Is It Too Early To Admit the Buffalo Sabres Lack A True Captain?

All right, Buffalo Sabres fans: with three weeks in the books for the 2013-2014 NHL season, the Sabres have compiled a record of 1-8-1 and have

Oct 19, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Thomas Vanek (26) in play during the game against the Colorado Avalanche at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

accumulated a total of 3 points in the standings.  Mind you, that’s only three more points than my son’s mite red hockey team has earned – but never mind that!  They do have one more point than the Philadelphia Flyers, so we’ve got that going for us!

All kidding aside (temporarily), one of the things that have doomed the Sabres so far this season (aside from a lack of talent – okay, I’ll stop!) has been their inability to establish any type of competitive game play in the first periods of games.  Buffalo is stuck in a very dangerous rut: the team comes out flat in the first, gets overwhelmed with shots and relies far too heavily on its goaltenders to save the day, and then gradually puts some good hockey together as the game goes on (and as opponents occasionally let their guard down).

It’s easy to blame a lot of this team’s deficiencies on the average age of the players on the roster – yes, they are young; we get it! – but as Ron Rolston pointed out during Saturday’s pasting at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche

Well we’ve got to a better job with obviously preparation and in terms of being prepared and again we have, a lot of our vets are out there.

 

Yep – he did it: he called out the vets.  Now, this wasn’t a “throw them under the bus” sort of call out, but it was a nice reminder: we do have veteran players on this team, you know, and right now, none of them are stepping up.  When your first two lines consist entirely of players with at least 3 years of NHL playing time under their belts, and the team is still getting sucker-punched practically from the minute that the puck is dropped, it becomes evident that some problems cannot simply be chalked up to the inexperience of the rookies.

When the Sabres announced that they were going to move forward with two captains,Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott, this season, I was quick to reserve judgment, saying that it was unfair to criticize the decision until we saw some results.  Well, we’ve seen some results, and I’m telling you it’s not the fact that the Buffalo Sabres have two different guys wearing the C, depending on whether it is a home game or an away game, that is confounding this team.

It’s true: neither Vanek nor Ott are providing leadership so far this season.  They might as well continue wearing the Cs, though, because when it comes to this team, NO ONE is capable of providing leadership, or so it seems.

Oct 15, 2013; Uniondale, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Steve Ott (9) and New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) fight during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Buffalo won 4-3 in shootout. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Most fans unconvinced that Vanek had what it takes to be a captain, and so far those fans have been proven right . . . but the people’s choice, Steve Ott, has not come through with any discernible on-ice leadership, either.  Unless you call trying to sucker New York Islanders stars John Tavares into a fight leadership, which I certainly would not.  Sabre Noise senior writer Caitlin Campbell wondered if Mike Weber might be a dark horse in the captain competition . . . and so far he has wowed Sabres fans with his zero points and -10 rating.   Many fans thoughts Christian Ehrhoff had earned the right to wear the C, and to be fair, he is the only player on the roster who has played in all ten games who doesn’t have a negative +/- rating, but I just don’t see or hear any true leadership potential in him.  He’s been solid on the blueline, for certain, but he’s just not a leader for this team.

The only player I currently see any shred of leadership in right now is Tyler Myers, believe it or not.  Check out his comments following Saturday’s loss:

 ”It’s getting to be pretty ridiculous.  The way we’re starting games, it’s . . . unacceptable.  You know, it’s one thing to start games like that a few games before, and start creating the process of working harder and harder and focusing on our start, but we’re just not doing that.  It’s embarrassing, and I don’t know what’s triggering us to start like that.  I don’t know if we’re nervous to do it again, or just not preparing the right way, but we really have to focus on that and address that issue, because it’s hurting us big time. . . It comes down to every guy’s will.  It’s a matter of . . . being ready to play, you know.”

Mind you, Myers has had some struggles to start this season, but he has already played better than he did at pretty much any point last season, and I have been impressed by what I have seen of him in his off-ice interviews.  He has shown me that he is trying to be a bit more physical on the ice, and he made  a concerted effort to join the offensive attack in the latter stages of the Sabres’ loss against the Avalanche.   I don’t know how much of a leader he really is – he seems pretty soft-spoken to me, although his words ring true – but I see more potential in the young Mr. Myers than in Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott combined right now.

