Vanek vows the Buffalo Sabres are playoff bound

Dino MoriAnalyst IFebruary 21, 2008

There may be fifty million reasons to envy Thomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres. He's gifted, handsome and a bonafide NHL superstar to boot.

After losing a pair of weekend games, Vanek vowed that the Sabres will be one of the sixteen playoff hopefuls for hockey's holy grail.

A bold prediction, but not surprising coming from a guy who has an inordinate amount of confidence and flair.

On Wednesday, the 6' 2" right winger took the bull by the horns and scored a natural hat-trick in a 4-3 comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The win moved the Sabres into a seventh place tie in the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins at 66 points.

The three goals by Vanek marked the second time in eight days he accomplished this feat, a definite sign he's in a groove. He has scored 11 goals in his past nine games, raising his season total to 25.

It hasn't been all wine and roses for the native of Graz, Austria, who popped in 43 goals last season. 

He began the year in a terrible funk, lighting the lamp just six times in his first 23 games. Not what the Sabres were looking for after signing the restricted free-agent to a seven-year, $50 million in the offseason. The $50 million deal made him, along with former teammate Daniel Briere of the Flyers and Scott Gomez of the New York Rangers, the highest paid players in the NHL.

Before the season began Buffalo was facing the prospect of losing Vanek to free-agency.

The Edmonton Oliers made a pitch for to him last summer, but the Sabres couldn't afford to lose another star forward. The club had already lost fan favorites Briere and Chris Drury via free-agency.

Suffice to say, when the 2007-08 campaign opened there was a lot of pressure on Vanek to live up to his mega-size contract.

And, despite his early trials and tribulations, Vanek should be applauded for his perseverance.

Another quality that is liable to make one envious.