Buffalo Sabres Captain: A Cursed Position


It all started in the summer of 2007, the fall of the Buffalo Sabres Captain.  That season, Buffalo won the Presidents’ Trophy and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals, much of the credit going to co-captains Chris Drury and Danny Briere.  Drury had managed 69 points that season and 13 in the playoffs, while Briere amassed 95 and 15 points, respectively.

You all know what happened next – Drury hopped a plane for the Big Apple and Briere headed off to the City of Brotherly Love.

The next season for Buffalo?

Buffalo plummeted from best in the league to tenth place in the East, missing the playoffs by a 4-point margin, and their goal differential dropped from an impressive +66 to a paltry +13.

Any Harry Potter fan will recognize the curse of the Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching position.  I’m entirely convinced that something similar happened to the Sabres’ captaincy after management refused to pay the duo what they were worth.  However, as much as I hated the whole “co-captain” thing, it was far less embarrassing than the rotating circus of temp-to-hire Buffalo Sabres captains that would comprise the 2007-08 season.

That year, five different temps took the driver’s seat for the Sabres – Jochen Hecht, (twice,) Toni Lydman, Brian Campbell, Jaroslav Spacek, and Jason Pominville.

When that didn’t work, Buffalo signed Craig Rivet and put him in charge of the locker room.  As unimpressed as I was with his stats coming in, I was more disappointed that an outsider was now the leader of our team.  I always felt that a captain should come from within, but there’s a reason I’m on the couch instead of on the bench…

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Rivet was the captain for three seasons, two of which we made the playoffs. We even managed to win the division once.  Unfortunately, neither of those postseasons carried us beyond the first round and the success of 2007 seemed unlikely to be repeated.

Next, Rivet relocated to Columbus, where he would finish out his career playing only a fraction of the season in the NHL.  The Sabres’ faithful rejoiced as fan-favorite Pominville was put back in command, hoping we would finally hear, (in the words of the legendary Rick Jeanneret,) “the population of Pominville goes up by one!” …one Stanley Cup, that is.

But alas, Buffalo failed to make the playoffs and Pommer joined the Wild.  In a painful flashback to 2007, captain duties were then shared by Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott.  However, it wasn’t long before Vanek was sent packing and joined the Islanders.  And after finishing out the season in blue and gold, Ott discarded the gold and opted for the simpler blue of a St. Louis uniform.

2014 – Enter Brian Gionta.  Thanks to a late season showing, Gionta’s stats weren’t that far off with Buffalo than they had been in Montreal.  Maybe his production slide can be attributed to advancing age, or maybe Montreal simply did him no favors with his continued development.  It’s also possible that his outstanding season with the Devils, the one in which he managed 48 goals and 41 assists, was a once-in-a-career season.  But given all the organizational changes, not to mention the ever-changing faces in the locker room, Gionta is hardly to blame for the state of the 2015 Sabres.

But it makes you wonder.  What current Sabre in his right mind would volunteer to put the “C” on his jersey?  With sophomore GM Tim Murray about to choose a new coach and coming off of the biggest draft the league has seen in years, I wonder if we will be seeing yet another new Buffalo captain.

Who do you think would be up for the task?  Could it be Tyler Ennis, whose potential was always high and who has improved his play, season after season during one of the worst stretches in franchise history?  Could newcomer Evander Kane bring enough of a spark to the team during training camp that he becomes the new face of the franchise?  What about one of the superstar youngsters like Girgensons or Ristolainen?  Or maybe it will be another tandem of co-captains?  Reinhart and Eichel, perhaps?

At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if they give the “C” to Sabretooth.

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After the roller-coaster of the last two years, I don’t think there can be any breaking news that would surprise me. So yet another new captain would hardly be a shocking development.
But whoever is chosen to march our team back into the playoffs, I wish them the best of luck and hope that 2016 is the season we break the curse and start looking forward to bringing some new hardware to Buffalo.

Next: Mike Weber Could Have Had A Shot At The Masterton

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