The Hollow Captain

By Chris

The captaincy of the Buffalo Sabres has had an interesting history during Lindy Ruff’s tenure with the team. Ruff’s first captain, Michael Peca, filled in on the Sabres broadcast a little while ago as the current captain watched yet another game from the press box. It would have been interesting to hear Peca’s take on Craig Rivet, but the subject was never broached.

Take a minute to check out this list:

Sabres Captains Under Lindy Ruff
Micheal Peca (1997-2000)
Stu Barnes (2001-03)
Miroslav Satan (October 2003)
Chris Drury (November 2003)
James Patrick (December 2003)
J.P. Dumont (January 2004)
Daniel Briere (February 2004)
Chris Drury (March 2004)
Daniel Briere (2005-2007)
Chris Drury (2005-2007)
Jochen Hecht (October 2007)
Toni Lydman (November 2007)
Brian Campbell (December 2007)
Jaroslav Spacek (January 2008)
Jochen Hecht (February 2008)
Jason Pominville (March April 2008)
Craig Rivet (October 2008 – present)

That’s a long, sad list. From 1970-1996, the Sabres had 10 captains total. Since Lindy Ruff took over behind the bench, as you can see, 13 different players have been named captain, mostly because of the “Captain of the Month” experiment performed on two different occasions. Chances are, the official leadership of the team will be transferred yet again come July 1.

It’s been a rocky season for Craig Rivet, and thankfully, it’s half-over. Over the last few games, Ruff dressed seven defensemen for various reasons, whether because of illness or the desire to get the top six forwards more ice time. It meant Rivet got to sit on the bench for a change. And on the bench he stayed for most of those games.

You can call him a good soldier and that he’s taken to the pine well. He hasn’t made any controversial statements. He’s admitted his play hasn’t been good enough and he’ll do everything he can to help his teammates off the ice. Standard “good teammate” fodder.

Here’s a guy who was traded from San Jose because the Sharks preferred Rob Blake. He comes to Buffalo and is almost instantly awarded the captaincy. He showed an edge that had been lacking, receiving a double game misconduct in his second game. Things were looking up and then some injuries hit and we know the rest.

The next captain of the Buffalo Sabres probably isn’t on the team right now and that’s a serious problem. And with new ownership coming in (possibly as soon as Thursday), getting a go-to marketable skater who’s a leader and an impact player will probably be a top priority. Now good luck finding a way to get that guy in a Sabres uniform.

Looking at the guys on the active roster (sorry, Derek Roy), these players have the best shot at wearing the “C.” Here’s the third installment of the Potential New Sabres Captain Power Rankings:

1. Thomas Vanek (Last Ranking: 5)
He’s the Sabres best forward and maybe it’s time he officially took responsibility for the play of the entire team.
2. Jason Pominville (1)
Yes, he’s too high, I wouldn’t put anyone else on this list ahead of him.
3. Paul Gaustad (8)
He’s been very good lately and he’s signed for a few more years, but he’s had a bad season overall.
4. Jordan Leopold (11)
Logging a ton of big minutes, has already taken control of the music in the locker room and could certainly have been an All-Star. Sure.
5. Cody McCormick (14)
Because why the hell not?

The next players on the list would include Mike Grier, Jochen Hecht and Steve Montador. After that, I’m not sure anyone else on the team should be wearing a letter.

Like I said, it’s hard to imagine Rivet being back in the NHL next season let alone in a Sabres uniform. The longer Rivet clutches onto the “C,” the longer it will continue to mean very little in Buffalo.

E-mail: chris@thegoosesroost.com