After 14 seasons and eight NHL teams, former Buffalo Sabres forward Thomas Vanek has announced his retirement from professional hockey. After seeing no activity at the trade deadline, the career scoring threat has decided to hang up his skates.
The 36-year old warned Sabres fans on WGR550’s The Instigators program, telling the hosts, “If I don’t go anywhere today, then yes, I’m done. I’m okay with that.” He last played nearly one year ago on March 23. He appeared in 64 games last season for the Detroit Red Wings, scoring 16 goals and adding 20 assists. It was during that campaign that he surpassed 1,000 games.
Vanek was one of Buffalo’s most dominating forwards in the last 20 years. He is the only Sabre to score four consecutive natural hat tricks - a feat accomplished by only one other player in the NHL’s recorded history. The previous record stood for nearly 80 years.
His best season (statistically) was in 2010-11, when he led the Sabres with 73 points (32G, 41A). The nearest teammate had 52. This glut of production boosted the Sabres to their last playoff appearance - a series with the Philadelphia Flyers that they ultimately lost in seven games. The year prior, Vanek had 53 points and helped Buffalo to a first place finish in the Northeast Division.
Unfortunately, Vanek’s scoring wasn’t enough to satisfy Buffalo fans, whose lofty expectations were fueled by a 2007 contract in which the Sabres’ hand was forced to pay what many thought was too much for the forward. After losing out on captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, Buffalo scrambled to match an offer to Vanek that came from the Edmonton Oilers. The 7-year $50 million bill became the hill upon which Sabres fans would die. As the team spiraled from success, much of the blame fell on Vanek, dubbed ‘Lazy Thomas’ because of his odd skating stride.
In 2013, Vanek was traded to the New York Islanders for Matt Moulson and two high draft picks. In his time with the Sabres, he scored 254 goals - good enough for fifth in franchise history. He played 598 games for Buffalo.
In speaking with the Instigators, Vanek said he has enjoyed the time off through the first 60 games of the year, stating, “I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished and whatever, and it’s been such a fun year being home and coaching my boys. I’m happy to be a dad at home.”
He went on to say that he wouldn’t be done with hockey if his time on the ice had come to an end. “...I do want to go back into the game and eventually be a [general manager]. I think that’s the one thing I’ve learned so much of being with different teams in the last six-to-seven years of my career of what really, in my eyes, works, what doesn’t work because you’ve seen it all. Some organizations are great, some are okay, some have a lot to learn. I think over the last six-to-seven years I have wrote a lot of notes of what do the guys really like, because at the end of the day, that’s what matters. You have to have 23 players that not just enjoy where they’re at, but love where they’re at and play and compete for each other. I want to stay in the game and some day be a GM, and do some of those things that I’ve learned over my career.”