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01-20-2012, 01:08 AM
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Lindy Ruff, LW/D

Ruff is another player whose career path can be described in almost the exact same way that Dandenault's was, although they were very different players. I could almost use the exact same wording:

Ruff was hockey's 2nd last true swingman, able to switch seamlessly from forward to defense multiple times, on a regular basis throughout his career. He played 12 seasons, and in just two of them he was exclusively a D-man, and in just four he was exclusively a forward. The other six were very mixed.

Using TOI estimates from 1980-1991, I can tell you Ruff played 691 NHL games and 10,299 minutes for a total of 15.82 minutes a game.

If you view him as a forward, his 300 career points look pretty poor for a guy playing 15.82 minutes. And if you view him as a defenseman, his 15.82 minutes a game look pretty poor, even on a strong team like the Sabres. (who were 8% better than average throughout his career) But he had two separate careers that occurred at the same time, one as a forward and one as a defenseman, and neither were poor.

With Iain Fyffe's help, using information provided to me by Buffalo fans, the TOI file that I often refer to, positions listed on, the total GP by other Buffalo defensemen in each season, and various statistical indicators (shooting percentage, assists per goal, TOI and points per on-ice goal) I was able to piece this together just about as well as anyone could:

Year GP min min/GP Pts F GP F min F min/GP F Pts D GP D min D min/GP D Pts
1980 63 965 15.32 19 0 0 #DIV/0! 0 63 965 15.32 19
1981 65 941 14.48 26 35 420 12.00 18 30 521 17.38 8
1982 79 1458 18.45 48 30 420 14.00 25 49 1038 21.18 23
1983 60 858 14.31 29 30 330 11.00 20 30 528 17.61 9
1984 58 961 16.58 45 58 961 16.57 45 0 0 #DIV/0! 0
1985 39 605 15.52 24 39 605 15.51 24 0 0 #DIV/0! 0
1986 54 841 15.57 32 54 841 15.57 32 0 0 #DIV/0! 0
1987 50 850 17.00 20 15 210 14.00 8 35 640 18.29 12
1988 77 1325 17.20 25 0 0 #DIV/0! 0 77 1325 17.20 25
1989 76 1345 17.70 22 10 120 12.00 6 66 1225 18.56 16
1990 56 687 12.27 9 48 540 11.25 8 8 147 18.42 1
1991 14 92 6.55 1 14 92 6.57 1 0 0 #DIV/0! 0
Career 691 10928.797 15.82 300 333 4539 13.63 187 358 6389 17.85 113

So Ruff played 333 games as a 13.63 minute LW, scoring 187 points (45 per 80 games) and 358 games as a 17.85 minute defenseman, scoring 113 points (25 per 82 games).

Either career, taken separately, would not be that impressive. But they happened at the same time, to the same player.

In other words, if Ruff was never converted to LW, it's reasonable to conclude he may have lasted the same 691 games and scored 218 points as an 18-minute D-man. If he had that career, he'd be likely drafted by now, when you consider that he did it mostly in the #4-6 slot on one of the strongest teams in the league, on average 8% better than average. Imagine a 691-game, 18 minute, 218-point scoring defenseman from the 80s who was big and tough. Would you have picked him by now? Of course you would have!

On the other hand, if he played his whole 691-game career as a 13.63 minute LW, scoring 388 points, while being big, tough, and ready to brawl, that would make him a poor man's Curt Fraser, Randy Burridge, Bill Flett, or a better Sergio Momesso or Garry Howatt. Imagine a 691-game, 14 minute, 388-point scoring LW from the 80s who was big and tough. Would you have picked him by now? Of course you would have!

The fact that he seamlessly interweaved these two careers into one is a positive for Ruff, not a negative. But the impact it makes on his blended career numbers, if you ignore the context, appears negative, and that's why he hasn't been drafted to be a serviceable AAA/AA/A spare player. He should have been.

Ruff was 6'2", 201 lbs, and fought 108 times in the NHL. The results of 43 of these fights are documented, and his record is listed as 8-22-13, so... at least he was willing! Here are some quotes from those who remember him as a fighter at

Belongs in the Jim Peplinski, Wally Weir category of players: not the greatest fighter, but tough and gutsy and a good teammate... Rarely shied away from the top fighters, which perhaps he should have, considering the results... was entertaining fighter...
Originally Posted by
Lindy Ruff had a reputation as a rough, tough defenseman while skating for the Lethbridge Broncos of the WCJHL from 1977 to 1979. He appeared headed for draft-day greatness until he broke his thighbone during his final year of junior. As such, many clubs backed off from the idea of picking up the big rearguard, classifying him as an unknown commodity.

The Buffalo Sabres, however, chose defenseman Mike Ramsey in the first round and then took what they considered to be a chance on Ruff in the next round. And their risk paid dividends when, at the start of the 1979-80 campaign, Sabre defenders Jerry Korab and Jim Schoenfeld went down with injuries. Ruff jumped onto the Sabres' blueline as an underager and made such an impression that he earned himself a permanent NHL job for the next 12 seasons.

The team's management was immediately impressed with Ruff's leadership qualities and his willingness to step his game up, particularly on a physical level when the club wasn't performing well. In 1983-84, he was moved up to play three seasons of left wing. After a time, he couldn't decide which position he liked best, the blueline or a forward line. Ultimately he claims to have enjoyed the variety of both worlds.

Near the end of Ruff's tenure with the Sabres, he was appointed the team's captain. He continued his strong leadership and solid defensive play until his trade to the New York Rangers in 1989. With the Rangers, Ruff patrolled the blueline until age and injuries slowed him down. In 1991-92, he got his first and final ticket to the minors where he skated for the Rochester Americans of the AHL and the San Diego Gulls of the IHL where he retired in 1993.
Originally Posted by Complete Handbook Of Pro Hockey 1986-87
Ruff is an average skater, pretty much just cruising up and down the ice, though he does get a little jump into his first couple of strides. He is not a good puckhandler and really has no vision of the ice and when he goes into a corner he has not anticipated what he will do with the puck if he wins it. Ruff will never blow you away with his shot and is unlikely to score from any place other than the edge of the crease. He picks up rebounds and shovels them home and is also good for a deflection or two.

Lindy is a conscientious backchecker, very concerned with his defensive play and disciplined enough to stay on his wing and not create any openings by leaving the zone too soon. He is aided in the defensive zone by his experience as a defenseman and understands what angles are all about so as to keep his man from the puck.

The physical game - Ruff is. He's big and strong and wills tand in the crease and dare a defenseman to move him. Ruff will bang around effectively in the corners, hitting hard enough and often enough to jar the puck loose from opposing defensemen. He is aggressive and will take pokes at people if need be, as he is unafraid to fight. Ruff also applies himself physically in the defensive zone, where he will rub out an opposing winger along the boards.

He's a good leader, showing the way by example and doing whatever is necessary on the ice. Ruff is also versatile and his ability to play defense gives the sabres a little added flexibility with the lineup.

Lindr Ruff lives up to his name. He is a big, rough, tough type of player.
Originally Posted by Hockey Scouting Report 1989-90
10 tough seasons and their attendant injuries have slowed Ruff down... if he wins the puck during a foray into the corner, the bet Ruff will do with it is a blind pass to the slot... is aggressive and will take pokes at people when he has to stand up for the team... injury record is a direct result of his play, rather than an indication of any fragility on his part. Ruff counters the injury problem by staying in great condition... a great team player, and he knows when it's necessary to assume leadership in the locker room or on the ice so as to produce the best effect for the club... Ruff also helps himself stay around through his versatility, his ability to play either forward or defense as required... Hard work is all he knows.

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