It’s been a tough start for Buffalo, despite starting the season by winning the first two games. Thomas Vanek, however, has been hot from the start and has shown no signs of cooling. He’s got 19 points in just 8 games (he missed one), and has never looked more dominant. He’s being ably assisted by Cody Hodgson and Jason Pominville on what might be the best line Buffalo’s had since Briere and Drury were still here. So what’s the problem? Well, Vanek isn’t leading the Sabres forwards in TOI, and that’s bad, okay? It’s terrible!
For reference: I used to complain about Vanek’s low ice time. But when I did it, he was getting 14-15 minutes a game many nights. He’s at 19:13 right now, two minutes better than his highest season average TOI ever (17:21 in 2010-2011). That sounds pretty good to me. Mike Harrington and others shout “There are 55 players getting more ice time than Vanek!!”. Yeah? How many of those have as many points? NONE. Because he’s LEADING THE LEAGUE. Playing 26 minutes a night hasn’t helped Kovalchuk. Vanek has more ice time than Vincent Lecavalier, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Marian Hossa. The other top scorers so far are either at the 19 minute range, up at 21 minutes (for those that play on the PK). Look at it this way – top 60 in icetime in a 30 team league would put you on the top line, if lines were sorted that way
There are other reasons not to play Vanek more. He’s a guy that puts a ton of pressure on himself. Do you really want Ruff, who has never seemed completely at ease with Vanek, telling him 19 points in 8 games isn’t good enough? We already have TV quotes like this:
The latest debacle was a 4-3 loss to Florida after which Vanek was named the first star. He appeared on the verge of a breakdown afterward.
“It adds up to a losing record,” Vanek said. “Obviously, I gotta do more, too.”
No, Thomas, your TEAM needs to do more. Your defense corps needs to not act like the puck is a being of pure fire, to be thrust away as soon as it approaches. Other forwards can shoot the puck in and chase after it, instead of trying stupid stuff at the blue line.
“But but but, HECHT!” you cry. Yes, Hecht is getting a lot of ice time. Think about Jochen for a second, how would you describe him as a player? Solid, dependable two-way C/LW, responsible in his own end, chips in some goals. Sound like somebody Ruff may be leaning on in light of the horrible D? And for the rest of the players getting more ice time, could Lindy be trying to let them play their way out? The ideal result here is another line (or two!) playing well, not Vanek playing MORE well, when he’s already better than he’s ever been. At the end of the day, Vanek and his linemates are working. Shouldn’t they try to fix the rest of the team before messing with that?