Co-Captains? Because F*$# It, That’s Why.
The Buffalo Sabres announced that Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott would serve as co-captains for the 2013-2014 season. The former would captain the squad at home; the latter, on the road. The Internet lost their bloody minds over the announcement. Just another Tuesday in Buffalo.
The reasons for the collective losing of minds were myriad. Vanek won’t be a good captain because he’s crazy. Ott will be tamed because of the C. Co-captaincy never works. Sully did his usual “Get off my lawn!” schtick. Fans yelled at other fans. Let me ask you this: how many Stanley Cup banners hang in the rafters of First Niagara Center that were earned by Sabres teams captained by a single man? I’ll save you the effort: Zip. Zilch. Nada. So where do we all get off throwing the team under a flaming bus made of napalm for choosing two captains? Instead, why don’t we just have fun with our freshly-minted pair of field marshals.
Thomas Vanek is the Sabres’ elder statesman on offense. He’s your run of the mill elite left winger that scores at will, but he’s also a bit of a basketcase that is sometimes prone to suffering from sneaky hate spirals. Oh yeah, he’s fifth all time in goals as a Sabre, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
How could Vanek’s captaincy (at home, mind) affect our lisp-lipped veteran? Well, the Austrian is known for being exceedingly hard on himself. Vanek could thrive on the demands of leading the charge, inspiring his teammates with the same kind of determination to be the best that fuels himself. We could see a brand new Sabres squad that is determined to run through walls and steamrolls the opposition. Imagine sustained pressue in the offensive zone, line change after line change, grinding the visiting team’s will into dust. At the end of the cycle, a no-look pass through an invisible passing lane to a cruising teammate for the easy tap in. Wouldn’t that be a sight?
Then again, we’ve all seen it when that sneaky hate spiral grabs hold of Vanek. His shot goes off the post, or he whiffs on a one-timer, or he puts the puck directly into the goalie’s pads. He shuffles off to the bench, and the cameraman focuses his lens on the skater just in time to see him angrily mouth a string of obscenities to himself. That kind of crippling pressure could devour the entire team and, while I know Ron Rolston is a player’s coach, we don’t need the Buffalo Sabres to turn into a 23-man support group. Fer crissakes, Myers would go on about his stress eating at ALL THE BOSTON MARKETS and Miller would show his series of morose, introspective photos and Stafford would be trying to drag a couple of guys to the gym to just “lift it out”. No one wants that.
Steve Ott has made a name for himself in the National Hockey League doing one thing: being a helluva pest. He researches his upcoming opponents for more effective chirps. He walks the line so you lose your mind. Sometimes, he scores goals or drops the gloves. But what could wearing the captain’s badge (on the road, remember) mean to this veteran irritant?
This could go two ways, folks. We could be looking at a team of Sabres hell-bent on making every single opponent miserable. Late night cram sessions full of obit trolling, Ancestry.com research, and Facebook creeping looking for that perfect psych-out to use the next night. Lectures on effective chirping. Venn diagrams and lists of disses on a portable chalkboard? Why not! Imagine practice sessions of the Sabres just saying horrific things to each other, trying to get his pest partner to crack.
On the other hand, we could be looking at a kinder, gentler Steve Robert Ott. It could be like a reverse Mr. Hyde potion, turning the foul-mouthed forward into an eloquent Victorian gentleman who’d rather discuss the Empire and that dreadful business in Whitechapel. Perish the thought of Ott coming onto the ice wearing a cravat under his jersey, swirling his Gatorade in a brandy snifter!
So this could be really fun. It could be a train wreck. It could be boring as hell. It could just be like regular hockey, if we let go of the hemming and hawing about there being two captains. Just kick back and have fun. There are lots of potentially-awesome kids on the roster, including an entire line! Some remaining veteran talent. A couple of unloved one-dimensional talents. Two really good goalies. Three scoring lines. Hey, wait a second. Three scoring lines? A third line loaded with young talent? Co-captains? I’ve seen this movie before…