As a long time Sabres' beat reporter for WGR, Paul Hamilton is pretty astute.
Through hundreds of interviews over the years he's been able to cut through coach-speak and player-talk to get and the root of where an individual is at mentally.
Which makes his latest piece on Sabres winger Thomas Vanek a bit troubling.
Hamilton writes that Vanek is not thrilled to be on the right wing for the Sabres at Day-2 of training camp. 'I have to be open to it,' said Vanek. It was their first day on the ice and head coach Ron Rolston put him on the right wing with recently inked center Cody Hodgson and young left winger Marcus Foligno.
Said Rolston of the line: "We like [Vanek and Hodgson] together for sure. They were good last year. I think Cody can make plays, [has] really good vision and obviously [Vanek's] a good finisher. Right now we've got Marcus there to provide some heavy hockey on the wing. Hopefully Marcus can come in and continue to play that way, be physical and make some space for those guys."
Vanek is entering his eighth NHL season and as a veteran he's earned the right to play at a position he's more comfortable with. 'If I had a choice I'd rather play left because it's always what I've played,' he said in the Hamilton piece.
But here's the rub.
Foligno's future is just beginning in Buffalo. Vanek's future is more than likely somewhere else playing for another team.
Just as Vanek has said he's keeping his options open during the last year of his contract in Buffalo, so are the Sabres keeping their options open for the development of their assets.
It's no longer how the Sabres with Thomas Vanek will approach the season. It's more how the Sabres will approach the season as they transition away from Vanek on the team.
Throughout the whole process of Vanek entering the final year of his contract in Buffalo the star winger has been detached and business-like. Which is fine because professional sports is a business.
But sometimes emotions seep through the words, and in this case Vanek seems to be showing signs of disenchantment bordering on whining, 'We'll see,' he said. 'I guess I'm playing the right as of right now, which is something new for me so I guess I'll have to worry about myself right now.'
Worry about himself.
Just like he did when he signed that 7yr./$50M offer sheet in 2007.
Or his mention recently about how he's approaching the possibility of re-signing in Buffalo, 'I just want to see where it goes. I have that right, and I’m taking it. I don’t feel like I’m doing a disservice to anyone. Some people might agree with me, some don’t. That’s the way it goes either way.'
Or like he said over the summer while in Minnesota, "you'd like to be on a team where you feel like going into camp you're contending. Right now in Buffalo we're rebuilding which is not the best case scenario for me."
Or like back in April when he said ,"yeah, I’ve thought about [being traded]. If it looks like it’s a long rebuild, then it probably makes sense for both parties to move on.”
It would seem as if Vanek checked out a while ago and is ready to move on. And for their part, the Sabres look to be moving on from him as well as indicated by placing young left winger Marcus Foligno at his natural left wing position.
If the situation dictates a short-term vet be placed somewhere other than his accustomed position, so be it.
It's just business.