2010 NHL Free Agency: Buffalo Sabres re-sign Matt Ellis to one-year deal

mattellisfightsforpuck.jpgWhile the team hasn’t released financial details yet, the Buffalo Sabres announced that they signed 29-year-old forward Matt Ellis to a one-year deal today. Here are a few tidbits about Ellis from the team’s Web site.

Ellis (8/31/1981, 6′, 212 lbs.) spent last season in Buffalo where he set career highs in games played (72), points (13) and assists (10). Ellis, who turns 29 today, now has 33 points (13+20) in 187 career NHL games with Buffalo, Los Angeles and Detroit.

Ellis is about as marginal as a forward gets, so I decided to consult Buffalo Sabres blog Die by the Blade’s report card for a little more elaboration. This excerpt captures the good and the bad regarding the depth forward.

Thumbs Up: The 28-year-old wasn’t goaded into taking stupid, meaningless penalties, as he spent a total of 12 minutes in the box between the regular campaign and postseason. He was a healthy scratch for ten games and played with the worst quality of teammates, but didn’t complain. Due to his lack of shifts, he actually had a goals per 60 minutes ratio that was above six teammates, as was his points per 60 minutes and the assists comparison was closer to the middle of the group. Again, the shots on goal are encouraging because that strategy can never be frowned upon. In the face-off circle, he won half of his draws which was 0.4 per cent less than Derek Roy, who took almost 1,000 more attempts. With his percentage being the fourth highest, some penalty-killing here and there might bolster his game. One of the few forwards with more takeaways (18) than giveaways (11). For all of the people that might remember his last 2010 moment as Johnny Boychuk’s victim to a crushing check, I’ll prefer to cite Ellis’ standing up and skating to the bench on his own two feet.

Thumbs Down: Perhaps this will illustrate why Ellis’ minutes were so petite. He didn’t look as comfortable in his first full season with Buffalo as he did in the 45 games of 2009 (12 points that year, but just 13 points in 27 more matches). Throwing 34 hits and blocking 20 shots is unacceptable for a lower-line checker. While the lack of opportunity certainly explains part of it, he must get more involved defensively and physically. Patrick Kaleta, who saw a minute and change of extra ice time routinely, punished way more people with the body and blocked more shots. And if Drew Stafford and Jochen Hecht can swing away with their fists, Ellis surely can do it multiple times through a campaign.

From the looks of things, the Buffalo Sabres will be just as dependent on all-world goalie Ryan Miller next season as they were in 09-10. As great as Miller is, you have to wonder if he’ll be able to carry that squad to a second consecutive Northeast division title. Ellis is a hard worker, but I doubt he’ll make much of a difference as Buffalo tries to build on a great regular season and improve upon a weak playoff output.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
Leave a comment

The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”