After four seasons with the Minnesota Wild, former Sabres captain Jason Pominville returns to Buffalo to help push for the playoffs in 2017-’18.
In recent Sabres history, very few player-number combinations have been as prevalent as Jason Pominville and the No. 29. Though defenseman Jake McCabe has worn it proudly for the last few years, die-hard fans still link it to the former Sabres captain.
Pominville’s postseason heroics and the connection that he built with the Buffalo community during his tenure (which began in 2005-06 and ended when he was traded at the deadline in 2013) still resonates with the fan-base several years after his departure. Entering his 13th professional season, his career has come full circle this summer after being traded back to the Sabres from the Minnesota Wild, along with defenseman Marco Scandella in exchange for forwards Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno.
During Pominville’s first stint in Buffalo, emotions of euphoria and excitement emanated from countless heroic moments orchestrated by the former captain. After scoring the series-clinching goal in the 2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Ottawa Senators, Rick Jeanneret proclaimed his infamous tagline “Now do you believe? These guys are good, scary good!” His emergence alongside fellow rookies Thomas Vanek and Paul Gaustad was seen as the beginning of a bright future for the organization with a young nucleus built for sustained playoff success.
Although the years that followed would fail to reach the expectations of both the franchise and fanbase, Pominville now returns as an experienced veteran who will help guide young core pieces like Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen. In an article written on June 30th by John Vogl of The Buffalo News, Pominville emphasized his eagerness to start a new season with the blue and gold.
“I think we can make strides. If you look at the squad and the team and the depth chart that is on paper, I think we can get in. That’s the goal,” he said when talking about the team’s playoff chances.
In the same article, he also reminisced about the great times he experienced in Buffalo early in his career.
“I was fortunate to play those back-to-back conference finals. There were 10,000 to 15,000 people outside of the arena watching the game on a screen. Hopefully, we can bring that same buzz to the city again and get into the playoffs and create that atmosphere again because it’s definitely something that I still talk about.“
In 578 career games with the Sabres, Pominville scored 185 career goals and earned 271 assists for a total of 456 points. Pominville’s first stint in Buffalo ended after he was traded to the Wild in 2013, a deal in which Buffalo received forward Johan Larsson and former backup goalie Matt Hackett. As a member of the Wild, he posted 76 goals and 130 assists for 206 points. Last season, the 34-year-old veteran scored 13 goals and earned a total of 47 points with Minnesota, which would have left him tied with Sam Reinhart for third most on the Sabres roster.
In an article on the summer edition of Buffalo Hockey Beat, Pominville expressed his excitement to move back to the city he called home for so many years.
“I couldn’t be happier for me and my family going somewhere that we know the city, going to a familiar situation.”
He also noted that his son is excited for the opportunity to watch his father play with Sabres star Jack Eichel.
Though Pominville will still be a very popular player amongst fans, his task now will be to help guide one of the youngest rosters in the league. With several new pieces in place for the 2017-’18 season, there is added pressure for the team to find success quickly, and end the league’s second-longest active playoff drought (Carolina). No. 29 will play a critical role in showing the new core how to win, something he knows quite well. Although he is older now, fans are eager to see if Pominville can bring back some of the magic from a decade ago, and reignite the blue and gold as a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference.