Play Thomas Vanek 1029 NHL Games over 14 seasons with eight organizations.
Along the way, Vanek’s classmates praised his sharp hockey mind. When he started his career in 2005-06, Buffalo CyberThe dressing room spoke his language and formulated his point of view.
"The conversations we’ve had about hockey with a lot of these guys, we’d say 'Yeah, I understand exactly what you mean' and we go out and do it," Vanek said.
At first, Vanek thought this was just the case in the NHL, where the best skaters, the best competitors, and the best thinkers congregate at the top of the hockey world.
Eventually learn otherwise.
"Later in my career, I might try to explain the same concept and you could tell them they didn’t understand it or see it the way I saw it," Vanek said.
"This Sabers had a very high IQ and a high hockey IQ."
Many consider 2005-06 to be the greatest team in Cypress history. They shot out of the lock a fast, seemingly relentless fireball headed for the tournament before inflicting their own hateful injuries. One tough period shy of the Stanley Cup Final.
Buffalo’s skill set and personality were clear, but what we discover nearly two decades later is just how much mental strength is amassed inside the locker room.
The San Jose Sharks This month appointed Mike Greer general manager, awarding the same power to 2005-06 Linemite Chris Drury with New York Rangers. The Philadelphia Flyers This year he appointed Daniel Brier as Special Assistant to General Motors. Last month , Chicago Blackhawks He promoted Brian Campbell to hockey operations advisor, a role that could increase further with the departure of senior advisor Scotty Bowman two weeks ago.
Last month, Jay McKee won the OHL Championship as head coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs. Adam Mayer is the Director of Player Development at Sabers.
"This is the group we have," said Ryan Miller, the 2005-06 National Hockey League goalkeeper. “We were competitive, and we worked hard. We came to things honestly. That bubbles. You have to have knowledge of the many different aspects of hockey.
“They are connected in this way. All of these leaders have taken the next step in the evolution of hockey, which makes getting off the ice makes sense.”
Miller and more of these Sabers may also be on their way to the NHL front desks and seats. Former teammates consider Miller, Vanek, Jason Bominville and JP Dumont to be coaches or front office employees.
Dumont is the coach of the Nashville Junior Predators and director of hockey operations.
The other three want to wait until their kids are older before diving in. Miller attended the NHL draft as an advisor to longtime friend Kay Whitmore, the league’s chief operating officer of hockey. Bauminville coached the Montreal Junior Canadiens, including his son, for a championship at the prestigious Quebec International Pee-Wee Championship.
“It’s really fun to see a friend and ex-teammate all of these guys do so well,” said Vanek, who has been focusing on baseball and other sports like hockey for his three sons in Minnesota. "You want these guys in the game. That’s what’s great. It’s fresh blood, and it’s right blood."
With so many 2005-2006 Sabers already involved and more ready to jump in, those glory years will live on as his former teammates try to emulate what worked so well when overflowing fans stood outside the HSBC Arena to watch play-offs on screens.
Even with Drury and Campbell winning the Stanley Cup and Brier reaching the final over other clubs, Sibers' roster built for 2005-2006 should be in their minds as one to emulate.
They would also have seen themselves to avoid mistakes like GM’s Darcy Regier policy of not negotiating contracts during the season, which wiped out crucial influence and led to two heartbreaking departures, most notably Drury and Breyer of free agency in 2007.
"You don’t realize how important culture is until you lose it," Brier said. “We had guys who wanted to be together and play together. That goes a long way. And we had a lot of guys who always wanted to learn.
“That’s what was so cool about it. We all had our own ways of driving, but we were learning other ways as well.”
The appearance of the suit and tie for his Buffalo teammates is even more remarkable when considering that they have not branched from the tree of any particular coach or executive.
tens NFL Coaches and executives have been given opportunities across the league simply through working relationships with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich had a similar impact on NBA.
Cypress coach Lindy Raff’s influence doesn’t quite match, but is seen as a common denominator.
"With Lindy, I don’t think it has always been about winning and losing as much as it has been about doing all you can and leaving it all there," Mackie said. "When that becomes ingrained in you as a person, when you move on from playing, you don’t just stop it."
"I myself as a coach, and those guys that are now general manager, the all-it-takes mindset stays with you, whether it’s putting in extra time at work or getting ahead of everyone around you."
The 2005-2006 Cypress was marked by a large group of former and future captains. The number has been inflated somewhat by Ruff, who, in the previous season, converted a Buffalo captain every month.
But five players in the 2005-2006 locker room were permanent NHL captains at some point in their careers. Drury and Brier were co-leaders. Vanek and Bauminville will become captains at the start of the dry season that broke the second leg record in 11 seasons. Defenseman Teppo Numminen, who has reached over 1,200 matches, previously served two years as captain of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Cypress strikers Alice Kotalik and Jochen Hecht and defender Dmitriy Kalinin became leaders in their respective professional leagues. Defenders Rory Fitzpatrick and Nathan Peach were AHL captains. Dumont and quarterback Derek Roy led the junior clubs. Rookie striker Daniel Bale was the captain of Team Canada at the 2004 World Junior Championships.
That’s a lot of Si, said Bauminville, "I didn’t know it until you said it.
“Everyone had a chance to lead in their own way. When the same person is always repeating things, sometimes it can get old. But it was always a different person, coming up with the right words at the right times.”
Cypress was so overwhelmed with driving that Mackie was never the captain (he injured half of Ruff’s monthly rotation season), but Mackie was the permanent replacement for Brier and Drury in 2005-06.
Greer never wore a letter in Buffalo and was never a captain anywhere else, though he was a replacement for sharks and Edmonton Oilers.
"We never had anyone think, 'I need to be the leader!'" Vanek said. “I saw eight or nine of these guys as leaders. It spread through the room that we were one; We were here together."
Lest we forget goalkeepers, who are not allowed to be captains or substitutes in the NHL.
Buffalo had a pair of base-caliber goalkeepers with integrated leadership personalities.
"Millie would knock every once in a while," said Bauminville, laughing. “He wasn’t afraid to say what he needed. He would get emotional.”
Then there was Martin Peron, the sparkling racer. When Flyers was traded for Peron in February 2007, he ranked third among all Cypress goalkeepers in games, winning by savings percentage.
Vanek said: “Of anyone on the team, Marty probably deserves the most recognition because he could have been the number one goalkeeper in the league for twenty other teams. But he put his ego away, he was never in a bad mood and he was a fun guy.”
"Although he was competitive, he was there for Ryan, supporting Ryan, and supporting us all."
Compared to other Vanek pit stops, he pointed out 2005-2006 Sabers didn’t have players to ignore defeat simply because they had a good stat streak that night, a common phenomenon across all sports.
Buffalo’s locker room almost generated its own gravitational force. Mackie explained that when an individual situation does not align with a team dynamic, that player will eventually either succumb to the group or need to trade.
“The leadership and culture of that group were off the charts, and we would have won everything without the injuries,” Mackie said.
Although the Cypresses reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1975 and 1999, many believe their best chance of winning it all was in 2006.
Good fearsome swords tore through the pilots and astounded them Ottawa The senators before misfortune were overtaken by their immense wisdom and talent.
Concussion center Tim Connolly, fracture of Kalinin’s left ankle, groin injury of Noumenin, broken arm of defender Henrik Talender, an arthritis of Mackie’s ankle.
"This is the team you always look at and think, 'Ah! "This is a team that didn’t win, but it was the best team I’ve ever played because of the players we have and the feeling of wanting to come to the rink and wanting to get better," said Vanek.
"This 05-06 team provides many examples of how to create the right culture."
The 2006-07 Cypress won the President’s Cup, but the Senators defeated them in the Eastern Conference Final. Briere and Drury were co-captains again, but anyone who’s played on both teams will say the chemistry wasn’t the same.
Greer, Dumont, Mackie, and Fitzpatrick were not brought back. Connolly was unable to come back from his concussion Until the penultimate game of the regular season. Talinder half year has been sidelined. On the trade deadline, Byron went to the Flyers for a second-round draft pick.
As the Sabers' final glory years fade into darkness, the competitive fires within these players—and their overall leadership evolve—continued over the years and into retirement.
"I knew we had a really good leadership group, but we didn’t know what it would take to be good CEOs," Brier said. “So I would be lying if I told you that I know we are going to have a lot of CEOs in the future.
We didn’t know what would happen in 20 years. It’s amazing to look back and see how special that room was."
(Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)