Atlas on the Market

Trading Thomas Vanek is not a good idea.

Joking about it on Twitter is one thing, but actually advocating for it is a completely different pile of silliness. Trading Vanek away doesn’t bring the team closer to winning the Stanley Cup. It puts them in rebuilding mode, and that trade philosophy has no place in Buffalo with this team.

jumptollI try not to write about things I disagree with because directing attention to an idea like this is counterproductive. Bad ideas and thoughts should be allowed to disappear without ever being given proper time. When you poke the bear you only give that bear a spotlight.

I don’t have any desire to blow up bad columns and I’m not as funny as the Fire Joe Morgan guys. This “Trade Vanek” idea, though, gives us a good opportunity to consider the current state of the Buffalo Sabres. Simply put: The Sabres have never been a team that trades Thomas Vanek. The current reasons, though, are very different than what they once were.

Thomas Vanek does not have an unmanageable contract and is not going to be a free agent after this season. He is not (verbally) unhappy with coaching, management or ownership of the Buffalo Sabres. He is not unpopular with fans. The only real reason to trade Thomas Vanek is that he is a valuable hockey commodity that could be traded for other valuable hockey commodities. In fact, he’s the best hockey commodity they’ve had in some time.

But that’s not the kind of team this has to be anymore. On Sunday I had to explain to a Panthers beat writer why Brian Campbell was traded by the team. That kind of thing doesn’t absolutely have to happen to the Sabres anymore. They are a team that can swap an asset for more valuable assets. They are not, however, a team that needs to move its franchise player to maximize value in order to build a winner moving forward. The dawn of the Terry Pegula Era of Sabres hockey was supposed to signal an end to that kind of thing.

They don’t need to do this because they have an owner that will spend to the salary cap and is willing to be aggressive in free agency and trusts his general manager to draft good hockey players and build a good team. Thomas Vanek is a cornerstone of the franchise. He’s something to build around while he continues to produce. If they get it wrong, and it’s clear they were far from perfect this season, they can simply keep trying. There’s time.

rofkcThe Buffalo Sabres are far from starting over. They currently have the best player in the league and an awful defense and no secondary scoring. The last two things there can be fixed with trades and getting new players into the system. They can be addressed by putting a new system–and head coach–in place. They can be addressed simply by the existing defense and players to perform better.

It is illogical, though, to throw away the only working part of your offense in a haphazard attempt to fix the other problems on the team. It’s the nose and face and knives and all that. It seems silly to even talk about, really. No team struggles and trades away its best player for a few draft picks and a blue-liner, and this Buffalo Sabres franchise is simply not in a position to break new ground on that front.

They just don’t have to, and the sooner we change the way we think about how the franchise needs to operate, the better.


  1. Brian S.

    I agree that Vanek shouldn’t be traded as he is one of their top players.

    However, I think that they are rebuilding, though they’re trying to do it without making it look like they are. They have the 9th youngest team in the league, with only Toronto and Columbus being significantly younger, and outside of Vanek, Pominville, Ehrhoff, and Miller, the players expected to carry the team are under the age of 25: Ennis (23), Hodgson (22), Foligno (21), Myers (23). Combine this with the prospects expected to be major contributors in the next few years (Grigorenko, Girgensons, Armia, Pysyk, McNabb, Brennan, Tropp) and the roster should be significantly changed and even younger than it is now.

    This team is bad right now, but I think they will be Cup contenders in two years when the younger guys on the team now have some more experience and the Vanek, Miller, etc have not yet reached the ends of their careers. Until then, I just hope that they’re entertaining enough that I can enjoy watching the games, even with all the mistakes they’re bound to make.

    • I guess you could say the Sabres are “rebuilding” with their young talent and guys in the system, but they are definitely not ready to blow things up and start over. There’s a significant difference between being “young” and “rebuilding.”

      A rebuilding team “sells high,” so to speak, on a guy playing well for them because they feel they have no chance to ever really accomplish anything while that player is on the roster. Like you said, you expect the team to get better around Vanek and Miller. That’s the key difference.

      It would definitely be nice if this team were fun to watch.

    • cdr

      Another way to put it is they are getting younger while trying to stay competitive.