Austria had a terrible Olympic tournament, and the country’s hockey fans are reeling as to one of the reasons why: The players spent too much time partying.
The backlash is in full swing, and Thomas Vanek is in the middle of it.
The former Buffalo captain wore the “C” for Austria, which won one of four games and disappeared with a meek 4-0 loss to Slovenia in the elimination round.
“Chose Vanek as team captain to have an experienced player and this obviously went wrong,” Austrian Ice Hockey Federation President Dieter Kalt said at a news conference.
Several players reportedly spent the night before the elimination game in the Austria House and a local bar drinking until 6 a.m.
“After internal discussions there will be consequences,” coach Manny Viveiros said. “The behavior of individual players is inexcusable.”
Viveiros said he didn’t feel he needed to baby-sit the team, but in retrospect that was a mistake in judgment.
“We will publish their names in the next days,” the coach said.
Vanek, who is regarded as an Austrian sports hero, had no goals, one assist and a minus-4 rating in four games. The Sabres traded him to the New York Islanders in October, and he is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Vanek was among those who apologized in an open letter for the late night, though he doesn’t believe it affected the outcome against Slovenia.
“We are aware of our role as role models and should have moved the celebrations to the evening after our last tournament game,” Vanek, Michael Grabner and Michael Raffl wrote.
This hasn’t been the Islanders’ season, and things are getting worse by the minute. That will have an effect on the Sabres’ next two drafts.
Isles captain John Tavares will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury suffered at the Olympics, Newsday reported Thursday. The star center tore the medial collateral ligament and meniscus in his left knee during Canada’s 2-1 victory over Latvia on Wednesday, according to the newspaper. The final diagnosis will come when Tavares returns to North America, but it won’t take that long to calculate the Islanders’ fortunes.
Without Tavares, they’re done. New York is 25th in the 30-team NHL and 12 points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Fellow point-producers Vanek and Andrew MacDonald, pending free agents, are expected to be moved prior to the March 5 trade deadline. The chances of New York making a run are nearly nil.
The Sabres are scheduled to have the Islanders’ first-round pick in June’s draft, but New York has the option of deferring until 2015. If the Isles finish with a top-five pick, the odds of them keeping the selection are good.
The Sabres are hoping to rebuild quicker than originally planned, so two top-five picks this year would be welcomed. However, superstar-in-the-making Connor McDavid headlines the 2015 draft class, so additional first-round selections next year – and additional chances at winning the draft lottery – could be a good thing.
The Sabres told The Buffalo News on Thursday that New York doesn’t have to decide which pick to give Buffalo until after the draft lottery.
The Sabres return from their Olympic break today and moved their practice scheduled for noon to 10:45 a.m. so that it doesn’t coincide with the semifinal showdown between Team USA and Canada.