The Buffalo Sabres will have a new captain this season and there are quite a few candidates – both new and old faces – who could be up for the job.
On the first day of training camp at First Niagara Center, coach Ted Nolan said that there isn’t just one player worthy of that honor and he would like to name a captain sooner rather than later.
“I believe in doing things early. If you’re going to do it, do it quick,” he said. “If you know basically know who the decision is then you try to do it as quick as you can, let it settle in and let the leaders lead.”
Last season, Drew Stafford, Zemgus Girgensons, Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson, Tyler Myers and Cody Hodgson were among returning players to wear letters.
There are a lot of guys in that room that lead, whether you have a letter on your chest or not. Everybody has a voice and everybody is part of it. That’s what makes good teams. - Brian Gionta
Brian Gionta, who signed with the Sabres on July 1, served as the captain of the Montreal Canadiens for the past four seasons. Those that know him well have called him a quiet leader and a great role model, especially for younger players.
“You look at him and he doesn’t have to say anything. He doesn’t have to be a rah-rah, in-your-face type of guy,” defenseman Josh Gorges, who played with Gionta for five seasons in Montreal. “But you watch what he does and you see how he’s had success. And you say, ‘Well, if he’s had success doing this then you know what, I’ll follow his lead and I’ll try to have the same success that he had.’”
Gorges was an alternate captain in Montreal as well before being traded to Buffalo over the summer.
It being his first official day of work, Gionta said he’s more focused on getting acclimated with his new teammates and coaches than on whether or not he’ll be named the next captain.
“That’s a little far off. There are a lot of new guys, there are a lot of guys in there that have been around and are leaders. We’ll see where that falls,” he said.
Stafford, currently the longest tenured Sabre, is glad to see veterans like Moulson, Gionta, Gorges and Cody McCormick in the fold to help mold the less experienced players on the team.
“With the young group that we have, they’re very impressionable right now. They’re trying to soak up as much as they can. To have veteran leadership like that around, it’s only going to help,” he said.
Gionta also said that having good chemistry in the locker room can make it easier for leaders to emerge and have their say.
“A lot is made of [being a captain]. A lot is kind of overhyped about it. There are a lot of guys in that room that lead, whether you have a letter on your chest or not. Everybody has a voice and everybody is part of it. That’s what makes good teams,” he said. “Obviously it’s always an honor to have that one you. It’s something that’s pretty special in this League, but at the same time, there are a lot of guys that do things without letters,” Gionta said.
‘WE’RE NOT GOING TO APOLOGIZE IF WE’RE WINNING GAMES’
After a last-place 2013-14 season, the Sabres are looking forward to a new season. While a high pick in next year’s draft – a draft in which Buffalo currently holds three first-round picks – might excite some portions of the fan base, the focus of the players is on earning points in the standings.
“We’re not going to apologize if we’re winning games and starting off strong because that’s what we want to do,” Stafford said. “That’s the group of guys that we have in here. We’re very driven. We’re motivated to get better.”
Gionta, a Stanley Cup winner with the New Jersey Devils in 2003, has his sights set on making the playoffs.
“I didn’t come here to lose. The first step is getting to the playoffs. Once you do that, everything resets and it’s a new season,” he said. “Our goal is to make the playoffs and if you’re not looking at doing that coming into camp then you don’t have the right mindset.”
After playing for three teams in 2013-14, Moulson qualified for the playoffs with the Minnesota Wild. He’s watched his brother-in-law, Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, hoist the Stanley Cup twice and he’s using that as additional motivation to help Buffalo work its way back up the standings.
“You see my brother-in-law collect the Stanley Cup twice, it makes you pretty hungry to get back there and get that Cup,” Moulson said. You see how much hard work goes into it and the satisfaction of winning it. It’s something we’ve all probably dreamt about since the first day we tied our skates. I think this team is destined for great things and I’m excited to be here and be a part of it.”
FRIDAY PRACTICE TIMES
Group A – 10-11:30 a.m.
Group B – Noon-1:30 p.m.
Group C – 2-3:30 p.m.
Participants in each group will be announced Friday morning. All on-ice sessions are open to the public.
The Buffalo Sabres today announced the radio broadcast schedule for the team’s 2014 preseason games. Sabres broadcasters Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray will have the call throughout the preseason.
Here’s the complete list of the scheduled broadcasts:
Sun., Sept. 21 at Washington Capitals, 5 p.m. (ESPN 1520)
Tues., Sept. 23 vs. Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m. (WGR 550)
Fri., Sept. 26 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. (WGR 550)
Sun., Sept. 28 at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. (WGR 550)
Wed., Oct. 1 vs. Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. (WGR 550)
Fri., Oct. 3 at Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m. (WGR 550)