It’s been a topic of conversation for some time – who should be captain of the Buffalo Sabres when the 2013-2014 NHL season opens in October? Suggestions on the table have included left winger Thomas Vanek and center Steve Ott, but here’s why I think the team should go captainless – at least for a little while.
Hear me out on this. A captain is ultimately the guy at the forefront of the team. He’s often the player people think of when they talk about a specific team, but that doesn’t mean the captain has to be the most famous guy on the team. Most importantly, the captain has to be a leader both on and off the ice, able to take responsibility for his own mistakes but also able to dish it out and recognize the flaws in others. Not just recognize the flaws, but help those teammates work on those flaws and improve.
I’m not a big fan of giving the captaincy to someone who’s barely been on the team – see the naming of Craig Rivet as captain of the Buffalo Sabres before he ever played a game for us. That to me is just downright silly. Simply because a player is a veteran, he’s given the highest leadership title on the team? On the other end of things, I don’t think a player should become captain of the team just because he’s been there forever. It has to be earned, and simply put – I’ve been watching the Buffalo Sabres for many years and I haven’t found anyone on the current roster who I believe would be a good fit for the captaincy.
“What about Steve Ott?!?!?” I’m sure some people are raging while reading this. I like Steve Ott, particularly because I’ve been supporting Mike Weber for years and Steve’s basically his big brother. But that bias aside – and nothing against the guy – I don’t agree with making Ott the captain of the team so easily. Yes, I know he he had 24 points last season. Yes, I know he dropped the gloves when necessary and isn’t afraid to speak out, such as calling out the fans on booing the team last season. But he hasn’t even played a full season with the Buffalo Sabres yet, he’s still got this nagging public impression of “pest” in the rest of the NHL, and I just haven’t seen enough from him to give him that “C” so easily. Not nearly to the same extent as some fans who called to give Ott the C early in last season. Get him to re-sign with the team, rally the troops & give the fans something to cheer about and play a full season in Buffalo, and then perhaps we’ll talk.
“Thomas Vanek should be the captain!” Okay, why? Because he’s the one of the longest-tenured players on the team? Well, so is Ryan Miller, and all the talk lately has been that they could possibly not even be here in October. Because he’s the highest-paid player? Nah. I understand Vanek led the Sabres in goals and points last season, and was tied with Tyler Ennis for the lead in assists – and that’s great. But point-scoring alone does not a captain make. (If that were the case, Brad Marchand would be Bruins captain, Keith Yandle would captain the Phoenix Coyotes, and Kyle Turris would have captained the Ottawa Senators.) In my opinion, Vanek makes lazy plays sometimes, and my biggest pet peeve is how hard he is on himself. While it’s important to take responsibility for your mistakes, it’s more important to rally from them and keep moving, not keep taking the blame for this and this and this and this – especially when your teammates were part of those plays, too. The captaincy isn’t about the I, it’s about the we. (Just ask Jonathan Toews).
I haven’t heard much chatter about other contenders for the captaincy, but looking at the rest of the team… knock off Miller and Enroth since a goaltender can’t technically be captain. Tyler Ennis has been too plagued by injuries to prove himself yet. Marcus Foligno – no. Grigorenko hasn’t even solidified a playing roster spot yet, and Cody Hodgson would need to prove himself. Patrick Kaleta, Ville Leino, John Scott – simply not contenders for captaincy. The same goes for Drew Stafford. As for defensemen: I don’t think any of them have proven that they have what it takes to lead this team, either, and I don’t think the Buffalo Sabres should name a captain JUST to name one. Go with three As and stick with that until some of the players truly step up and prove what they’re capable of.