Ten games is still a fairly small sample size, but I don’t think it is too early to admit this: you cannot criticize Ron Rolston’s decision to hand out two Cs, because right now, it literally may take 2-3 or more Sabres combined to contribute the level of leadership that other teams get from their captains.  Buffalo has no natural leader, a la Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks or Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, so until the organization figures out how to mold someone like Myers into a bona fide leader, it won’t mater WHO wears the C.  When it comes to team captain, the Sabres are, simply put, on auto pilot.

 

Topics: Buffalo Sabres

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  • Caitlin Campbell

    It’s not too early at all… I pointed this out after the 3rd game I believe :p thank you for finally coming on board with my theory haha

    • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

      :D

      It’s not even the dual captains issue, though; it’s just the utter lack of leadership AT ALL. One captains, two captains – it wouldn’t matter. They don’t HAVE a captain to speak of, which begs the question, why not?

      • Caitlin Campbell

        It’s rather sad actually how in a team of 23 guys not one person can step up and lead this team. Heck the best leadership has been shown by Pysyk and Girgensons by their play on the ice.
        The question of why- Because there’s no leadership upstairs either.

  • Joe

    Only reason i want to comment is to point out u must not watch games too closely as tavares scummed ott and thats why ott did wat he did. He wasnt gonna let tavares get away with it since the refs didnt call it. I dont recall wat he did id have to look at game film but tavares deserved wat ott did to him

    • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

      Dude: I covered the game that night. You’re the only person I’ve seen on the Internet defending Steve Ott! Ott had been cheap-shotting Tavares for a while. When the final scuffle broke out, Tavares was giving it back to Ott, and could have earned a penalty. but Ott had been targetting Tavares and was the one who tried to rip Tavares’ helmet off so they could fight. Not leadership material, instigating a fight with the other team’s star player.

      • Joe

        Otts style of play is PEST hes supposed to get in the other teams top players heads. Thats his game. And of course neone outside of buffalo is gonna say ott was cheap. Hockey is physical im sick of people crying about top players grtting hit. Its PART OF HOCKEY hockey isnt a female sport

        • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

          Ah, there’s the macho response! Come on – no one said hitting isn’t okay. But you want your captain taking unnecessary, cheap shots? Because there is a difference. You want your captain taking double minors? Because I believe that was the PP that put NY up 3-2 and could have lost the game for the Sabres. You don’t see many CAPTAINS playing stupid hockey like that, which is the point of this post: leadership. Instigating doesn’t equal leadership.

          • Joe

            Macho yes because hockey is a macho sport in case u never played. And i never agreed that ott should be captain i think it takes away from his game and he hasnt been playing his game as much this yr

          • Jes

            Common Rich many if not all Captains in the NHL take stupid penalties. I’m with Joe on this one. If you guys want to see PG13 stuff just watch Bantam Hockey in your local community rinks. Like seriously guys lets just get rid of everything that makes hockey, hockey. It gets on my nerves when people start complaining about oh this is dangerous, that is dangerous. If it’s so dangerous don’t raise your kids to be in the NHL, instead put them through university and make them doctors, accountants etc. By the rate we are going the NHL will be playing on foam mattresses come 2020.

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            I don’t recall saying anything about the game being dangerous. It’s hard-hitting and brutal. But the game still has to have rules, and not every hit is legal, and not every fight is necessary. It’s easy for fans to say “They’re ruining the game” – meanwhile, hockey players are suffering concussions and other serious injuries because of reckless plays that people just chalk up to “It’s a tough game.” Ott’s scuffle with Tavares is not the only reason he’s not a good captain, but it is an example that stands out.

            By the way, Bantam hockey (and most youth hockey) is actually quite fun to watch, because the kids are more worried about skating and scoring than head-hunting, so as a result, you see fast-paced, competitive hockey. What’s wrong with that? It’s still enjoyable.

