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Farewell, My Captain

The Sabres have had a busy month. With the change in ownership, the addition of Brad Boyes and the current race back into the playoff picture there has been a lot of optimism. I hope, though, that fans are taking just a moment to stop and look back at one of the other big moves during deadline week.

Captain Craig Rivet was claimed off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets two days before the deadline, ending his career with the Buffalo Sabres. A career that started so promisingly in the summer of 2008.

When Rivet arrived in Buffalo from San Jose he was accepted with open arms. On a team desperate for toughness and leadership, he provided the promise of both. The Sabres had just shipped underachiever Steve Bernier out of town and used the draft picks to acquire Rivet.

Rivet was immediately voted as team captain by his teammates. This was a distinction that no one player had held since Stu Barnes in 2003. He brought a new look to a franchise that was looking for a change.

He played in 64 games in his first season in Buffalo, registering two goals and 22 points while keeping a steady +5. He played a shutdown, tough-guy role rather effectively on a team that missed the playoffs.

The next offseason Rivet came through for his teammates. He convinced Mike Grier it was time to give Buffalo another shot. The two players essentially became assistant coaches on the bench and in the locker room.

While Rivet was an integral part of the Sabres’ great season, it wasn’t his on ice contributions that made the difference. He suffered from a recurring shoulder injury and tried to play through it. It didn’t work and his play suffered. He became a liability on the ice and may have hindered the development of Chris Butler.

The point remains though that Rivet captained a young team to a division title. While much of the credit goes to Ryan Miller and Tyler Myers, it is important ro remember the emotional leaders like Rivet and Grier.

This season Rivet came in fighting for his spot in the lineup. He lost and Lindy Ruff was ironically forced to bench his Captain. Rivet’s speed and finesse have suffered and he was passed on the depth chart by Chris Butler and Mike Weber.

Eventually he asked to be traded. He was finally claimed off waivers by Columbus when trade attempts failed. He scored a goal in his first game with the team. Hopefully a chance was all he needed, but the end is near for Craig Rivet.

So it’s time to bid adieu to our captain. He was a leader the Sabres needed. He was passionate and vocal. He was willing to stand up for his teammates.

He was great for the locker room. He was a professional. He always gave it his all. He was smart and gritty. He is the guy I wanted nurturing young defensemen. He was honest with the media, but he was also tactful.

One thing that stood out was how great he was at spreading the glory and taking the blame. When team was doing well it was a team effort. When there were issues he took ownership, he didn’t make excuses.

Fans were shocked when he turned out to be injured. He never blamed his poor play on that injury, he just apologized for it. With Rivet, it was never about him, there was no drama.

When he was benched he spoke his mind wthout throwing anyone under the bus. On most teams in the league this would have been “captain gate” with public pleas for a trade and constant distractions. Not with Craig Rivet.

Rivet was the professional, a great teammate, a leader, a Buffalonian at heart and a breath of fresh air for this organization. It is sad to see him go, but it was time. I personally hope Rivet can have a great stretch in Columbus and can retire on a high note. He deserves it. The Sabres are grateful for all that you’ve done.

Jeff Pawlak wrote an article in December about how Rivet needed to give up the captaincy.. Click here to take a look at it.

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