Before Thomas Vanek was traded to the New York Islanders, some wondered whether or not he was the correct choice for captain of the team. Now that he’s gone, Steve Ott has been given the C. One has to wonder the exact same thing about the noted pest and longtime NHL veteran.
When you look around the league, teams typically select their captains based on the kind of play they want the rest of their team to have. The Boston Bruins have Zdeno Chara, and the B’s all play as if they’re unstoppable behemoths with a thirst for suffering. In Jonathan Toews, you have a selfless player that sacrifices individual stats in the name of two-way play and strong defensive coverage. That’s reflected in the way the Chicago Blackhawks play.
So kind of message are the Sabres sending to their players by selecting Ott as the captain? And what does that say about the sad state of this team as a whole?
Every time there’s a scrum in Buffalo, Ott is in the middle of it. Is he also a battler and a vocal person in the locker room? One would assume. Yet this is mildly akin to the New York Rangers rolling out Sean Avery as their team captain. Yes, the player-turned-fashion-guru was much more outspoken than Ott in the media, and was a noted coach killer.
But there’s no denying that they both try to impact games in the same way. Both Avery and Ott are capable of scoring goals and posting points—people seem to forget that Avery was a pretty good hockey player when he wasn’t posing as a borderline sociopath—but when they’re at their best, they’re bothering the opposition and giving top players face washes.
That’s the kind of example you want to give young players such as Mikhail Grigorenko? Get real.
The next question is then: Who else could have been selected for team captain? There aren’t a whole lot of options on a Buffalo team that is in the middle of breaking apart the team they tried to buy a few years ago. There are a lot of expiring parts, under-performing players and youngsters on the roster.
Ott as captain is especially concerning given the reputation that the Sabres have garnered for themselves early in this season. Coach Ron Rolston has made very questionable personnel choices that lead directly to Patrick Kaleta and John Scott making boneheaded plays and putting the team in the news for the wrong reasons.
While Ott isn’t known as a particularly dirty player, it’d be easy to paint him as the ringleader of a circus gone wrong for the Sabres.