Thursday, July 12, 2012
Thursday Morning Cupcheck - An Open Letter to the Buffalo Sabres
Oh, by the way, that Brett Hull goal? Totally legit.
Good morning, hockey fans! Last week we took a long, hard, crudely-photoshopped look at the Dallas Stars' recent additions and subtractions. This week, rather than focus on the non-stop barrage of world-shattering news common to hockey in mid-July, we're going to pen a heartfelt, soppy letter to the Buffalo Sabres, our proverbial Sistas From Anotha Mista.
Sure, it may not seem like Stars and Sabres fans have much common ground —other than when we stomped your ***es in one Cup Final and two Superbowls (thanks for those, by the way)— but with the departure of longtime fan favorite Steve Ott, it's time to reveal to confused and aroused Sabres fans what they should expect these next two years.
*Whips out comically-long feather quill, dips it in ink, clears throat, taps point on yellowed scroll*
First off, how are things? Fine? Good, good. Us? Can't complain. I mean, other than maybe you should have told us a few things about that bill of goods you sold us two weeks ago. But hey --mistakes happen. No hard feelings. We do get a free hit in the shoulder next time we see you walking down the street, however. Or a free two-minute minor in the Cup Finals next season.
But what about Steve Ott? Who is this guy who replaced your 1 1/2-line center? If the hockey media is to be believed, Steve Ott is a hard-chargin' sunuvabeesh, a faceoff demon, a grit-and-sandpaper double-flushing crease-crashing speedster with a devilish grin that leads the league in chirping effectiveness.
And you know what? For once, the hockey media is startlingly accurate. Steve Ott is all of those things, and much more.
On paper, the Roy-for-Ott trade looks like a steal for Dallas. Anytime you trade a third-line checking center for a first-or-second line former PPG scoring center with two-way ability, somebody just got robbed. The fact that we packaged in our absolute worst defenseman in Adam Pardy (and his ridiculously-overpaid contract) sweetens the deal even more for Stars fans. Steve Ott's best years, in terms of goals and assists, are very comparable to Derek Roy's worst injury-laden seasons. In fact, if Roy hadn't been slowed by injuries, this trade could've been compared with the most boundlessly optimistic one-sided trades ever proposed on HF Boards.
Fortunately, Buffalo fans, you're getting quite a bit more than goals and assists. Oh, you'll get a fair amount of those, too: Ott is one of the most versatile players in the NHL, able to play any top-9 position on the ice at an above-average level, from centering your checking line to playing wing alongside your #1 center, whoever that is in the three months before Grigorenko seizes that role.
Besides winning faceoffs and killing penalties, Steve Ott is a loose cannon who doesn't play by the rules. And just like any 70s cop drama, this has its good and bad aspects. Allow me to break it down:
The Good: On off-nights when it seems the entire team has mentally and physically checked out, Steve Ott will be the best player on the ice. Whether this is effective or not (answer: it's not), it's undeniably true. The more unmotivated the rest of the Sabres are, the faster, stronger and angrier Ott gets. He's like a Grit Vacuum that way.
The Bad: Bad referees will cost you games because of Steve Ott. Despite his reputation, he's actually not a dirty player, with only two and possibly three borderline hits in his entire career —questionable hits that Ovechkin and Malkin get away with multiple times a game. However, 'rep' is always more important to crappy NHL refs than whatever's actually happening on the ice, and this will invariably come to haunt you in the third periods of critical games because Steve Ott is extremely sensitive to bad officiating. If a ref isn't doing his job, Ott will let him know. Which results in some of the worst calls you can possibly imagine late in games. And when Ott is in the box, guess what? You've just lost your best penalty-killing forward during a crucial kill. Ott might be the only player in the league ever to get a game misconduct for a smartass remark right before a faceoff.
The Good: Ott is a chirper, quite possibly the best in the league. He knows insults in a half-dozen different languages, does his research on opposing forwards and their stats for fodder, and has a self-depreciating sense of humor that makes him immune to enemy agitation. More importantly, unlike the one-note goons the Eastern Conference is known for, Ott's motto when agitating is "Why kill the peasant when you can kill the king?" He's not about to throw down with some WHL call-up that gets 2 minutes a night on the fourth line. Ott is going to infuriate every top-two centerman in your conference. Crosby, Krejci, Stamkos, all of them, especially if they're not fighters. Even old friends like Ribeiro and Spezza will probably end up taking a swing at their former teammate before the season's halfway done —which is not only immensely entertaining, but the resulting 4-on-4 benefits your team in incredible ways. And afterwards? The other guy is still pissed.
The Bad: Speaking of infuriating, you should know this: Steve Ott's shot is not the most accurate in the world. He spent a considerable portion of last season streaking in alone on the goalie... only to clang a wrister off the pipe. I conservatively estimate that this happened about 18-20 times last season alone. He cannot do things like stickhandle in a phone booth, he won't hit the open man through heavy traffic, and his speed will pull him offsides quite a bit. In other words, he'll score quite a bit more than you expect, but... not as much as you think he should. The first three times he clangs a slap shot off the crossbar in the final two minutes of the game despite being on the PK, you'll know the pain of which I speak.
Other than that, there's not much to say. Ott will be a fan favorite, and by this time next season his jerseys will be outselling Tyler Myers'. He will do tremendous amounts of uncredited charity work. He will sign tens of thousands of pucks for kids. He will smile wild-eyed in a (ugh) Sabres jersey for tens of thousands of cell phone photos. He will provide hilarious interviews on sports-talk radio shows. He will address the media after disappointing losses. He will stick up for Miller and Grigorenko when Lucic invariably plows into them. And he will score about 50 points centering the checking line and sliding into the #2 center spot when the injuries hit.
So yeah, you did pretty good.
See more stories in:
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Fare Thee Well, GM Joe, We Hardly Knew Ye
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Grading the 2013 Dallas Stars
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - The Five Biggest Turkeys in Dallas Stars History
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Looking Past the Lockout
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - The First Salvo of the Upcoming NHL War