Thomas Vanek has always had the physical abilities to be a great hockey player. The skills that convinced him to leave Austria for North America at age 14 have continued to blossom. They're on display nightly this season, with the Sabres' left winger prominent on nearly every Buffalo score sheet.

The goals and assists are easy to see, partly because there have been so many, but it's what people don't witness that has made Vanek into one of the NHL's premier players. There's no pouting on the bench anymore. His defeatist body language is a thing of the past. The swearing, stick slamming and weight-of-the-world grimaces are all but gone.

Call it maturity. Credit the transformation to becoming a family man. One thing to be certain of is the things people don't see have made Vanek into the gifted and consistent player they do.