lindy smiling

Saying hello to an old friend

This is going to be weird.

Sure, it isn’t the first time a former Sabre will make his return to Buffalo.  Plenty of others have come and gone and come back again, usually to a smattering of boos, but not always.  Most recently, it was Jason Pominville (or so I’m told, yet somehow the Sabres failed to acknowledge this so I’m not sure it actually happened). Others in the last few years have included Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, Brian Campbell, Alexei Zhitnik, Clarke MacArthur, and Daniel Paille.  Soon, the same fate will befall Thomas Vanek, Nathan Gerbe, Andrej Sekera, and Drew Stafford.

Wait, what’s that?  Stafford is still a Sabre?  They didn’t trade him yet?  Huh.  Wishful thinking, I suppose.  I’m sure it’s just a matter of time… right?  Right?  Please, someone tell me it’s just a matter of time…

Anyway, I digress.  That hastily slapped-together list of Sabres alumni, even combined, has nowhere near the longevity and almost universal belovedness of Lindy Ruff.

I think by now most Sabre fans seem to be on the same page with Ruff’s departure.  He clearly wasn’t the problem – much more ails this team, starting with a certain general manager whose name gets chanted derisively during the third period of every increasingly humiliating home loss.  But unless you find a way to successfully reinvent yourself as a coach from time to time, the tools available to you eventually become ineffective (see “Tortorella, John”).  In his final season in Buffalo, Ruff attempted such a reinvention – a “kinder, gentler” Lindy – but it was too late, and sadly his effort fell as flat as that of his listless, uninspired team on the cold February night against Winnipeg that sealed his fate. 

None of this makes Lindy a bad coach.  It simply meant that, despite amassing more wins than any other coach in Sabre history, he was no longer the right coach for this team. 

Which brings me to one Ron Rolston.

Our fearless leader Joe likes to use the ex-girlfriend analogy when describing the connection between a fanbase and a returning prodigal son.  One could apply that to this situation, but Rolston’s presence and unimpressive record to date inspires a different, slightly more apropos analogy: as Sabre fans, we’ve become a child of divorce. 

Lindy is the cool dad.  He takes you to football games and concerts, tells you dirty jokes, and bought you your first car without expecting anything in return.  He teaches you everything you need to know about life and you love him for it.  He’s always there for you.  You wish Lindy the Cool Dad didn’t have to go away, but you’re old enough to understand that it just didn’t work out with Mom anymore.

Ron Rolston is the step-dad.  He means well and has some good ideas about what it means to be a parent, but he’s never had kids of his own and you can tell he just doesn’t know what he’s doing yet.  Maybe someday you can have the kind of relationship with him that you have with Lindy the Cool Dad, but you’re skeptical he’ll be around long enough for that to happen.

And mom?  That’s Darcy Regier.  She has a terrible heroin problem and you pray every day that someone, anyone will step in and get you the hell out of there.

I’ll be watching from my usual perch in 308 tonight along with 19,069 18,000 of my closest friends.  As I look down at the stanchion separating the benches – the same stanchion Lindy once nearly launched himself over the top of to get a piece of Bryan Murray – I wonder how often I’ll brain-fart and wonder why Ruff is standing on the wrong side of it.

Welcome back, Lindy.