Ruff had been the coach of the Sabres since 1997, but he was fired in March of this year. He was the winningest coach in franchise history with 571 and took his Sabres to eight appearances in the Stanley Cup playoffs, including three appearances in the Eastern Conference Final and one berth in the Stanley Cup Final in 1999.
Ruff arrives in Dallas to coach a team that hasn’t seen the playoffs since 2008. In the two seasons under former coach Glen Gulutzan, the Stars were 66-57-9.
The 2006 Jack Adams winner was on Stars GM Jim Nill’s radar since Gulutzan was fired in May of this year. He had a list of attributes he was looking for and Ruff certainly fit the bill. “[Those attributes are] experience, credibility, stability, great knowledge of the game, a person that’s been in different situations, the highs and lows, and a good family person on and off the ice,” Nill said.
For his part, Ruff is excited to get to work and has a full appreciation of the challenges in front of him.
“I’m really excited and really looking forward to helping this club with their resurgence,” Ruff said. “I think we’ve got a good, young team – a good, talented, young team – that I am really looking forward to working with and helping them get back in the playoffs and win a Stanley Cup.”
Ruff has proven himself as one of the most adaptive coaches in the NHL. His Sabres have had success playing defensive-minded games and offensively-minded structures, so he’s a hard coach to pin down stylistically.
Interestingly, Ruff’s Sabres appeared in the 1999 Cup Final against the Stars. The infamous “skate in the crease” goal won Dallas the series in Game Six, but the coach says it’s ancient history.
“It’s a long time ago,” Ruff said. “I’ve had some great memories. I’ve gotten past that. I’m a coach, I want to coach, and this is an unbelievable opportunity…It all worked out great for Dallas. It didn’t work out so good for us back then. I can tell you one thing, that same emotion and same passion will be here in Dallas if the same type of thing happens or anything similar, because that’s the fire I have.”
The Stars organization hopes that Ruff will bring a certain level of discipline back to the hockey club, something it lacked under Gulutzan. “They just want direction and he’s a direction guy,” Nill said of his new hire. “He’s all business. He’ll have fun. He’s got a great sense of humor. He’s not the loud guy at the party, but he’s the guy that’s pulling the little pranks here and there. He’s got a great sense of humor. The players are going to see that, but they’re also going to respect him. That discipline is going to be there.”