Thomas Vanek: Goodbye and Thank You

We all knew this day was coming.

Some of us didn’t expect it so soon into the 2013-14 season, but still knew it was inevitable. It still doesn’t change the shock and sadness over Thomas Vanek being traded away on Sunday night.

Thomas Vanek Sabres

With the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings battling on NBC, the World Series playing Game 4, and WWE’s Hell in a Cell pay per view all taking place and clogging up twitter, my feed became more Sabres talk than anything else.

That’s what happens when your last top-five pick, your last consistent scorer, and a guy who’s been with the team since 2005-06 gets traded. So when Vanek was shipped to the New York Islanders for winger Matt Moulson, a 2014 first-round pick, and a 2015 second-round pick, it took precedence over everything else.

Naturally, there was some outrage. One section of the fan base refuses to see what the Sabres are – a bad team – and move on accordingly. They refuse to accept that this is a young team with its best years ahead of it. They refused to see that dealing Vanek will help the future of this team. All they can see are the short-term results instead of the long and winding road ahead.

Even more naturally, some are offended that Moulson will wear his #26 in Buffalo. I get that it has a “too soon” feeling to it – no one has worn Jason Pominville’s #29 since he got dealt – but we aren’t dealing away a Hall of Fame player on his last legs. We aren’t dealing a guy who’s won the team a title or a guy who’s accomplished any major individual feats. We’re dealing a guy who was a good player for a long time. Someone who was popular in a town that lacked star athletes.

Much the same reaction will take place when, not if, goaltender Ryan Miller gets traded. He’s in the same mold as Vanek, only he stops pucks instead of scoring them. And I will say the following things about Miller when his time comes as I am about Vanek:

Thomas Vanek has been all over the net this season (clydeorama/Flickr)
Thomas Vanek has been all over the net this season (clydeorama/Flickr)

Thank you for all you’ve done for the team and city. It’s not easy playing Buffalo, a notorious pit of sports despair. It’s not easy playing in a city with a declining population, a job market in fluctuation, in front of a group of fans as impatient as those in Buffalo. There are times this fan base didn’t deserve you, but you gave your all every night and were often the only glimmer of hope the last two years.

Thank you for helping the team even on your way out. You knew what this was and you accepted it with grace. You didn’t badmouth the team at any point and you didn’t veto a trade because it wasn’t a place you’d like to end up. Your departure brought back valuable picks and a perhaps valuable trade piece in Moulson for down the line.

So best of luck, Thomas. Just know that I’m glad you finally have a real-life elite center to play with. It’s absolutely real and not some figment of your imagination. And know that I’ll be pulling for the Islanders this season.

Ryan is a lead writer for The Hockey Writers as well as editor for Mile High Sticking and co-owner of The Farm Club. Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things puck, Bills football, or his hatred of all things Philly

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