PHILADELPHIA – He’s not too sure what to make of his current status. With Drew Stafford traded and Patrick Kaleta on injured reserve, Mike Weber is the longest tenured Buffalo Sabre in the team’s lineup.
“It’s a weird feeling to be the last one,” Weber said with a slight laugh after the team had a pregame skate in Wells Fargo Center before meeting the Philadelphia Flyers. Buffalo won Thursday night’s game, 3-2, in a shootout.
“It’s been discussed as not a joke but it’s kind of a funny talking point at this point. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go over my tenure here. That part is what it is. I guess I’m just getting old.”
The 27-year old defenseman grew up professionally in the Sabres organization.
A second-round draft choice by the Sabres in 2006, he played one more season of junior hockey before signing his pro deal. He made his NHL debut in the 2007-08 season, spending most of the year in Rochester. By 2010 he was a full-time Sabre. That was the last season the Sabres made the playoffs.
“This organization has given me a lot,” Weber said. “I’m very grateful for everything they’ve done for me. It wasn’t always an easy battle here but I’ve worked hard to hopefully represent the crest as well as I can and do my part to help this organization achieve its ultimate goal. It hasn’t been going the best the last two or three years but I really do want to be part of the solution. If I can bring any knowledge from the years and years I’ve been here, I will.”
In Tuesday’s shootout loss at New Jersey, Weber logged 24:19 of ice time – his highest total since he had a career high 26:58 on Jan. 14, 2012, against the New York Islanders.
His approach to the game is hard-working and emotional, something that others in the room can’t help but notice.
“He’s a heart-and-soul kind of guy,” Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. “He’s out there doing what he can for the team, blocking shots, playing hard minutes. He’s the type of player in the trenches all the time and that’s the type of guy we need.”
His style of play, his experience and his leadership earned him an alternate captain position when veteran defenseman Josh Gorges went on injured reserve last week with a lower body injury.
The letter is an honor, he says, but it doesn’t change the way he plays.
“I wouldn’t take it as a slap in the face if I didn’t get it or anything like that,” Weber said. “It’s a huge honor to wear it but again I’m playing the same way if I have it on or not.”
The letter on his sweater doesn’t change anything, but it does bring a subtle sense of validation to the way Weber plays.
“I think for him it certifies what he does for the team and how he goes about his daily business,” Gionta said.
And the way he goes about his business is exactly what the coaching staff wants the younger players to see.
It’s an emerging theme for a team that seems destined to finish last in the NHL – utilize your veterans to make the younger players better.
Weber and his wife have a 16-month-old son, Emerson, and family life has put a new perspective on the way he makes his livelihood. He’s learned the value of an NHL career and the dangerous pull of complacency. That’s what he wants the younger guys in the room to understand.
“It’s not an easy league. It’s hard to stay here. It can be taken away from you at any moment. I think that’s the biggest thing I can try to stress,” Weber said. “This is not something you should take for granted at any point no matter how good or bad the team’s doing. You’re always trying to survive and provide.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys here so they don’t understand the fact of family and kids and things like that but this is how I provide for family and I’ll do anything to stay here as long as I can and to help my team win,” Weber said.
“You can’t have that complacency. I feel like that snuck in a little bit here but we’re trying hard to work that out. This is the best league in the world. It’s not easy to get here. It’s not easy to stay here. The guys who do stay in the league for a long time are the guys who understand that every night they’ve got to find a way to bring something. That’s the best advice I can give.”
Thursday’s start was pushed back to 8 p.m. to accommodate a pregame ceremony as Eric Desjardins was inducted into the Flyers’ Hall of Fame.
Desjardins ranks second among defensemen in Flyers’ franchise history with 396 points (93 goals, 303 assists) in 738 games.
Eric Lindros and John LeClair were inducted to the team’s hall earlier this season.
The November snowstorm caused two Sabres games to be rescheduled. Here’s a reminder to sort out Friday’s ticket confusion.
Fans with tickets for the game versus the Rangers originally scheduled for Nov. 21 may use those tickets for Friday’s game.
If you have tickets for the Feb. 20 game against the Ottawa Senators, the game originally scheduled for this date, you missed it. Those tickets are not valid for Friday night’s game. They were only valid for the game against the Senators on Dec. 15.