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Vulgar Opinions: The Pros And Cons Of Each Viable Captain Option (SFW)

10/01/11
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There’s been a lot of speculation this offseason (hell, every offseason) about who Lindy Ruff will name as the next Sabres captain.  The preseason hasn’t given much in the way of information as a variety of players have worn letters, probably to use up all those extra iron-ons the Sabres had laying around.  So I’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each of what I think are the viable options for team captain.

Thomas Vanek

Pros: Vanek has been tabbed as an emerging leader in the locker room by Lindy Ruff.  He also has extremely high standards and expectations for himself and the talent to back it up.  In his interviews he’s shown himself to be very even-keel and good at handing adversity, a change of pace from some of his facial expressions on the ice.  From what we’ve seen so far Vanek seems to be the full package: leadership, intensity, effort, and experience.

Cons: At a glance, none.  I know a lot of fans will bring up this or that, and there’s varying degrees of merit to those points, but I think this fan base has done a very poor job of evaluating both high paid players and European players.  If there is something in his game to pick at though, it’s his tendency to disappear for a few games at a time.  However, as many fans noticed last season, the disappearance on the scoresheet was not for lack of playing well.

Derek Roy

Pros: Supreme talent on the ice coupled with great intensity and work ethic.  Lindy Ruff has said on a few occasions that he thinks Roy could play thirty minutes a night.  As far as will to win goes, Roy is up there with the best of them.  He’s also been with the team for a long time, something I think is important to have in a leader.

Cons: I’ll be honest, Roy wouldn’t be my first choice for captain, but I don’t see a lot of cons with him either.  Fans will point out his diving, or that he doesn’t seem like a leader, but again those are fan perceptions.  Everything I’ve seen coming from the lockerroom indicates that Roy would be more than up to the task.

Jason Pominville

Pros: Very even player with no weaknesses in his game.  Has a penchant for staying healthy and making a difference without being obvious.  Pominville is also very even keel and good with the media.  He can contribute in all phases of the game, and thus can relate to everyone on the team.  Very responsible defensively.

Cons: Has the charisma of an uncooked hotdog.  I like Pominville a lot, he’s one of those guys that you never notice on the ice until you go back and look at the numbers.  One goal, two assists…where the hell did that come from?  That he’s a very responsible player and plays big minutes in every situation means a lot.  My big problem is that he’s hideously boring.  Can you picture Pominville inspiring a will to win in downtrodden troops?  I cannot.  Lindy’s refusal to give Pominville a fulltime captaincy a few seasons ago is very telling to me.  Perhaps it was just that Pominville was still too young, but more I think it’s that Jason doesn’t quite have the fire.

Paul Gaustad

Pros: Great work ethic and a very likable guy in the lockerroom.  Seems good at keeping things light and players loose with a sense of humor.  Is frequently the last one off the ice in pre-game warmups.

Cons: Just isn’t very good.  This is a personal preference of mine, but I don’t want a captain that isn’t a member of the top two lines, and isn’t one of the guys you want out there when you need a goal.  Because of that, Gaustad seems like an A more than a C to me.

Drew Stafford

Pros: Vastly improved work ethic, and a sense of humor to boot.  Skilled player who seems to have his best days in front of him.

Cons: Hasn’t been on the team for very long and is only one season removed from being a player many considered lazy and the numbers showed it.  Stafford needs to show he’s committed to playing at a high level for a long period of time before he sniffs the captaincy.

Jochen Hecht

Pros: Same as Pominville with a bit less of an emphasis on scoring and a bit more of an emphasis on playing defense.

Cons: Again, same as Pominville.  Hecht is a solid player that is worth more than a lot of people think.  Unfortunately that does not a Captain make.

Nathan Gerbe

Pros: Very good at speaking with the media, seems very intelligent.  Has solid skills and a phenomenal intensity and work ethic to go with it.  When you think of a player who would skate through a wall to win, you think of Nathan Gerbe.

Cons: Hasn’t spent enough time playing on a high level, nor has he been with the team long enough to have a good feel for the lockerroom.  Nathan Gerbe is probably a guy that wears the C in five years if Vanek is gone and Myers doesn’t get it.

Tyler Myers

Pros: Perhaps the player with the highest upside on the team.  Has matured at an astonishing rate, both into a talented hockey player and someone who is decent with the media.

Cons: Too young.  Granted young captains have worked out well before, but I don’t think Myers is at the level of a Sidney Crosby when he got the C.  Though I think at some point he will wear it.

My Verdict:

To me, Thomas Vanek is a slam dunk to be named as captain.  He’s got everything you want, skill, intensity, a good lockerroom presence, respect from the media, and experience in the system and in the NHL.  After him, I think you’ve got a lot of players that have leadership qualities, which can only be a good thing.  If the As stay stationary, they probably go to Pominville and Gaustad, otherwise they’ll likely rotate around those two with Hecht and Roy (and possibly Myers and Gerbe) added to the mix.

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