End of an Era? Buffalo Sabres’ Captain Craig Rivet Scratched

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The expectations were high for the reigning Northeast division champion Buffalo Sabres entering this season. The playoffs seemed like a no brainer, with many analysts and fans picking them to also repeat as division champs. Lindy Ruff, Darcy Regier and the players all talked about how they believed the Sabres were legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

Flash forward to now, and you find a Sabres team mired in a 3-6-2 start and looking more like a team that will get the first pick in next summer’s draft than one that will be playing well into June.

Many things have contributed to the Sabres’ slow start. They have several new players on the squad, have struggled to score goals at key times of the game, Tyler Myers is stuck in a massive sophomore slum, and goaltender Ryan Miller has been average at best.

All of those things are very troubling, but there are two problems that rise above everything else. This year’s edition of the Buffalo Sabres has shown an extreme lack of focus, and a knack of crumbling in the face of adversity.

They look like world beaters for one period and then a confused midget squad the next. When the Sabres hit the post, get a bad call or a bounce goes the other team’s way, they start taking stupid, untimely penalties and fall completely apart. Both of these things are terrible signs for a team that was supposedly maturing and coming into their own.

In an attempt to shake up his squad, head coach Lindy Ruff has implemented and carried out a policy where only the best players will play. It has seen different players get benched for periods at a time or scratched from games all together.

Ruff’s axe has now found captain Craig Rivet, who was benched for an 11-minute stretch in the third period of Tuesday’s game against Philadelphia after taking a penalty that put the Sabres down two men. Then the captain was a healthy scratch last night against the Atlanta Thrashers.

Craig Rivet has had a respectable career. The defenseman has suited up for the Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks and the Buffalo Sabres during his 17 years in the NHL. Rivet is known for his rugged style of play and fighting. Rivet has taken on many team’s heavyweights and has never backed down from an altercation no matter who he was facing.

General Manager Darcy Regier brought in Craig Rivet to add toughness to the Sabres and to mentor young players such as Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Chris Butler, Andrej Sekera and Drew Stafford. However, age and injuries have affected the way Rivet plays. He has lost a step and hardly ever drops the gloves anymore. Also, Mike Grier has had a larger effect on the Sabres’ young core then Rivet has, so it becomes clear that he is not doing his job as captain of this team.

When Ruff was asked about scratching Rivet he said, “He just hasn’t played well enough, hasn’t played well enough. That’s just the bottom line. He missed training camp, and it just seems like he’s a step behind right now.”

So now the Buffalo Sabres have another problem to deal with. Should Craig Rivet still be the captain of this team? No. This team’s lack of focus and maturity falls on Lindy Ruff and Craig Rivet’s shoulders. Many people have called for Ruff’s head, and while that may eventually happen it is not going to anytime soon.

Lindy Ruff has been the coach of the Buffalo Sabres for 13 years, is being inducted into the Buffalo sports Hall of Fame soon and is closing in on 500 wins. So that leaves changing the captain as the only option to get this team back on track, and I believe this will happen in the next few days.

I’m not sure what Craig Rivet will do. Rivet most likely is very angry about being a healthy scratch and Lindy Ruff said, “No player understands, he won’t understand.” 

Ruff had the same thing happen to him while he was captain of the Buffalo Sabres. Ruff would go on to relinquish his captaincy and was then traded to the New York Islanders. My guess is that Rivet will do the same. I do not believe that he will be traded, but that he will retire. Rivet talked about retiring before the season began, and I would not be surprised if he hung up the skates. It is sad that it may end this way, but something has to be done to shake this team up. 

My choice for the next captain of the Blue and Gold would be either Derek Roy or Thomas Vanek. Who do you think it should be?   

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