The only time you really know the truth in hockey is when the season’s over. The amount of secrecy in the league has only increased in the past few years, and everyone seems to have an “undisclosed injury” at some point throughout the year.
If there was one Sabre who we thought had an injury all season, it was Craig Rivet. Chris and I would send text messages every other game about his play, and most times we concluded that he was nursing something. That was evident when he missed a few stretches of time with knee surgery and a shoulder injury.
John Vogl’s story in the Buffalo News confirms that belief, as well as a few other things we’ve been thinking all year.
“Right from Day One when I stepped on the ice, I had problems that needed to be addressed in the summer that weren’t with my previous team,” Rivet said while cleaning out his locker. “I pretty much played with an injury all year that I think hindered a bit of my play, but I’m sure there’s a lot of guys that were in the same situation.”
Rivet missed 18 games during his inaugural season in Buffalo. The October knee surgery cost him five games, and he missed 13 in December and January with a sore shoulder. It was tough for the newcomer to lead the team with his play.
But the newly voted captain still wanted to lead by example.
“I’ll give 100 percent of what I have in that night,” Rivet said. “It may not be 100 percent of if I was healthy, but I’ll give everything I have.”
Again this isn’t really anything new, but it does explain a few things about his play. One of the things I admired about him was his willingness to play through it, despite how obvious the pain was. Even while he was a step slower I think he had a pretty decent year, and he obviously provided a level of on-ice leadership that the team desperately needs. (See: Kostopoulos, Tom)
And now comes one of the most important quotes in the history of the blog.
“I think there was obviously some issues with leadership, and I think throughout the year and near the end of the year there was some real positive signs with some younger guys coming up that did a better job,” he said.
“No. 1 would definitely be Paul Gaustad. He really moved himself into more of a role, more vocal in the room, which I think this team needs. A guy like Tim Connolly is always a guy that you could see the leadership qualities. Even Derek Roy was somewhat quiet at the start of the year, but you could see these improvements. And this is just maturity, not only as a hockey player but as individuals.”
Emphasis, fireworks, and arena rock added. I’m tattooing that quote on six (discrete) parts of my body, framing it, and creating an interpretive dance inspired by it. Until just now, everything we’ve heard and said about Paul Gaustad has been hearsay. Reporters can’t be in the locker room, and fans can only take what they see on the ice. Rivet’s quote finally confirms what fans have been thinking all season, and I couldn’t be happier to hear it.
What does it really mean? Well, nothing. The season is over and we’re still stuck taking solace from quotes and promises of something better. However, it is good to hear that players like Gaustad and Connolly are stepping up in the locker room. That’s the largest concern I have about this team, and from what Rivet says the players are starting to handle it on their own.
Does this mean they both deserve letters? Of course not. But if you ask me, it’s only a matter of time for Goose. Woo. Hoo.