Lindy Ruff said after today's practice that he has no intention of benching Craig Rivet. Ruff sat Rivet for a large stretch of Tuesday night's shootout loss to the Bruins at HSBC Arena. Rivet played just 4:03 after the first period against Boston. This hardly comes as a surprise. Ruff is understandably sensitive about sitting out his captain. He was benched as captain of the Sabres by Ted Sator.
But if Rivet didn't have the "C" on his jersey, he probably would have watched a game from the press box by now. The veteran defenseman has struggled this season. He has only one goal and 12 points. He has gone 16 games without an assist. Rivet is 103rd among NHL defensemen in points. He is tied for 130th in hits and tied for 160th in blocked shots. Hockey stats don't always tell the story, but Rivet has not been producing in any significant area.
This is what happens when a team is desperate for leadership and has to go outside the organization to find a veteran to fill the void. The Sabres lost a lot of leadership from the team that reached consecutive conference finals after the lockout. They brought in Rivet and handed him the captaincy. He helped bridge the gap, but it's difficult to lead when your own performance is suffering. Rivet is 35 and his days as a top four defenseman might be nearing an end.
At some point, the Sabres need their young core players to develop into leaders. They can't keep borrowing it from the outside. Last offseason, they brought in Mike Grier and Steve Montador to solve a lack of team toughness. It worked, but there are still players on the team whose leadership and toughness leave a lot to be desired. That includes the likes of Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, Tim Connolly and Thomas Vanek.
Is there a future captain among that group?