I always assumed that Lindy Ruff was kind of like the pope or a Supreme Court justice in Buffalo: He would hold his job until he died.
Well, we found out that was not true last week. On Feb. 20, the Sabres relieved Ruff of his duties as head coach and named Ron Rolston interim coach.
OK, I’m kidding about Ruff having lifetime tenure—I mean, even the pope gets tired after a while (just ask Benedict)—but he was there for 15 years. Fifteen years!
How long ago was that? Well, at the time Ruff was hired, the Hartford Whalers had just moved to Carolina, the Toronto Maple Leafs were in the Western Conference and fans that watched hockey on television saw a glowing puck.
The Predators, Thrashers, Blue Jackets and Wild didn’t even exist. (Well, the Thrashers don’t exist any more but…).
So if a guy that has held his position that long can be fired after a slow start, what does that mean for other coaches in the league? Is Darryl Sutter on the hot seat in Los Angeles after winning the Cup last year? Does Minnesota part ways with Mike Yeo after acquiring Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in the offseason? And if the Predators don’t make the playoffs, does Barry Trotz get shown the door in Nashville?
I’m going to preach patience. It’s a shortened season: There were no training camps to build team camaraderie and there are more games in a shorter period of time, which has led to more injuries throughout the league.
Still, the head coach often gets the ax when a team is not winning and I find it hard to believe that somebody else isn’t going to get canned before the season is through.
I mean if it can happen to Ruff, it can happen to anybody.
Last week: 26
Not sure how Columbus beat Detroit (twice) and San Jose this year, but…
Well, they’ve lost every other game this month including Los Angeles (twice), Calgary, Edmonton and Phoenix.
Last week: 30
Philadelphia has to look at the two games they lost to Florida at home and wonder how that happened.
This team has only one other win in February, over lowly Buffalo. It should be noted, though, that they have gone into overtime in half of the eight games they've lost.
Last week: 19
The Sabres fired their coach and then lost to the Leafs and Islanders by a combined score of 7-1. Yeah…they got beat by the Islanders, 4-0. That’s rough.
This is a big change and there isn’t much time for adjustment.
Time will tell if the move will pay off.
Last week: 18
I’ll I’m gonna say is the January Sharks would beat February Sharks in a landslide.
What happened to this team?
Last week: 17
Recent losses to Edmonton and Calgary tell you all you need to know about this season.
Last week: 22
The Oil only have three wins this month: at Columbus and over Colorado and Phoenix at home.
None of those wins are all that impressive.
Last week: 12
How can a team with Zach Parise, Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu, Devin Seto…yeah, we’ve been here before…
But really, how can this team have the league’s second-worst offense?
Losses to Phoenix, Colorado and Calgary are borderline inexcusable for a team that is this talented.
Last week: 27
Calgary has recent wins over the Wild and Coyotes, two teams they lost to earlier in the month.
They will get a crack at three division rivals next week: Minnesota, Colorado and Vancouver.
Last week: 29
This team has endured two tough losses in the Golden State after two nice wins over Nashville and St. Louis.
Maybe Gabriel Landeskog’s return will bear fruits in time. Hockey fans in the Centennial State certainly hope so.
Last week: 21
The Islanders actually are in the top third of the league in terms of offense and special teams, but they are absolutely awful on defense.
As a result, they have sweet wins like a 5-1 decision against New Jersey but also a 7-0 thrashing by Philadelphia.
This team needs to figure things out in their own end if they’re going to go anywhere this season.
Last week: 24
Things are turning around for the Kings.
They have won six games this month, including five of their last six.
Those wins have come against bad teams, though: Columbus (twice), St. Louis, Edmonton, Calgary and Colorado.
Last week: 13
The Predators are playing great defense but haven’t really bothered with scoring.
They have already been blanked three times this month and when they happen to score they get beat 6-5 in regulation by Colorado.
It really is kind of strange how this team will all of a sudden score a bunch of goals and then go games without scoring one.
Last week: 23
Braden Holtby may be taking the starting job in D.C. He has played in all but one game in February after seeing Michal Neuvirth start the last five games in January, and the team is starting to play better as a result.
They beat Florida twice and also have wins over Tampa and New Jersey.
