Think back to the time when the Buffalo Sabres relied on solid goaltending, a smothering defense, and a timely offense headlined by a flashy European winger. Aside from that lock down defense, which will have yet another chance to prove itself this coming season, it seems that the goal the front office is to take us all back to the year 2000. The captain of those blue collar teams was Michael Peca and now he tells The Buffalo News that we wants to come back.
And I’m pretty much ready to welcome Peca back with open arms. If he’s healthy, that is. There is a crater now in the Sabres locker room where leadership used to be and Peca can help to fill that hole. Forget the ugly divorce he had with the Sabres and the Rigas regime. Forget that he played for Toronto. Peca is still a really good two-way player and helped the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup Finals just two years ago.
It’s not like the Sabres are buying completely damaged goods either. Sure his hard hitting style has added an extra level of wear and tear that may make possible suitors weary, but that’s why he earned the nickname Captain Crunch. Not counting last season, in which he only played 35 games and the 2000-01 season which he held out due to a breakdown in contract negotiations with the Sabres, Peca has played in at least 60 games every season since 1995. Peca is also a superb face off man, and if the stat pages on NHL.com weren’t down, I’d back that claim up with solid numbers.
So a two-way center capable of playing 15 minutes a game who can kill penalties, win draws, and is capable of leading a team sounds just like what the Sabres need after losing Briere and Drury, right? Right? Someone please try to convince Darcy Regier of that. Both Regier and Peca’s agent have both said that there have been no talks between the two regarding Peca specifically.
More than anything though, Peca wants to be here. Forget the ill will of the past, the guy wants to play for us…but maybe that’s the problem. As fans, we see a player who we loved to watch play years ago. We see a void in the locker room and we want it filled with something familiar. A guy we know was capable seven years ago. If Peca is still so great, wouldn’t some team have already made an offer he’d accept? Does he want to play for the Sabres so bad that he’s been waiting a month for an offer that might not come?
Regardless, I think the Sabres are better off with Peca than without him. Broken or not, he’s an extra piece to the puzzle that could teach the younger players something while contributing on a team that’s not quite rebuilding, but not quite a powerhouse. But for right now, Peca wants to be a Sabre again, and that’s enough for me.