Sunday, October 31, 2010

On Rivet's benching

Besides the comically overinflated attendance number of 10,172 - come on, there's no way that was accurate unless everyone was sitting in the upper bowl and invisible to TV viewers - the most interesting storyline that emanated from Philips Arena Friday night was, by far, the benching of Craig Rivet.

It's no secret that I'm not a fan of Cement Skates.  We've been led to believe that his badly deteriorated play over the last year was the result of a bum shoulder, but it's apparent to most observers by now that the game has passed him by.  He simply can't skate anymore; many an opposing forward blows by him as if he's standing still.  He has been an albatross to whatever defensive partner has been unfortunate enough to be paired with him, usually Butler or Sekera, whose plus/minus and overall play has suffered as a result of compensating for Rivet. If not for the C on his chest, he'd likely have been benched some time ago.

Benching a captain is a bold move; one that is natural for Rivet to be upset and angry about.  Lindy Ruff himself was benched while serving as Sabres captain in 1989, and was so incensed that he forced a trade to the New York Rangers. So when John Vogl confirmed Rivet's assumed discontent on Sabres Edge, I was interested in what Rivet's choice of words would be.  This comment in particular from Rivet struck my eye:
"He wasn’t happy with the way I’ve been playing, and I’m sure you can probably look around the room and can maybe point out a few guys, but me individually I think I need to be better."
Did "Captain" Craig Rivet just throw his teammates under the bus?

The topic being discussed was his own poor play, and he chose to bring the play of his teammates into the discussion.  Sure, it's only a subtle deflection of blame, but it's there - and that, my friends, is not something a "leader" does.

So what's next?  Whether Rivet demands a trade or not, it's clear the C doesn't belong to him anymore.  Chris laid out the list of potential captains in a great post at the Goose's Roost, and I don't much care for the options.  Vanek's psyche is too fragile. Roy is still too immature. Stafford needs to establish himself. Grier hasn't produced.  Niedermayer, either. Gaustad is essentially a fourth-liner right now. 

I think I come to the same conclusion that Chris seems to: the next captain of the Sabres may not be on the roster.  But for now, I say the C goes to whoever steps up and salvages this season before it becomes a complete trainwreck.

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