          • Jes

            lol since your pointing out so much stuff tonight I will too. How about I point a little something out to you. Are you reading with one eye closed tonight Richard? Read the bantam part correctly. I said maybe you should watch that type of hockey if the NHL is basically to gruesome for you. I didn’t say anything was wrong with Bantam hockey.

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            Ah, but I never said anything about the game being too gruesome. I’m not saying Ott can’t hit anybody. I don’t have a problem with most fights, provided there’s a reason. Ryan Getzlaf is a physical player, yet I refer to him as what it means to be a captain. If I wanted a softie, I’d be okay with Vanek! lol

          • Dano

            Instigating doesnt equal leadership? My friend, read up on the ‘ Battle of Bella Wood ‘ in 1918. Lots of instigation which lead to quite a victory against a quite superior force.

            Ott chirps at the opposition. I would imagine he would chirp in the locker room at his own team. A leader speaks their mind and is very sincere about it.

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            Argh – I have homework now? :)

      • Jes

        So if Toews instigated a fight (And believe me he has) he’s not leadership material? Your whole argument is biased I think. Tavares was at with Ott all game. Tavares should have received a penalty.

        • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

          Ha ha -yes, I’m biased AGAINST Buffalo. I only write for Sabres blog. Look: I’m not a homer. Comparing Toews to Ott isn’t even logical. You would kill to have a Jonathan Toews-type player on this team. Starting a fight for a good reason is different than what Ott did. This is the first time I’ve ever said anything negative about Ott, so I don’t know how I’m biased against him. Sabres player or not, though, if I think he was wrong, I’ll say so.

          • Jes

            lol biased against Ott brudda. Not the team. Common your a writer you should’ve been able to figure that one out.;)

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            Jes, are you reading with one eye shut tonight? :D Read the last part: I don’t know how I’m biased against him. Singular pronoun!!!! :D

          • Jes

            Holy shit calm down dude!!!!! :D

            I did read it. If your not biased against Ott. Then it should occur to you that other captains like Toews, Brown, Chara, Benn etc have all done what Ott has done, on more than one occasion. The only difference between our team and there teams is that they have a majority group of players that share that leadership role with one another. One man can’t do the job my friend. Right now Ott is the only one leading the team at all. No one else has even stepped up. Not even the aforementioned Ehrhoff.

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            Sure, other players occasionally make bad decisions – but their positives outweigh the negatives. I’m not as focused on the Tavares incident as you may think – it’s just an example of Ott displaying bad judgment, and not much else. Sorry – I don’t think Ott is leading this team at all. I don’t think any of the players are (except for some rookies, but they are fighting for a job, so I can’t really count that as leadership).

            I’m calm – wearing sunglasses and chillin’. :D

          • Jes

            Why you wearing sunglasses? You high on some of Mary J’s flowers?

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            Ha ha! No, but I am drinking a Pepsi. So I’ve got that going for me. I was going for the Joe Cool reference, but that’s probably only because my kids like Peanuts so much. :)

          • Jes

            lol nice. hey rich sorry if I seemed confrontational.

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            No worries – friendly sparring, nothing more!

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            Stop replying to me – you’re blowing up my inbox!!!!!!!!!!!!!! lol

          • Jes

            lol alright. right back at ya

  • Jes

    Ott has done an ok job with what he’s been given but Vanek on the other hand has absolutely no leadership role on this team. I have a feeling the big Sabres 3 (Vanek, Miller and Ott) will be leaving this offseason or before deadline day for greener pastures.

  • Joe Mazurkiewicz

    In plumbing there is only 1 concept one has to master; S&*T rolls down hill!!!!! Well guess what,seems nobody in Sabreland gets it!!!! Terry must have drank too fracking water. What i’m trying to say is leadership starts at the TOP!!!!! There are no so-called hockey guys from Ken Sawyer on down & too many ex Sabres with great reps around the league;DUDLEY CARRIERE FOLIGNO LaFONTAINE just to name a few. Oh yeah remember the job TED NOLAN did here???????????

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