5 Struggling NHL Teams That Should Have Lindy Ruff on Speed Dial
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When the Buffalo Sabres fired Lindy Ruff last month, they jettisoned the NHL's most senior coach.
Ruff had been behind the Sabres' bench since the 1997-98 season and had earned a reputation as a well-prepared and solid leader.
It might be ideal for him to take some time off and recharge his batteries, but Ruff is a hockey lifer and when an opportunity to jump back into coaching comes up, he probably won't hesitate to get back behind the bench.
There are some teams with high expectations that may decide to change coaches at the end of the season if there are postseason failures.
There are other teams that are struggling now and that may push management to make a move sooner rather than later. Here's a look at five teams that could move quickly.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning appear to have talent up and down the roster.
Start off with Steven Stamkos, the NHL's best goal scorer, and add in Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Victor Hedman and Sami Salo.
The Lightning have some defensive deficiencies, but they should be a playoff team.
Right now, head coach Guy Boucher's team is tied for 11th in the Eastern Conference and have lost six of 10 (as of March 7).
The Lightning made it to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Final in 2011, but did not make the playoffs last year.
Since they have not rebounded this season, general manager Steve Yzerman has to be thinking about new blood behind the bench. He has to give serious consideration to Lindy Ruff if he makes such a move.
New York Islanders
Jack Capuano has a difficult hand to play as head coach of the New York Islanders. Even if his team plays its best game, it is hard for this team to win in a division that includes the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.
The Islanders have some talent, but it is difficult to win in that division. Capuano has been behind the Islanders' bench since the 2010-11 season and the experience seems to have worn on him.
He has become disillusioned with his team's play (source: New York Post) on many nights and has called his players out for not giving 100 percent (see video above).
Capuano understands the game and can put together a credible game plan, but his players are not heeding his message.
Lindy Ruff might provide the right voice behind the bench.
The Minnesota Wild thought they were joining the big boys when they signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter during free agency.
At the very least, Wild fans had expectations that their team would make the Western Conference playoffs with the possibility of winning one or two rounds.
The Wild have been competitive in many games this season, but Minnesota is in a three-way tie for eighth place (as of March 7). If the Wild make the playoffs, it will likely be at the end of a season-long battle.
There is a ton of pressure on young head coach Mike Yeo. Is he the right man for the job? That answer has not been provided in definitive fashion.
General manager Chuck Fletcher may come to the conclusion that a proven leader like Lindy Ruff would be more effective than Yeo for this team's short-term and long-term success.
San Jose Sharks
Todd McLellan may be coming to the end of his rope—and his tenure—with the San Jose Sharks.
After a red-hot 7-0-0 start, the Sharks have been ordinary and unimpressive.
The Sharks have been in a grouping with the Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks at the top of the Western Conference for several years. Unlike those two teams, the Sharks have never gotten out of the Western Conference playoffs.
It seemed like the window was closing on the Sharks at the end of last season, but the sharp start provided some analysts with the thought that Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau could get to the Stanley Cup Final with Antti Niemi in goal.
That thought has all but disappeared. If the Sharks fall by the wayside or lose in the first round of the playoffs, general manager Doug Wilson may want to give Lindy Ruff a call.
The Colorado Avalanche are having a painful season.
They are in 14th place in the Western Conference (as of March 7), and they are having a tough time winning games consistently. They have been especially poor on the road, where they have compiled a 2-8-3 record.
Head coach Joe Sacco appeared to be in over his head when the Avs hired him prior to the 2009-10 season. They went to the postseason that year, but they have not been back.
It's time for general manager Greg Sherman to give Lindy Ruff a call.