My relationship with Thomas Vanek is hard to define. If you asked me to list the Sabres entire roster in order of personal preference, Thomas would be middle-ish. Not buried at the bottom but not way at the top either. And yet, I have a very hard time saying mean things about him and feel oddly protective toward him when other people do. I've written before about how there are certain players I just root for. I feel happy for their successes on a more personal level. Thomas is definitely in that group of players.
I think my sympathy lies largely in what a sad sack he is. When Derek Roy plays like crap, he doesn't appear to care at all. I'm not convinced he even notices. When Thomas isn't producing, however, you can practically see him planning his leap off the roof of HSBC. He's despondent. He knows what his role on the team is and it bothers him when he's not carrying it out. Derek's way is probably more healthy, but Thomas's is more appealing, at least to me. As a fan, all I really want at the end of the night is to feel like the players care. Thomas cares. He sometimes cares to the point of being a bit of a headcase, but for me, that's kind of endearing.
So I was really happy to see Good Thomas Thursday night. He was clearly one of the best players on the ice, and if he plays like that for the whole postseason well, good things are going to happen. As happy as I was to see him play well, however, I was even happier to see his postgame interview. He sounded fantastic: focused, confident, and relaxed. And as we've established, relaxed is not a word that can be applied to him often. He's clearly flipped a mental switch. More than any other guy on the team, I think he needed the regular season to end so he could start over with a clean slate. I wanted to give him a big hug. I hope we hear "Roy to Vanek!" many, many times in the next couple of months.
On a side note... I've been a huge critic of the Buffalo News over the past few years and while Bucky has gotten most of my ire, Jerry Sullivan has gotten his share too. I would hardly lump the two of them in the same category however. I think Bucky is extremely condescending to his audience and I don't think he's a particularly good columnist. The few email exchanges I've had with him were pretty unpleasant. (And they were all before I was blogging because I have to admit, if I were Bucky I probably wouldn't be very nice to me at this point.) But I've found Sully to be smart and willing to engage - I think he might even like the occasional back-and-forth - and most importantly, he can freakin' write. He and Mike Harrington are head and shoulders above everyone else in the sports department in my opinion. Sully wrote a really nice little column about Jochen Hecht a few weeks back and then followed it with a very positive end of the season Sabres column. Good stuff. But today he crushed it out of the park with his column about Patrick Kaleta and Tim Kennedy. He made me cry because seriously, how amazing must this be for those two kids? In the morning I'm buying a paper and putting that one away somewhere because it's a keeper. If you haven't read it yet, click on the link and check it out. Believe me, I would not send you to the TBN website if it wasn't worth it.
I'm going to Game 2 so expect a full report later. WOOOOOOOOOOOO!