Kevyn Adams knew exactly what he was looking for as he began his search for the next head coach of the Buffalo Sabres: experience and pedigree.

The Sabres’ general manager immediately went to work last Tuesday with a clear vision of what his team needed in order to take the next step after falling short of expectations this season.

Adams spent days speaking with several candidates who checked those boxes, but his mind kept going back to one candidate in particular: Lindy Ruff. Ruff – who was officially hired as the Sabres’ coach on Monday – joined Adams for an introductory press conference on Tuesday following long and detailed conversations that convinced Adams that Ruff was his guy.

“It’s been an exhausting week working around the clock and with each conversation I had – and there were many – I kept coming back to another conversation with Lindy and feeling stronger, hour by hour, that this is the man who’s right to step into this role and become the next head coach of the Buffalo Sabres,” Adams said.

Lindy Ruff & Kevyn Adams address the media

Ruff, who played parts of 10 seasons for Buffalo, returns to Western New York as the fifth-winningest coach in NHL history and the winningest coach in Sabres history, having recorded 571 regular-season wins and 57 playoff wins during his first coaching stint with the organization from 1997-98 to 2012-13.

Ruff was intrigued by the opportunity to return to Buffalo due to the similarities he sees between the team’s current roster and the group he coached in Buffalo in 2005-06, when he led the Sabres to a 110-point finish and an Eastern Conference Final appearance following the lockout.

“This team is so similar to where we were at back then. Deep with talent,” he said.

“It would mean a lot to have this group of players experience what I was able to experience as a player and as a coach. This building shook in some of the playoff series’ that [I was] involved with. … My goal is to have these guys, this group, experience what I was able to experience.”

"We're in a win now situation"

Despite Ruff’s lengthy history with the organization, Adams made it clear that the decision to hire Ruff went far beyond his connection to the city of Buffalo, and instead, was based on the experience and success he has seen throughout his storied career that will help the Sabres win now. Adams saw Ruff's ability up close as a member of Ruff's staff from 2009-10 to 2012-13.

Ruff has made the playoffs in each of his three head coaching stops (Buffalo, Dallas, and New Jersey). He still possesses the disciplinarian nature fans may remember from his first tenure with the Sabres but has evolved over the last decade in the emphasis he places on communication and building relationships with players - a balance Adams said was crucial in a coach after the season. 

“It matters, but that isn’t the reason,” Adams said of Ruff's prior history in Buffalo. “Ultimately, as I went through it – because there was a tremendous amount of coaching candidates out there – it just, for me, came back to this is the right coach for this team to win and to win now. To win hockey games. That’s what matters.

“And us knowing each other and the trust going back to those years, that’s great. But it’s not really about that. It’s about winning.”

Players from the Sabres’ 2005-06 team – including Jason Pominville, Ryan Miller, and Thomas Vanek – echoed this sentiment as they reached out to Ruff following his hiring to let him know that he is the right guy to get the team where it wants to be.

Ruff has proven he can take a young team to new heights after leading the New Jersey Devils to the playoffs last season with a franchise-record 112 points. He was voted as the runner-up for the Jack Adams Award, which he won in 2005-06 in Buffalo as the NHL’s coach of the year.

Ready for the next era of Lindy Ruff

Ruff said the key to seeing that same success this upcoming season will be to help his players realize what strengths they should be leaning on while holding themselves and their teammates accountable. 

“You transform the attitude of any club by having each player believe in what their strength is, what they can bring on a nightly basis, the level of compete that they can bring,” he said. “And then at the end of the night, you got to win hockey games. And when you win hockey games, that belief really becomes contagious.”

The Sabres coach believes that the wins will come if his group remains disciplined and focused on the smaller details of the game that add up to success on the ice.

“It falls on our great group to get this to the next level and as Kevyn said, the time is now,” Ruff said. “… There’s been a lot of really good hockey games out of this club whether it’s this year, last year. I think the part that has to go one level higher is just consistency.

“When we hit camp, we're going to prove that we're going to get to the next level.”

Here are more takeaways from Ruff’s introductory press conference on Tuesday.

1. Adams said he spoke with a double-digit number of candidates throughout the week and went through several long days and extensive conversations but felt confident that Ruff is the right person for the job after doing his due diligence.

“Like I said last week, I didn’t know how long it would be, but when I felt confident to recommend that this is who should be the next head coach of the Buffalo Sabres to Terry, that that’s what would happen,” Adams said. “And here we are. And so, he’s the right person.”

2. Ruff expressed his excitement about the Sabres’ young goaltending tandem in Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Devon Levi as well as a D-corps headlined by Rasmus Dahlin. 

“I think that every team needs a goaltender and I think there’s a couple of really talented goaltenders that are working their way up here,” he said. “And goaltending is probably the number one thing that every club needs. The second most important thing is usually defense. You can have highly skilled forwards, you can be a good offense, but if you can’t keep the puck out of the net or you don’t have people who can move the puck or make that first pass, help you exit the zone in a hurry, then your good offensive players don’t get the puck enough. I would start with goaltending, then I would start with a defense that I think is really good.”

3. Sabres players in attendance for the press conference included forward Alex Tuch, who expressed his excitement during locker cleanout about the possibility of playing under Ruff.

Following the press conference, Tuch addressed the media to share his reaction to the news.

“We’re pumped,” he said. “I think he fits the mold of what we talked about as a team and just talking to individual guys about what we need to make it to that next level. I think he’s perfect for it.”

4. Ruff said that he has just started to look at his coaching staff but that he is looking to add to his group and get all of the pieces into the right place. Assistant coaches Matt Ellis, Marty Wilford, and Mike Bales; video coach Justin White; and NHL coaching staff assistant Dan Girardi were all retained from last year's staff.