Thomas Vanek has been feeling scary good lately.Indeed, TV has been feeling great lately, and he made a pretty blunt observation as to why he is doing so well during his recent points streak.
The absence of Roy, who had 25 helpers before suffering a season-ending injury, has allowed Vanek to expand his game.
“He’s a center that holds on to the puck and creates a lot,” Vanek said. “I just try to find openings for him. Ever since he’s been out, I feel like I’ve gotten the puck more.”
No doubt about it, Roy is an integral part of the Sabres, leading them in scoring for much of the time since 2007, as he rose to the position of #1 center. But Vanek’s subtle remark here speaks volumes.
“I feel like I’ve gotten the puck more.”
Vanek’s role on the ice is simple. Work the boards until the puck is loose, and slide into a goal scoring position. When the puck comes at the net as a shot, he needs to use his elite hands to tip the puck past the netminder, or snap up a rebound. When the puck comes at the net as a pass, he needs to bury it.
Roy’s speed is great on a rush, but his consistent manner of dishing off a cross ice saucer pass to Vanek just isn’t effective. Roy’s ability to cycle is masterful, but his means achieve a different end compared to what Vanek excels at – Vanek doesn’t need a center skating circles around the boards and sweet slick passes – he just needs the puck, sooner more than later, once he’s parked in front of the net.
Roy’s and Vanek’s styles of play could not be more different.
Vanek has never been one to say much about teammates. But he knows what he needs on his line for him to use his skill set. By taking this subtle stand, he is showing his team, his coaches, and the new ownership what he thinks this team needs to score goals, and to win games.
Whether or not the Sabres will heed Vanek’s call to find a suitable center to skate with him we have yet to see, but fans have definitely seen a better Vanek on the ice since the loss of Derek Roy. (Connolly and Hecht have never been the answer, either.)
Vanek is emerging as a the guy in the locker room who is going to say what needs to be said. He is growing into a leader. It’s up to the Sabres’ brass now to follow Vanek’s lead.
He’s standing in front of the net, Regier. Get him the dang puck.