friday, Wilson sent a message of support through the media as Ruff’s team came to town scraping the bottom of the NHL standings, with a growing call from fans for his dismissal.

Ruff is about to coach his 1,000th NHL game next week in New Jersey, all with the same team, which Wilson says is proof that Ruff can repair his own damage.

“The best offensive team in the league (San Jose) just got shut out twice,” Wilson reminded. “So maybe they should fire the coach and get rid of three of their best players in order to shake things up?

“You constantly go through this (in an 82-game NHL season). There are ups and downs and you just have to maintain a long-term picture. Lindy’s a great coach. To suddenly go ‘dumb’ in the course of the month is ridiculous. He’s one of the best coaches in the league.”

It’s likely things will have to get a lot worse before general manager Darcy Regier does anything drastic with his old friend. Regier pointed to the players to get the record of 3-8-2 turned around.

“It’s essentially the same group we had last year,” Regier told the Buffalo News. “It just isn’t that different.

“It got us 100 points last year. That’s not a bad problem to have in that regard. We’re going to work together to try and fix this.”

Team ownership is behind the duo as well and a lower body injury to star goalie Ryan Miller, possibly a hamstring, hasn’t helped.

Hired July 21, 1997, Ruff has the longest tenure in the NHL and has seen countless coaching changes everywhere else. When he was named to his position, Mike Murphy was in charge of the Leafs and there have been three Toronto coaches since.

“It’s my responsibility to pick them up,” Ruff said of sagging player confidence. “It’s on my shoulders. Pick them up, put them back together. Pick them up, get them ready to play.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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