Lindy Ruff is tanned, relaxed and ready for a fresh start.
It will be a strange feeling for Ruff to coach the team that beat his Sabres in the 1999 Stanley Cup final with the controversial Brett Hull goal, but the new beginning has Ruff excited.
"In some ways, especially the initial first few games," answered Ruff, when asked if after 15 years with the Sabres, it will be strange to coach a different team. "But once you get by the first few games it should be fine. I actually think once we get by the exhibition schedule there should be a good deal of comfort."
Ruff will not be alone. After 19 seasons as part of the Detroit Red Wings management team, Jim Nill, 55, departed Detroit to become the new Stars general manager
The team also has a new look to its uniforms and among the fresh additions to the roster is 21-year-old Tyler Seguin, who is looking to put behind him some tumultuous times with the Boston Bruins.
Seguin gets clean slate
But that doesn't mean that Ruff hasn't done his homework when it comes to young and talented forward. At the Canadian Olympic team orientation camp
in Calgary last month, Ruff chatted with fellow Canadian Olympic team assistant coach Claude Julien about Seguin.
"We've shared some conversations," Ruff said. "Experiences with young players always are challenges. Claude understands that. I understand that. Young players are going to make mistakes. Some of it makes it into the public eye. Some of the mistakes don't. In my eyes, he's a young man who starts with a clean slate.
"I think he's a young man who's looking forward to a fresh start, too."
Ruff was sent searching for his fresh start after the Sabres fired him on Feb. 20. Buffalo began the lockout-shortened season with a 6-10-1 slow start. So after 1,165 games behind the Sabres bench, Ruff was replaced by Ron Rolston, who went 15-11-5 and had his interim tag removed following the season.
In his time in Buffalo, Ruff steered the Sabres to four conference finals, one trip to the Stanley Cup final and was the Jack Adams Award winner in 2005-06.
"I'm looking forward to the fresh start," he said. "Anytime you start something new, it's exciting. I'm really looking forward to working with Jim Nill. He's a heckuva a guy. He's kind of mirrored my career only on a management side, in that he's stayed in one place for a long stretch of time."
The time off during a season afforded Ruff an opportunity to spend more time with his wife Gaye and four kids as well as take some trips. He went on a fishing excursion in Northern Ontario.
He travelled to Arizona with some ex-teammates to watch some Cactus League baseball and engage in a few golf outings. He accompanied a senior high school with his children to the Dominican Republic, and went to Florida for a vacation with his wife.
He also coached Canada
at the world championship in Stockholm last May. Canada was eliminated in the quarter-finals after a 3-2 shootout loss to Sweden
, but Ruff always looks fondly on his experiences with Canada, whether at world championships or the Olympics.
"It's made me a better coach," he said. "When you're able to listen and take in information from how other teams play, from situations these other coaches have all gone through, it makes you better. You look at all the teams Claude has been in at all different levels.
"[Canadian Olympic head coach] Mike [Babcock] the same thing, from where he came from to where he is now. To share these situations, to share how you handle situations with players that don't necessarily have to be hockey related, makes you a better person, makes you a better coach.
"It gives you an understanding about some things can make you a better coach in your own situation."
Ruff's record among active coaches:
Games coached Wins
1,211 Joel Quenneville 660
1,158 Ken Hitchock 605
1,165 Lindy Ruff 571
1,164 Barry Trotz 519
957 Darryl Sutter 461
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