If you think the job market is tough on regular shmoes, here’s a sign that it’s tough on pro hockey players.
Craig Rivet started last season as captain of the Buffalo Sabres and after spending all summer looking for a new NHL job after not being re-signed by Columbus, Rivet has found another hockey job… In the ECHL.
The Elmira Jackals signed Rivet to play at the NHL’s version of AA-level hockey and expect him to be in the lineup this weekend. It’s not the first time we’ve seen NHL players take a job with another league. We see guys jump to the KHL or other European pro leagues all the time. Taking a job with a low-level minor league team, however, is rare.
For Rivet it shows how quickly things can go off the rails. After all, the guy was playing in the NHL just last season. Granted he was playing for the Blue Jackets, but that’s still NHL-level talent to keep up with. It’s a dramatic fall out of the top league but for Rivet, it’s a chance for him to keep playing and stay in shape in hopes of getting another look from a NHL team.
If you handicapped who you thought would end up wearing the captain’s “C” in Buffalo this season, where would you have Jason Pominville in your rankings? We didn’t have him as a thought at all when analyzing the vacant captaincy last month but that just goes to show we’re a bunch of jerks hammering stuff out on a keyboard in our mother’s basement.
While Buffalo is kicking off their season in Europe, they announced that Jason Pominville will be the team’s new captain. The Sabres’ previous captain was Craig Rivet last season before Rivet was waived out of town. Helping Pominville shoulder the load and the expectations in Buffalo will be four alternate captains: Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford, Paul Gaustad, and Derek Roy.
All five players have been with the Sabres their whole career and given what they’re trying to do in Buffalo now with Terry Pegula’s money helping attract new blood, the stakes are higher than ever in Buffalo and the fans are eager to see the Sabres run deep into the playoffs.
Pominville’s best leadership can come to Buffalo by getting back to being a 30-goal threat this season. Five seasons ago, Poinville potted 34 goals. Since then he’s been a steady 20-25 goal per season guy. Getting those goal numbers to jump would go a long way to helping the Sabres succeed. With the crew of forwards Buffalo has, however, scoring shouldn’t be too much of a problem this season.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are dropping plenty of hints that the organization is going to shake things up. One of the most recent hints, albeit not surprising, will be changes to the roster. Pending free agents Ethan Moreau, Chris Clark, and Craig Rivet have all been notified by the Blue Jackets organization that they will not be returning to the team next season. Each of the (now former) players were brought in by Jackets management with the intention of bringing veteran leadership. In fact, each one of these players was the captain on their previous team. The announcement that each of the players will not be offered contracts could signify a change in philosophy for the team who only has one playoff appearance in franchise history.
The announcement is only the latest move that is making headlines around the league. First, the team announced they were firing their director of pro scouting and their assistant general manager. Next, they have been publically linked to rumors that have them acquiring Jeff Carter from Philadelphia in a salary dump move for the Flyers. Now we hear the team is shedding themselves of the majority of their (perceived) veteran leadership.
The change isn’t simply for the sake of change. Aaron Portzline from the Columbus Dispatch explains exactly what the Blue Jackets stand to gain by letting the veterans go:
“… but it frees up $8.13 million in salary cap space and roughly $7.75 million in actual salary. The Blue Jackets are expecting to be aggressive in free agency, but it’s unclear if GM Scott Howson still feels as if the dressing room needs a veteran voice to steer the youngsters.
The word around the league is the Columbus Blue Jackets are going to be active participants in the free agent market. The mandate from management is to start winning more games so the team can limit the $25 million in losses they incurred last season. Instead of simply slashing payroll to save cash, the Blue Jackets are expected to make acquisitions and put a more competitive product on the ice to bring in the fans. From a fan’s perspective, you can’t ask for anything more from an ownership group.
For the veteran trifecta, it could mean the end of the road for all three. While all three have made a name for themselves around the league as great locker room guys, their productivity on the ice last season left plenty to be desired. Waiver wire pick-up Ethan Morrow was on the shelf twice with various injuries. Craig Rivet was acquired via re-entry waivers, played 14 games for the Jackets and still managed to post a minus 7. Chris Clark only managed 8 goals and 20 points in 89 games since being acquired from the Washington Capitals.
Never say never as the offseason always provides plenty of surprises. But unless there’s a team out there willing to sign a guy strictly for leadership qualities, we may have seen the last of all three players.