Last week: 10
It looks like the Hurricanes will be battling with the Lightning for the Southeast Division title, so that 5-2 loss in Tampa has to be a little troubling.
And really, this team has to beat Winnipeg, even if the Jets are on a bit of a hot streak.
Last week: 23
Winnipeg is playing better hockey recently.
The team has wins over Carolina and New Jersey in two of its last three games.
Last week: 16
Tampa has its fair share of good wins this month: a big comeback against Florida and multiple-goal wins over Toronto and Carolina.
The Lightning have got to beat the Rangers, Habs, Bruins and Penguins if they want to get respect in the Eastern Conference, however. All four of those teams are likely to make the playoffs this year.
Last week: 8
Montreal must have this team’s number—they’ve won the last two contests by a combined score of 6-1, and they’ve also lost to the Islanders recently.
They’ve got to win those games if they want to be considered a threat in the Eastern Conference.
Last week: 28
Dallas beat the Canucks in Vancouver but lost to them at home. They lost to the Flames twice but beat the Sharks, 3-1.
I’m not sure what to make of this team…
Last week: 4
The Devils have started out on fire but are looking a little vulnerable right now.
They have lost to some mediocre teams: the Islanders, Capitals and Jets.
It’s not time to panic yet, but this team really needs to step its game up.
Last week: 7
The Canucks have struggled a bit after beginning the month with a six-game winning streak.
The losses to St. Louis and Chicago in a shootout aren’t that concerning, but wow, did the Wings give them a whooping in Motown. Oof.
Last week: 14
The Red Wings ended their five-game losing streak by crushing Nashville, 4-0, in Motown.
That momentum must have carried over because they walloped Vancouver, 8-3, on Sunday.
Looking at the year as a whole, which began with alternating wins and losses and now has become a litany of winning and losing streaks, it looks like the rest of this season will be a bit of a roller-coaster ride.
Last week: 15
After a rough start to the season, St. Louis has seen things turn around…kind of.
Recent wins in Detroit and Vancouver are impressive, but at the same time, those losses to San Jose and Colorado were pretty bad.
Last week: 5
People are going to get upset that a team with 13 wins that has victories in five of their last six games is ranked this low.
Those wins came over Ottawa, Winnipeg, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay. The win over Ottawa is nice, but Winnipeg, Florida and Buffalo are not good and the Lightning have not proven they can beat teams outside their conference.
And the Penguins recently lost to Philly at home, meaning they should be ranked lower than them.
Last week: 20
Ilya Bryzgalov may go into hibernation in March; he’s only had one game off this month, but hey, the Flyers are winning!
After tough losses on the road to New Jersey and Montreal, they finished strong by hanging 13 on the Islanders and Penguins.
That loss to Florida at home is a little concerning, though…
Last week: 9
You gotta tip your hat to Mr. Ben Scrivens. He appears to be giving James Reimer a run for his money.
The man already has two shutouts to his name this month, although the team also suffered losses to Tampa and Ottawa—two teams that are capable of making the playoffs this season.
Last week: 17
The Senators have cracked down on defense and suddenly have won four games—including contests against the Devils and Rangers.
After their game against Montreal, the Senators will play seven of their next eight away from home. If they can survive that, it will prove that they belong in the conversation with the Eastern Conference’s elite.
Last week: 3
Boston owned the Southeast Division this week.
They beat Tampa Bay, Florida and…Winnipeg (oh yeah, that’s right) by a combined score of 11-5.
If only they could play those guys for the rest of the year…
Last week: 6
Habs no longer stands for les habitants. It stands for "How About That S—?"
Yeah, that doesn’t really work, but you get my point: This team was a laughingstock last season and now is one of the best teams in the league.
This team has won five of its last six games, including victories over Tampa, Carolina and the Rangers (twice).
They also lost to the Islanders in overtime, but let’s not worry about that right now.
Last week: 2
I’ll be the first to admit it: I thought the Ducks would be out of the playoff picture once again this season.
I was wrong.
Not only is Anaheim on track to make the playoffs, but also it looks like they could get a top-three seed as the Pacific Division champions.
Last week: 1
Chicago survived a scare against Columbus and remains the best team in the league.
The question is: When they actually lose a game in regulation, how will they handle it?