Atlas ‘Simplified’

by Ryan

When will they learn?

Take a look around the league and tell me what you see. What teams are defined by one player, one face bobbing above a uniform’s crest? What names are thrown around when talk of greatness begins? Crosby. Ovechkin. Lecavalier. Iginla. All of them worthy of the praise and reputation they receive. All at the top of their game. But here’s my question:

When does Thomas Vanek enter into this discussion?

We are now an eighth of the way through the season, and Thomas Vanek leads the league in goals. Okay, that could change. But what hasn’t changed is his overall game, which sometime last year morphed into an absolute monster. Even when he doesn’t hit the scoresheet Thomas Vanek has played the best hockey of his career over the last 30 or so games. When does he get recognition for that play from someone outside of Buffalo?

You saw him in action tonight. He beat the best young defenseman in hockey for his league leading tenth goal 72 seconds into a game his team absolutely needed to win, and scored another after a second effort rush to end the second period. Toss in a few mad dashes to break up plays on defense and another penalty-free night and you have another another great game from a player coming into his own before your very eyes.

Give all the credit in the world to a coaching staff that had their team ready, but even more credit should go to the players for responding in such a stunning way. It only makes Tuesday and Thursday that much more embarrassing to see them play like this against Washington. Miller was excellent, Connolly played well, and a few players got off the hot seat; but who has answered the bell more than Vanek thus far this year?

On a night when the best player in the world was not in the country, Thomas Vanek took over the game in a way you would expect Alexander Ovechkin to do so. He didn’t celebrate like AO or skate as fast as him, but he made things happen all night and was the best player on ice at all times.

My question still stands. Just how good is Vanek when you stack him up with the rest of the league? Perhaps it is his cap hit, perhaps his country of origin, or maybe it’s just because he plays in Buffalo, but when does this league take notice of what’s happening at HSBC Arena when #26 hits the ice? More importantly, do we even want them to notice?

A few other things while I pour libations to our very own Titan:

– I know everyone makes fun of Alexander Semin, but it really is an odd name, right? The NHL is the only league where this is somehow okay for one of its stars. It would be like the NFL having a starting quarterback named Michael Wenis or something. Of course, he would probably play for San Francisco and no one would bat an eye.

– I loved the Kaleta/Paille scoring play. I know I said I’m not going to talk about Kaleta anymore, but I really like giving him some shifts with actual talent. The same goes for Mair. Sometimes a line shuffle works really well, and tonight it did. It will be interesting to see how the lines shake out when everyone else gets healthy.

– Miller’s done with his crappy games for the year now, right?

– #19 was pretty okay tonight. He’s going to play well, it’s just going to be a matter of longevity with him. Then again, we all know this. Good to see him get 19+ in ice time, though, making my prediction wrong. Should we take bets on how many games he plays?

The Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl goes to Thomas Vanek, destroyer of cities, lifter of planets. Yes, we are totally keeping track of these. For the record, Thursday’s went to Stamkos, and if we missed another one we will give one out there. Big prizes abound come season’s end.

We hope.


  1. Porky

    Give him another 30 games. Remember the Futures game a few years ago? He was brilliant. If he can play like that consistently people will notice, though it’ll take a few lights-out years before he’s mentioned with Crosby and AO.

  2. Ryan

    I agree with you that it will take a long time. The AO and Sid comparison will be tough to do, but as far as all-around game, I think guys like Savard and Vanek should already be talked about. Iginla and Vinny are great players, but are they doing anything better than Vanek right now?

  3. Becky

    Vanek hasn’t made it until 289 designs an Atlas t-shirt in his honor.

    Not only take bets as to how long TC lasts but also what body part is involved next time.

  4. Zach

    This is the $50 million man that we needed last year. He could carry this team on his back if he had to. He is leading this team in quite a few categories: goals, points, shots, plus/minus. He is the all around player that can be a force to reckon with.

    Thanks Kevin Lows for forcing us to keep him.

  5. porky

    Well, Iginla and Lecavalier have each scored 50 in a season and led their teams to the Stanley Cup finals, but neither of them were the stars they are now early in their careers. Vanek is very much like the young Lecavalier, who showed flashes of greatness, but was widely regarded as a disappointment until just a few years ago.

    I have no doubt Vanek can be just as dominant as any of the guys you mentioned. I just don’t think he’s established that he can do it all the time. Yet.

  6. Dan

    In the real world of hockey, Vanek is a much greater asset then Crosby as we speak. Finding assist guys are a dime a dozen. Sure, they don’t all get assists and points in the great amount that Crosby does, but assist guys are everywhere. Finding an elite sniper like Vanek is a rarity in the NHL. Saying that, Vanek’s value is infinitely greater then that of Crosby.