Longtime readers of this blog may recall that when I started this blog I had almost no affection for Thomas Vanek. In the fall of 2007 I was irked with Vanek for the whole, “Hey, I’m going to squeeze a zillion dollars out of the Sabres because Kevin Lowe is a lunatic and Darcy bungled negotiations with the co-captains so badly that he’ll have no choice but to give me what I want,” routine. (And yes, I understand it was Vanek’s right as an UFA to sign that offer sheet, and yes, in the same position I probably would’ve done the same thing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t refer to him as “Slag-Faced Whore” for an entire season because of it.)
My point is that I used to be pretty merciless when it came to Thomas Vanek. Unless he was scoring multiple goals per game, I went out of my way to abuse him on this blog. Even when he was scoring multiple goals per game, I was still kind of a beeyotch about him. What can I say? I used to love to hate Thomas Vanek. It was my thing.
But along the way, something terrible happened. I let down my guard, and I got soft on Thomas Vanek.
At the risk of echoing my Sabres soul-sister Heather, when it comes right down to it, Thomas Vanek is just not that hateable. Sure, he’s slaggy, and he’s not NEARLY good enough at hockey, and deep down in our hearts we all suspect that the Sabres will never be a genuine Cup contender if Thomas Vanek is expected to be “the guy,” but even in spite of all that, Thomas Vanek somehow manages to be a sympathetic figure. He just is. Maybe he’s sympathetic because his low self-esteem is evident in every shift, maybe it’s because he’s almost always got a face full of zits, or maybe it’s because it’s we’re all living in denial, praying that he’s about to morph into his mega-awesome mode.
All I know is that I’ve been treating Vanek with kid gloves and it has got to stop.
I watched the game last night on DVR delay, and by the time I plopped down in front of the television I was pretty tired. It was a great game for the Sabres. All the right guys looked good. Some of the more worrisome defensemen looked calm and capable. (Myer, Butts, and even Rivet looked good). Pommerdoodle showed up in a suit, and his head wasn’t bleeding and he wasn’t strapped to a stretcher…which was nice. It was a thoroughly pleasant game, and perfect for my mood because I was worn out, and I just wanted to see them win without any fuss or muss.
Because the game was so breezy, I had lots of opportunity to check each guy out. For the most part, I was pleased with the Sabres, but in the early part of the third period when the score was 3-1 and it came time for me to ask myself, “How is Thomas Vanek looking tonight?” the answer was a resounding, “LIKE A FESTERING BOIL”. All of the old 2007 Thomas Vanek frustrations came flooding back, and I mentally decided, I’M DONE WITH THIS LOSER. HE’S NEVER GOING TO BE GOOD AGAIN. HE’S TOO CRAZY. THOMAS VANEK IS THE WORST “THE GUY” IN HOCKEY.
I’m not sure why I chose that moment to snap (the Sabres were winning easily and I was very much enjoying the game), but I did. And it felt good. It felt right. Bagging on Thomas Vanek is how it’s supposed to be. Even when the Sabres are winning.
And that’s when that little jerk scored! That’s when Thomas Vanek scored a meaningless, gorgeous goal-scorer’s goal.
He always does this.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the arena, and juuust as I’m declaring my everlasting disgust with Thomas Vanek, he scores a goal. I feel like it’s happened dozens of times. Possibly millions. I don’t want to hate him, but he leaves me no choice.
It’s time I face facts: No matter how sympathetic, likable or (frankly) kind of pitiable I find him to be, Thomas Vanek plays better when I’m cursing his name. I don’t know why, I don’t particularly like it, but damn it, I’m willing to do my part. It’s tragic really. Thomas Vanek and I are locked in some sort of epic battle which I do NOT understand, but if the Hockey Gods require that I abuse him, abuse him I must.
Thomas Vanek, you better look out, because it is on.