Morning Papers Take: No longer Ruff around the edges

Posted by Richard Pollock in Morning Papers take,NHL Morning Papers on November 9, 2009 — No Comments

In this morning’s Eastern Conference Morning Papers, Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News had an interesting article on the changing coaching style of Lindy Ruff:

Ruff hasn’t undergone a total makeover, but the shift in his approach has been obvious all year. The little things don’t seem to bother him as much as they did in past seasons. He’s been quick to compliment his players in practice. He’s giving them more leeway rather than stand over them with a firm hand.

What caused the change isn’t clear. Ruff spoke earlier in the season about a parenting book that outlined the effects of positive reinforcement. Maybe he has a different outlook with his 50th birthday approaching in two months. Perhaps he learned a few things coaching at the world championships or spending time with Red Wings boss Mike Babcock, his partner on the Canadian Olympic team.

Gleason does a great job on this piece.  Lindy Ruff is a long-tenured head coach and, to be honest, these coaching style changes do not necessarily surprise me.  To be able to last this long in the National Hockey League, a coach cannot continue to hammer the same message, the same way time after time.  It is human nature, as Gleason points out, that players would eventually tune you out.  The key for Ruff, and many other long-tenured coaches, is adapting to your players. 

Just take a look at football.  The New York Giants pretty much had enough of coach Tom Coughlin the season before the team reached and won the Super Bowl.  The complaint was that Coughlin was too hard on his players and that the message had gone stale.  What did Coughlin do?  He changed his ways and lightened up a tad. 

The analogy here is that both teams mentioned don’t have an overly young base.  You probably won’t see too many head coaches of young teams give players freedom and continual positive reinforcement.  Instead, they want players to learn from mistakes through different types of teaching and disciplinary methods.  However, once the core of a team is a little bit older–and has grown with the same head coach (see: the Sabres with Ruff)–handing over the reigns to the players allows the coach to have an indirect influence.  The fact is, the players now leading the team are indoctrinated with Ruff’s principles and will lead the team using many of his philosophies.  The difference, of course is, the messenger. 

In the end, that is exactly what Ruff wants and exactly what Ruff needs to continue to do his job at a high level.  Kudos to him for not being stubborn in his ways.