By John Vogl
Thomas Vanek remembers a time when the Sabres could skate onto the ice, have a lackluster performance and still leave with a victory. With two straight playoff misses and a rebuilding team in place, those days are gone.
“Whoever makes our team, we won’t be favored by anyone,” Vanek told The News today. “That’s OK. I think you can be a young team and a good team. I think we have two good goaltenders who can play.
“You have to battle, and every game’s going to be important for us. Teams in the past we’ve had, we had off nights and we would still win. I don’t think that’s going to happen too much anymore. I think we have to be on top of our game to beat the Detroits and those kinds of teams.
“In the past for us we’ve had good teams. Maybe our goals were a little too high. I think every team thinks it’ll work hard for that Stanley Cup, but I think you have to take it a step at a time. For us, I think it really is just to get into the playoffs.”
It remains to be seen whether Vanek will be in Buffalo come playoff time. He’s entering the final year of his contract and has been the subject of trade talks. Still, he’s not surprised he skated in First Niagara Center today.
“No, not at all,” he said. “My end-of-the-year meeting was good. I just said my thoughts. I never asked for a trade, so from that point on I’m not surprised that I’m still here. But at the same time, if they would have moved me, I wouldn’t have been surprised either way.
“This is just a story that until something happens people want to know. To me, it’s not an issue.”
Vanek said he hasn’t closed the door on a contract extension, but he wants to see how the young team and new coach Ron Rolston perform before he decides his future.
“I just want to see where it goes,” Vanek said. “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.
“It’s a new coaching staff, it’s new everything, a lot of new players. I like Ron. I think the youth is good that we have, but I don’t know our young guys how good they can be. Until you see it over a good span of games, I don’t think anyone’s going to know.”