BUFFALO – It’s no secret Sabres winger Jason Pominville has lost a step. The popular veteran’s 35 years old. What else would you expect?
Earlier in his 13th season, the former NHL All-Star scored just once over a 34-game stretch.
While Pominville has produced some offensive – after scoring in two straight games, he has 14 goals – at this stage of his career, leadership is his greatest asset.
That’s why the Sabres, who close their home schedule tonight against the hapless Ottawa Senators, reacquired Pominville last June.
Pominville has experienced just about everything throughout his 984-game career. Unlike his teammates, the three-time 30-goal scorer has also won big games with the Sabres. That’s significant.
A young team trying to establish itself needs Pominville’s strong voice and professionalism.
“He’s not going to be the loudmouth of the room,” Sabres winger Scott Wilson said last week. “He’s just one of those guys when he talks, everybody shuts up and listens. It’s been great for me having him around.”
But Pominville’s no longer captain, a role he filled from 2011-12 until the Sabres traded him to the Minnesota Wild on April 3, 2013. Remember, the Sabres have utilized four alternate captains this season instead of a single captain.
So how has the Sabres’ oldest player used his voice throughout a miserable season?
“I’ve addressed stuff that I think needs to change,” Pominville said. “We have meetings, we’ve had group meetings, we’ve had team meetings. I think I’ve been a vocal guy in the room and pretty honest when I see stuff that to me is unacceptable.
“But, yeah, until we buy in as a team, it’s not going to change. We have to buy in and be more consistent at it, because we do it on some nights, some nights we’re great. Up until we do it consistently, it’s not going to work.”
Pominville embraces his role and has evolved from his first stint in Buffalo.
“You’ve seen more so you can address things in different ways, you maybe know how to talk in situations more, when to push the buttons,” he said. “I think it’s important for me, when I was here (the first time), I had older guys to help me out and I’m here helping out the young guys, so it’s important they can have that around. …
“So you need those guys around that are good influences that can help out different guys in different situations.”
Sabres coach Phil Housley said: “He says the right thing at the right time. We need more of that in our room, guys being more vocal, keeping everybody honest.”
Naturally, Pominville’s frustrated. Messages from himself, other veterans and Housley often don’t sink in.
Pominville said this has been the toughest season of his career. A regulation loss tonight inside KeyBank Center, where the Sabres have only won 11 times, will secure the NHL’s lowest point total for the third time in five years.
“You’re always constantly trying to think what you can do, what you can say, what you can basically do to help the team, help the organization out,” Pominville said. “It just kind of drains a lot of energy from you. Losing is mentally fatiguing.”
Despite the lack of success, some players have felt Pominville’s impact.
“He’s one of the classic veterans of the league, he’s played with different players and different teams,” Wilson said. “So I know a lot of us young guys kind of value him as not somebody just we can talk to, but having a voice and really listening when he has something to say, because he’s normally bang on with whatever he’s said in the locker room.”