Sports Illustrated's Jim Kelley recently wrote that this could be head coach Lindy Ruff's last season in Buffalo as the Sabres hold a team option for next season. If Ruff doesn't return to the bench, that would end the longest run of any current NHL head coach at 13 seasons.
Lasting that long is an amazing feat in professional sports, and Bruins coach Claude Julien — the man who will be playing a chess match of sorts with Ruff in what could be a long, tight series — has nothing but respect for the longtime Sabres leader.
"First of all, to last that long with one team is incredible," said Julien, who just completed his third regular season with the Bruins.
Julien pointed to Ruff's ability to adjust while still staying the course as his strongest attribute behind the bench.
"He's one of those guys that even though they didn't make the playoffs every year, he's had his team playing hard. And [despite difficult] circumstances — whether it was [goalie Ryan] Miller [getting hurt] last year or other things, they made adjustments."
To coach the same team for 13 seasons, a coach has to be able to connect to his players and must know when and how to most effectively motivate his team. Ruff has those bases covered.
"And he seems to have his teams' ear," Julien pointed out. "He's done a good job. He's adjusted, from the time I got into the league to now. There's no doubt he's adjusted part of his game and the approach to his team and how they need to play."
Julien has learned the hard way that despite success on the ice and in the standings, there isn't much job security for an NHL coach. Despite leading the Canadiens to a 93-point season and a first-round upset of the top-seeded Bruins in 2003-04, Julien was canned in his second season by the Habs. Then with his team having already clinched the Atlantic Division and the second seed in the Eastern Conference with 107 points in 2006-07, Julien was abruptly fired by the Devils.
Julien has found success again in Boston, though, leading the Bruins to three straight playoff appearances. He recently re-upped with Boston for what is believed to be a three-year extension. But he acknowledged that he wouldn't mind having a tenure like Ruff has had in Buffalo.
"It's certainly on my wish list. … I'd love to be part of that group," said Julien.
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