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With Ott gone, who will be Buffalo’s next captain?

Aug 28, 2014, 10:46 PM EST

Tyler Ennis Getty Images

Since the start of 2013, three different players have worn the ‘C’ in Buffalo — Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, and Steve Ott — and they have all been traded. That’s created something of a leadership vacuum for the Sabres going into the 2014-15 campaign.

Fortunately, there have some candidates to fill that void.

Perhaps the most obvious player is Brian Gionta, who inked a three-year, $12.75 million contract with Buffalo over the summer. The 35-year-old doesn’t have experience within the Sabres’ organization, but he has a strong resume after serving as the Montreal Canadiens’ captain and winning the Stanley Cup.

He could prove to be a mentor for the young Sabres and aide them in their rebuilding efforts. After his tenure with Buffalo ends, the team could then hand the captaincy to one of the young forwards that’s established himself and symbolically complete the transitional period at that time.

The Sabres might also opt to go with a younger option to put the focus more squarely on their future. Tyler Ennis, for example, is an interesting choice. He’s just 24 years old (25 in October), but already has 267 NHL games under his belt. On top of that, he’s starting a five-year, $23 million contract this season, so he’s someone that will be around for the rest of Buffalo’s rebuild and then still be young enough to lead them once the Sabres are on the other side of it.

Ennis plans to learn from Gionta and the other veterans on the team, but he also recognizes that at this point he should take on more responsibilities in the locker room.

“It’s time for us (Ennis and Tyler Myers) to take over now,” Ennis said, per team’s website. “It’s a good balance of older guys, middle guys ready to take over and lot of great young kids coming up.”

Another option is for the team to pass on naming a captain this season. As a rookie, Sam Reinhart isn’t expected to take on that role, but the 18-year-old is, as Flames president Brian Burke put it, an “Einstein on the ice” and might be a serious candidate in a year or two if everything goes right. On top of that, if Buffalo has a bad season, it could end up drafting a potential superstar in Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

Would it make sense for the Sabres to leave the position vacant for now in the hopes that one of their promising young players will claim it? That’s up to head coach Ted Nolan, but he certainly has a few interesting paths he could take.

  1. stevepopo - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:51 PM

    Gionta, no questions.

  2. jinx21fan - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:58 PM

    It’s very telling of where things are/were when a incoming FA is seemingly the best choice to be named your team’s Captain. He’s a bridge until the youth movement arrives.

  3. thekindone4 - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:00 PM

    Gionta. Then when Gionta leaves/retires give it to Reinhart with Girgensons and McDavid as A’s!

    • royalvoyager - Aug 29, 2014 at 12:03 AM

      Stop mentioning McDavid, seriously.

  4. shanekelleytx - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:21 PM

    Gionta gets the C, Ennis gets an A, and soon enough one of those blue chips will take over as captain.

  5. withseidelinn - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:28 PM

    Moulson

  6. btlpper68 - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:31 PM

    I prefer josh gorges. I just like everything about him

  7. lowenni - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:45 PM

    Gionta as captain–with a’s going to Josh Gorges, Tyler Ennis…and Tyler Myers–to encourage him to find his confidence again and assume a role as a leader and real prescence on the team.

  8. cantescapekarma - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:45 PM

    My guess as of right now is either Brian Gionta or Matt Moulson as Captain, with Girgensons, Ennis, Myers and Gorges as possible Assistants (with Moulson definitely wearing an A if he is not made captain).
    Gointa is the obvious choice having just captained the Canadiens. But Matty Mo did wear an A for Buffalo last year and the players and coaches raved about what a great guy he is for the locker room and Ted Nolan commented a couple of times about how Moulson was really buying into what they were/are trying to accomplish in Buffalo and what a great leader he was
    I don’t know that Moulson will wear the C, but I would bet money that he will at least be wearing an A.

  9. redwings4013 - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:53 PM

    What about Hodgson? Great young forward will be great some day and someone you keep for a while. And what makes you think Mcdavid is coming to BUF for sure? Even if they do tank the new lottery will most likely do something for teams like 3rd and 4th worst my guess is he goes to Florida, Calgary, or Nashville. Yes buffalo is a possibility but everyone makes it seem like a for sure thing and it’s not. But my choices for captain would be gionta,Hodgson,Ennis or moulson with “A” to Ennis if he doesn’t get it and gorges (if Ennis does then one of the others

    • hockey412 - Aug 29, 2014 at 8:55 AM

      If you give it to Hodgson now, how do you take it off of him when a true leader steps up. Maybe some of it is team perception as well. But say for example Reinhart ends up being a true leader of men on and off the ice. You want to keep Hodgson, but how do you strip it off of him without affecting the team climate.

      I like Hodgson and I don’t follow close enough to know what kind of guy he is, but it seems like it should be someone like Gionta who only has a few years left.

  10. anthj99 - Aug 29, 2014 at 12:17 AM

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Girgensons eventually being the Captain of this team. Probably not this year, but when the rebuild is complete I think this guy will rise to the top as a leader. You can already see it in everything this guy does on and off the ice. Whether we’re winning or losing, or completely out of a game he gives it his all and will go out and do whatever it takes to turn the tide for his team. From everything I’ve heard about the guy no one works and trains harder in every aspect of the game and that’s the kind of leader any team needs. I’d say Gionta or Moulson gets it for now and Zemgus will take over very soon. With or without the ‘C’ he’s still a leader on this team.

  11. jacketsfan7 - Aug 29, 2014 at 7:45 AM

    Gionta C
    Girgensons A
    Moulson A
    Gorges A

  12. pmonte3122 - Aug 29, 2014 at 3:29 PM

    Girgensons.

  13. teramarus - Aug 29, 2014 at 11:25 PM

    Stafford is obviously the next captain. We need to keep our recent tradition of trading the captain away at the deadline.

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