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Second Take with Brad Gelber – O Captain! My Captain!

A note of transparency here before we get rolling with this week’s column… During the thick of football/hockey season I typically try and split my time between the Bills and Sabres. Obviously wherever the more interesting story lines lie is where I tend to go. In the past by the time we get to December, I am usually exclusively writing about the Sabres as the Bills season tends to be over, but as we all know this year has been rather different.

That being said, other than some big stories like the coaching/front office change, or TV being shipped to Strong Island, I feel as though most of the Sabres story lines have just been beaten to death. Guess that’s what happens when you’re one of the absolute worst teams in the league. However, this week I’m taking a break from the Bills to talk Sabres. This could be the last time for a while, so enjoy!

When the NHL season started things looked a lot different for the Buffalo Sabres. Darcy Regier was still doing whatever he did all those years as “GM.” Ron Rolston was “coaching” and John Scott was embarrassing himself. O and a guy you might remember by the name of Thomas Vanek was a co-captain on the team. Fast forward a few months and the only constant variable remaining is (unfortunately) John Scott. With Vanek’s early departure, Steve Ott was handed the reigns as full-time captain for the Sabres and with that took on all of the burden/responsibilities that came along with it.

Going into the season many thought Ott may be handed the “C” right of the gate. Since joining the team the year before he had constantly worked hard and been a veteran presence in a locker-room filled with guys old enough to be attending Senior Prom. He was also a clear fan-favorite, which helps from a community support perspective.

Coming off a captain like Jason Pominville who was obviously a beloved player in his own right, is never easy. Most fans’ issue with Pommers was that he wasn’t a “vocal leader,” at least from what fans could see. He was more like Vanek in that he led by his play on the ice. Now I get that for some teams that type of leadership works, but for me whenever I imagine a captain I think about the guy willing to stand up in the locker room in between periods, when your teams down a goal and give some emotional speech that would make Herb Brooks proud…

Especially when you have a church mouse type coach like Ron Rolston, having someone to deliver that passion seems to be crucial. No matter the team, everyone needs someone to light a fire under them now and again. To me that’s why Steve Ott made perfect sense.

If you follow my writing at all, you know how I feel about the tough guy/enforcer role in the NHL, so I’m not necessarily a big fan of Steve Ott. BUT I do see the value in having him in a leadership role on this particular, under talented and under aged team.

In my eyes Steve Ott goes out there and does exactly what he’s asked to do. Just because he’s asked to do more than his talent necessarily allows doesn’t really make it his fault, does it? If on most teams he’s a third line caliber player, but the coaches in Buffalo ask him to play on the first line, what would you like him to do? Say thanks, but no thanks? He goes out there and plays hard on most nights when no one else is and just because he’s not an offensive juggernaut doesn’t mean he’s not playing up to his potential. Hell, the guy is probably overproducing when you look at the numbers on the rest of the team.

My goal isn’t to come across as a Steve Ott “apologist” here, but I just don’t understand how folks can be bashing him night in and night out. This is a TERRIBLE team. Like so bad I want to cry on most nights, but the reasons for that start long before Steve Ott. Sure the leader of the team should take some of the blame, but when the most offensively gifted player in recent history is traded well before anyone expects and you have to not only inherit the full-time captaincy from him, but inherit it on a team this bad, I think we should be a bit more understanding. Then again, if a captain is really supposed to sink with his ship, by the time this season ends… Ott will have surely drowned anyways.

Tweet of the Week: 

Got some Captain in you?



Have your own opinion on this week’s column or a topic you want featured in next week’s column? Get at me on Twitter: @BradleyGelber