If there is a signature moment in this young season, it came in Boston on Wednesday night.
With Buffalo up 3-2 and on the power play, the top unit was out and looking for a two goal lead. Vanek was parked in front, and as the puck cycled up to Roy near the right faceoff circle you began to hear a noise. The incessant noise of a tapping stick sounds like a lot of things depending on the situation. Sometimes it’s the opposing team trying to throw you off, and sometimes it’s the best player on your team demanding the puck.
This time it was the latter, and as Thomas Vanek slapped his Warrior stick on the ground like a madman you knew something was going to happen. He did, too. He had body position, he knew what he wanted to do with the pass, and he was ready to do what goal scorers should: score.
As he waited for the pass, you couldn’t help but notice a little bit of hesitation in Derek Roy. He wasn’t quite sure he trusted what Vanek was doing, and just maybe he was afraid of something going wrong. Still, Atlas kept tapping and eventually Roy relented, firing a pass to the stick of Vanek. A moment later it was in, the red light flashed, and Vanek pointed back to Roy thanking him for the pass, albeit delayed.
Thomas Vanek isn’t going to win the Hart Trophy this year. He doesn’t have enough assists, and quite frankly his “star power” is lacking compared to others in the league. Trophies aside, Thomas Vanek has been the best player on the roster all year, and far and away the most consistent. His line has had defensive struggles, but you couldn’t find a player on this team working harder night in and night out.
Taking the body in the corner, getting position in front and accepting the punishment to get there. His creativity has been off the charts, and watching him in person you just have to laugh when you realize the things he is actually trying to do. Sometimes he just misses, sometimes he hits a post, and sometimes his teammates just can’t keep up and his pass is missed.
And that might sum pretty much everything up. Thomas Vanek has absolutely torn up the league, but the rest of his team has been behind every step of the way. He is everywhere, making plays for his teammates and pacing the league in goals, but the rest of this team just can’t get it together.
Watching him play in person you can see just how hard he’s trying, even when the rest of the team coasts. Last night the Sabres put forth a quality effort, but it still wasn’t near how Vanek has played all season. There’s a reason we’ve been calling him Atlas, but there comes a time when the team has to stop letting Thomas carry this team and give him a hand.
This sculpture is called Atlas/Sisyphus because historians aren’t sure which mythical character it is. Right now I think we should call it Thomas Vanek. Will his amazing performance be a wasted effort come season’s end? Is his burden a fruitless effort, destined to trample him in the end?
He needs some help, boys, and eventually someone has to realize it and step up before it’s too late.