Captaincy Questions Looming For Buffalo Sabres

By Rafal Ladysz
Kevin Hoffman-USA Today Sports

Choosing a captain for any sports organization requires careful deliberation.

Does a coach want the offensive dynamo to be trusted with such a role or would he prefer someone who works tirelessly, putting forth his hardest efforts on a normal basis?

A combination of tenacity and raw talent is challenging to find, but certain clubs are blessed with such influential leaders. Ryan Callahan and Dustin Brown, two players who began their National Hockey League journeys as role players, eventually got the big letter stitched onto their jerseys after years of workmanlike service.

They did not let their games slip once that was accomplished either, continuing to throw heavy hit, back check, chip in offensively and inspire their teammates.

In a perfect world, every club’s captain would fit such a description, but hockey is rarely so generous.

The Buffalo Sabres have hesitated to name an official captain for years, as former head coach Lindy Ruff often decided to rotate his captaincy from month to month, giving numerous individuals a try-out.

From 2005 to 2007, two of the glorious years in an otherwise unspectacular decade for Buffalo, Daniel Briere and Chris Drury shared the duty as co-captains. After they fled the scene, the carousel commenced once more, as six players were picked for brief durations.

Craig Rivet’s arrival in 2008 indicated that it was time for a change. With extended league experience and leadership qualities, the defenseman was captain for nearly three seasons before going on waivers.

Jason Pominville‘s captaincy ended recently, following almost two years in the position, when he was offloaded to the Minnesota Wild.

So the question begs to be answered: who is next to inherit the captain’s badge for the Sabres?

Roberto Luongo was the last goaltender to accept the responsibility, but it is actually forbidden, which is why the Vancouver Canucks found a loophole by appointing three alternate captains and keeping any letters off his jersey.

Ryan Miller has certainly stood tall as Buffalo’s backbone, but it looks to be only a matter of time before his imminent departure. Thomas Vanek, listed as an assistant captain, is also making it abundantly clear that he is enticed at the thought of severing his relationship with the club that drafted him, while Jochen Hecht has already announced his retirement.

As for Drew Stafford, the second assistant captain for now, he should not have an ‘A’ on him, unless of course it stands for absent. Contract years can be misleading; the 27-year-old looks to be a shadow of the man who potted 52 points in 62 games to earn a nice pay raise back in 2011.

Steve Ott is an obvious possibility and one of the few left for Buffalo because of the influx of youth. He plays with a bit of a nasty streak and genuinely showed disgust towards some of the more horrendous games that the Sabres were involved in, not mincing words about them. He’ll be licking his lips, and who knows what else, when they take to the ice in October, regardless of what is finalized on the matter.

Christian Ehrhoff‘s name could be mentioned in the conversation, but the quiet defenseman is better suited for assistant captaincy. Otherwise, head coach Ron Rolston should leave him be because of the gargantuan contract he already has the pressure of delivering on.

From there, it gets pretty thin as to who can be prepared to lead a squad with problems aplenty.

With the free agency period rapidly approaching, Darcy Regier will poke around to see who is available and at what cost.

As for Rolston, this lingering question is one of many that will abound next year and the sooner he solves it, the faster he can move on to the next pressing concern.

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