It’s not a secret that if the Buffalo Sabres want to make any kind of playoff run, certain players are going to have to step their game up—Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford, and Craig Rivet just to name a few.
But there is one name that seems to be escaping a lot of criticism: Lindy Ruff.
Buffalo’s head coach, in his 12th season with the Sabres, has made some highly questionable decisions in the last month of play—the most recent has Sabres’ fans scratching their heads.
In light of the Sabres’ recent scoring slump, Ruff called up Mark Mancari from the AHL to provide an offensive spark—which the young Sabre did.
In three games with the big club, Mancari had two points, an incredible 15 shots, and was a plus-three. He also averaged just under 18 minutes of ice-time per game.
It seemed that the Sabres had finally found the offense it was looking for, thanks to the hard-nosed effort of Mancari—until Ruff returned the 24-year-old forward back to the Portland Pirates before Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
There is a combination of things that has made Sabres’ fans wonder what Ruff was thinking.
Forget Mancari’s great numbers with the team in three games, but take a look at another player on the team that could have been sent down.
Tim Kennedy’s rookie year has progressively gone downhill as the season has worn on.
Kennedy does not have a point in his last 12 games. He also only has six shots during that stretch and is an abysmal minus-nine—showing that he is slacking on both sides of the puck.
Mancari had seven shots in Friday night’s 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild alone.
Kennedy’s ice-time is also down significantly from the beginning of the season. He hit a season-low on Friday night after playing just 6:47.
Kennedy’s lack of offense coupled with his lazy defensive play makes me wonder what Ruff is trying to do with the 23-year-old Buffalo native.
With plenty of talent waiting in the AHL—Mancari, Tyler Ennis, and Nathan Gerbe—what could Ruff possibly be waiting for?
This is not the first questionable decision that the former Jack Adams’ Award-winner and longest tenured coach in the NHL has made this season. I understand that I almost contradict myself with that previous statement, but it would appear from this season that Ruff’s best coaching days may be behind him.
Either way, it might be time for the Sabres to look for a new head coach—playoffs pending, that is.