So, some of you may recall in September that I said Thomas Vanek should be the Sabres next captain. Lindy Ruff obviously didn't agree, as he announced at a team dinner in Helsinki that Jason Pominville will be the next captain of the Buffalo Sabres.
I may have been wrong, which is something I don't like being, but the fact is the coaching staff is going to know more about the leadership on this team than the fans will. Which is why I think the fans should be happy with this decision. Pominville has long been indicated as a team leader, as he wore the "C" during the rotating captains period in 07-08 (and has frequently worn an "A" on his jersey). During his time as captain, he really seemed to pick up his play (8 goals and 13 assists in his 17 games as captain from 2007-08).
Further more, I wrote an article a while back about why the Sabres should keep Pominville. In short, he's shown the ability to be a clutch player. He almost always heats up down the stretch at the end of the season. Not only that, but he also scores timely goals. As I pointed out in that previous article, last year he had big goals against Atlanta (3/19) and Florida (3/25), then two game winners against Philly (3/5 and 4/20) late in the season and in the playoffs. He also had 4 points in 5 playoff games before going down with an injury.
His consistency also plays into the decision. He's had five straight 20+ goal and 50+ point seasons, and one could argue he's been the most consistent player in that time. When you look at some of the other players' stats, its difficult to find that much consistency over that period of time.
He's also great with the media. That may not seem like a critical component, but it's all a part of being the captain. He's always there to give interviews after wins and losses alike. Also, as recently revealed by Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News, he once went to yell at the team for leaving early to avoid the media after a loss a few years ago. That's leadership. Other news personalities, like John Vogl, have indicated his willingness to stand in front of the team and let them know when they're doing well, letting them have it when they don't do so well, and just giving his general thoughts on the team's play when he sees fit.
Now fans have voiced their displeasure with this move, as cries of Pominville being "soft" or "weak" have already been sounded. However, I ask all of his detractors to look at the evidence. He's really been a good choice all along. Maybe not the obvious choice, but a good choice none the less. Not only has he been consistent and clutch with his end of the season hot streaks, but he's battled back from a lot. Don't forget, he came back during the season after an early season concussion, and still put up over 20 goals. He also worked hard over the off season to rehab from a sliced tendon he suffered in the playoffs.
Whether or not you agree with the move, Pominville has earned it. The four alternate captains (Vanek, Roy, Gaustad and Stafford) all earned their letters just the same. Ultimately, the decision was Lindy's and he made a good one. The important part is that the team now has an identity. The dedication to winning, the right pieces, the jerseys, and now, the most important part, the leaders. With a permanent captain in place, this team can now focus on playing hockey.
You can feel free to call me a flip flopper or a homer for writing this column, but, in the end, naming Pominville captain is a move all fans should be celebrating. Even if you don't like him, this team has its leaders set for the season and beyond. The only thing they're missing now is a Stanley Cup. Having their leaders set can bring the team that much closer to the ultimate prize.
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