When the Buffalo Sabres named Jason Pominville their captain Wednesday, the biggest surprise wasn't that Pominville will be wearing the "C" on his sweater, it's rather that Thomas Vanek won't be. Pominville has been a top-six forward for the Sabres since 2005 and has performed admirably scoring 358 points in 459 games. He's been a force on the penalty kill and has all sorts of playoff experience. He seems like a fine candidate.
But Vanek is the star of the Sabres. He's the guy Buffalo kept instead of taking all those draft picks from Edmonton. He's the one who stepped up, taking a new role and posting a career-high 41 assists last season, dragging the Sabres into the playoffs after they were pronounced dead in January. Now, Buffalo's most dynamic player will be forced to take a back seat to his long-time teammate.
After the Sabres moved Craig Rivet last season, the team did not have a captain for the remainder of the year. Vanek was given an "A." Immediately, it seemed his demeanor changed. On the ice, he played with urgency and selflessness. He no longer stood in front of the net waiting for a bouncing puck to slap into the nethe tried to create opportunities for his teammates, especially on the power play, where he had 17 assists.
Was the change in his performance because of the captaincy? Who knows? It could have been the emergence of several young players in the Sabres' lineup, a change in strategy by coach Lindy Ruff, or just a hot streak. It also could have been because of the increased sense of responsibility and leadership that comes along with being an alternate captain.