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Apr 22, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Thomas Vanek (26) shoots on Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec (31) and defenseman Ron Hainsey (6) defends during the game at the First Niagara Center. The Jets beat the Sabres 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Debate is Over: The Buffalo Sabres Must Make Thomas Vanek Their 2013-2014 Captain

Fellow Buffalo Sabres fans, when it comes to the topic of who should wear the ‘C’ for the Sabres at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season, I have deliberately steered clear of the debate, for one simple reason:

In my eyes, there is no debate.

Apr 19, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Thomas Vanek (26) during the game against the New York Rangers at the First Niagara Center. Rangers beat the Sabres 8-4. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, Steve Ott is a popular choice to wear the ‘C’ next season, because he has quickly endeared himself to the Buffalo faithful.  And yes, Christian Ehrhoff has garnered some votes, because he was perhaps the Sabres’ most consistent player last year.  All of the talk devoted to why either of these two gentlemen should be the next captain, however, amounts to arguing over who should be the runner-up in the next Stanley Cup Finals.  These two guys are, and always have been, running for second place.

Thomas Vanek should be the captain of the Buffalo Sabres when the 2013-2014 season begins, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Now, I could tell you Vanek deserves the ‘C’ because he has demonstrated superior leadership qualities – but I won’t, because from what I have seen he is not that sort of guy.  I could tell you that the Sabres should make Vanek captain as a show of faith in order to help persuade him to resign with Buffalo once his contract expires next year – but come on: there is exactly a 1% chance that Vanek will choose to remain a Sabre when the 2013-2014 season ends.  (I picked that number because there is never a 0% chance, but in this case, it is as close to 0% as possible.)   A player of Vanek’s talents and age wants to be able to compete for the Stanley Cup, and unless the Sabres can prove to him that they will be ready to do that in a short period of time, he will be looking elsewhere next summer.  Can’t say I blame him, and can’t say I think that his imminent departure is a good reason to deprive him of wearing the ‘C’ next year.

So if the Sabres should not use the captaincy to sway Vanek to remain in town, and if he’s not the team’s best leader, why do I think there is no debate over his wearing the ‘C’?   Simple – it’s the right thing to do.

In a day and age where many teams are slapping the ‘C’ on a young player’s chest, I believe the Sabres should reward Vanek with the position because he is their best player and he has (so-far) dedicated his entire NHL career to the team.  He is about to enter his 9th season with the Sabres, and regardless of the fact that it almost certainly will be his last, he has represented the city of Buffalo and the team exceptionally well.   He has already established himself as one of the top 20 (or top 25, depending on who you talk to) players to ever suit up for the Sabres, and whether he strives to be or not, he is an inspiration to the players who have recently joined the Sabres’ system.  As one of the longest-tenured Sabres on the roster right now, Vanek has earned the captaincy more than the likes of Ehrhoff or Ott, and it would be the ultimate sign of respect and gratitude for the Sabres organization to place the ‘C’ on Vanek’s sweater for his years of service.

I know my reasoning is grounded mostly in emotion, and that a player’s skill and years of service are not usually the criteria examined when deciding who should be the team captain – but in the case of Thomas Vanek, I’m relying on emotion over cold, hard logic.  Respect may be dying a slow death in the world of professional sports, but I still believe in deferring to your vets and rewarding them for their dedication.  Vanek might not be the kind of guy to perform fiery locker room speeches, and he sure isn’t the guy who is going to lay out an opposing player to send a message, but he has given a lot to the organization and handled himself well on and off the ice.  He is the sort of player the Sabres should be proud to have, and a player prospects should respect and emulate in many ways.  To me, there is no debate: the Buffalo Sabres must place the ‘C’ on Thomas Vanek’s sweater when the 2013-2014 season opens.

Agree?  Disagree?  Have a good recipe you would like to share?  (Wait a minute . . . .)  Leave your comments below, or fire them to me @theamazingMrS.

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