For the first time since he was playing juniors in Finland, defenseman Toni Lydman will be the captain of his team.
“But that was a long time ago,” he said “And I have more body hair now.”
The older…and hairier Lydman has impressed Buffalo’s coaching staff this season with his consistent play and on-ice leadership. He will succeed Jochen Hecht
as a Sabres captain for the month of November.
Hecht will not miss having a letter on his jersey, however, as he and Brian Campbell were named as alternates.
“I think Toni has probably been our steadiest of defenders; the most physical,” Lindy Ruff said. “He’s done a real good job penalty killing. I think his effort inside every game has been very good."
Although he has only registered an assist and 12 penalty minutes on the year, Ruff said there were other factors in choosing this month’s captain.
“Often the choice would be guys who get points,” he continued. “But we looked at it on from a game-to-game basis on who we thought was the steadiest. Toni was one of them.”
The 30-year-old was originally drafted in 1996 by Calgary (89th overall), where he played until he was traded to Buffalo in 2005. The blue liner has recorded 130 points in 441 career games.
“It’s a great honor to wear the letter,” Lydman said. “A few years back if somebody would have told me that would happen, I would have probably laughed in their face. That just means one thing, also among others, that I am getting older.”
The Sabres prefer to say Lydman is more mature as a defenseman.
In 2006-07 he led the team with 167 blocked shots and has collected 20 in 10 games this season. His consistency has led to an increased amount of ice time, playing more that 28 minutes in 33 shifts against the Tampa Bay Lightning Oct. 27 and averaging more than 20 minutes per game.
“The last few games have been better than the start of the season,” Lydman said. “I wasn’t too happy about my play over the first couple of games. Hopefully it will keep going the right way and getting better, but I believe there is a lot that I can improve on.”
So far, it appears he is doing something right, becoming the second captain for Buffalo this year after Ruff opted to rotate the letter monthly following the departure of co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere in the offseason.
“It definitely wasn’t my vocal abilities in this room,” Lydman said. “I’m not going to change my style. If there’s really an issue that I need to talk about I might, but there is enough guys that are talking before the games... I am not one of them.”
Lydman’s defensive partner, Henrik Tallinder, argues that Lydman’s play speaks volumes.
“He doesn’t take it [lightly]. It’s a big honor for him, but that’s the kind of guy he is,” Tallinder said. “Just down to earth and a cool guy.”