BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Sabres’ all-time winningest coach Lindy Ruff shared the stage with current Buffalo coach Don Granato during Sunday’s event celebrating the legacy of longtime broadcaster Rick Jeanneret.
Ruff, who played for the Sabres from 1979-89 and coached the team from 1996-2013, is now entering his fourth season coaching the New Jersey Devils. And he’s been impressed with how Granato has restored dignity to the Sabres franchise since taking over as coach in 2021.
Praising Granato for doing “one hell of job here with the Sabres,” Ruff added, “RJ is proud of the job you’ve done.”
Jeanneret, who had a banner raised at KeyBank Center honoring his 51 seasons as the Sabres’ radio and television play-by-play commentator, died Aug. 17 after an illness. He was 81.
Ruff told the gathering of close to 2,500 fans and 60 Sabres alumni on Sunday that “he will be with you all this year.”
The Sabres missed the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season, extending the longest postseason drought in NHL history in Granato’s second full year behind the bench. Buffalo’s 42-33-7 record came up one victory short of a playoff spot, and was the franchise’s best since the 2010-11 season, Ruff’s second-to-last full year with the Sabres.
One of five coaches in NHL history to win more than 800 games, Ruff went 571-432-78-84 with the Sabres. He won the Jack Adams Award is the NHL’s best coach in 2006.
Granato, the first of Ruff’s five successors to coach more than two full seasons in Buffalo, has an 83-88-21 career record.
Ruff was second in voting for the Adams Award in 2023 after leading New Jersey to a 52-22-8 record, third-best in the Eastern Conference.
Before the first of two games the Devils played in Buffalo last season, Ruff compared the Sabres to his current team, that rose from 14th in the conference standings the year before.
“You look at the Sabres team, you look at a group that is a lot like us,” Ruff said. “A young group that all of the sudden, they are going to find the right groove. It could be weeks away. Could be a month. Could be tomorrow.”
Ruff, the winningest NHL coach to never win the Stanley Cup, lamented one thing he and Granato were unable to do as Sabres coaches.
“One of my biggest disappointments was not being able to give RJ that Stanley Cup call,” he said. “I can’t imagine what that call would have been like, or how that goal would have been like, or how Rick would have portrayed the whole event. But to me, you’re looking at something that would have been spectacular.
Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.