WGRZ/WGR550 Sabres/NHL insider Paul Hamilton shares his thoughts on the Sabers captaincy in the short and long term.
Kyle Okposo looks to be the next captain of the Buffalo Sabres. It means a lot when I talk about him being a great leader since he got here from the New York Islands.
Okposo takes young players under his wing. Both Okposo and Casey Mittelstadt are from Minnesota, and Mittelstadt has mentioned to me several times how much Okposo’s guidance has helped him.
I think Don Granato is making the right move by not making one of his young players captain sooner. This franchise did it with Jack Eichel because they didn’t want him to get mad. Back then, everything was done to please Jack.
While I don’t think making Okposo the captain was the wrong move, he hasn’t changed much from last year except for one thing. Zemgus Girgensens and Okposo were named co-captains, but Granato decided to have both wear the “A” on their jerseys. I think Girgensons brings a different, but important leadership, and it worked last season. As with Chris Drury and Danny Brere, I will captain them both. What I would change from last season would be to put the “C” on Okposo for the first 41 games and then Girgenson for the last 41 games.
Okposo has only one year left on his contract and if I were Kevin Adams I would want to sign him to a one year deal as long as it doesn’t work out. That’s when I give the “C” to one of the younger players, but who?
Ever since Alex Tuch arrived from the Vegas Golden Knights in the Echelon trade, it seems fans have wanted him to be their next captain. Tuch just loves this franchise and is a big part of why the culture holds for this team.
I don’t have any information about this, but I think Granato wants to give the captaincy to Rasmus Dahlin. The only question is if Adams and Terry Pegula were on board. Granato is the reason Dahlin went from a train wreck to one of the best defensemen in the NHL in a matter of months.
The Sabers head coach decided Dahlin was tired of the offensive criticism from the fans and the media, so he talked about how well he was playing almost every day, even though he wasn’t. He either develops his game or his leadership skills and Dahlin appreciates his coach getting his back and starting to play to his potential. The improvement in his game was amazing.
Personally, I think this is a big mistake. I don’t think Dahlin is even close to captain material. I think he will be a very good person to be part of their leadership team, but he will not be the captain.
Ever since he came here I’ve been consistent with what I think should be the captain. It’s Dylan Cozens for me. I think his work ethic and desire to win is perfect for a male leader. Cozens showed how much he hates losing and how much he wants to be a leader.
Cozens is proud to wear the blue and gold and feels fortunate to be a part of a talented young nucleus.
It didn’t surprise me that Cozens showed up to support Peyton Krebs, Casey Fitzgerald, Jack Quinn, JJ Peterka and Brett Murray when the Rochester Americans were in the game. After the Americans’ overtime win, Cozens could see the team was just as happy for his friends and teammates.
If they needed guidance, during development camp, Cozens drove from London, Ontario to Buffalo, where he would spend the day with the prospects training during the summer. One of the Sabers’ 2022 first-round picks, Matt Savoy, was unable to take the ice due to a shoulder injury. Cozens sat with him for the better part of both sessions, telling him how happy he was with this team and this city.
There is a possibility that either Eric Portillo or Ryan Johnson could become unrestricted free agents after their college seasons are over next year. I have to wonder if Cozens, along with Krebs and Matthias Samuelsson, actively recruited them to become the Buffalo Sabers and not take the free agent route.
On the ice, Cozens is always there for his teammate and if he doesn’t get a certain play right, he’ll break it down until he does.
It was Taj Thompson who broke out in his big year last season. At this point, it wouldn’t shock me if Cozens was that guy. He played well in the last month or so of the season but it didn’t translate into goals.
Not only did he go to Team Canada for the World Championship, and he was placed on the top line in an unfamiliar position on the left wing, but he led the tournament with seven goals and was named one of Canada’s top three players.
It will be interesting down the road who thinks Granato is the right man for the job. I think Tuch would be a great choice, but the best choice for me would be Cozens.