Tag: Rob Niedermayer

Zack Kassian

Zack Kassian hopes to make Sabres’ roster, walk the line between physical and illegal hits


There will be plenty of debate about the wisdom of the Buffalo Sabres’ spending spree, but when it comes to the makeup of the teams’ fleet of forwards, there should be little question that the team leans more toward finesse than last season. From their skilled set of wingers to new acquisition Ville Leino and rehabbed center Derek Roy, the team might lack a bit of sandpaper – especially since rugged defensive players such as Mike Grier and Rob Niedermayer are no longer on the roster.

His future might not look as bright until the salary cap dust settles, but one forward who might try to fill that physical void is polarizing prospect Zack Kassian. The 13th overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft has become notorious for his thunderous – and some might say, dirty – hits, particularly two blows that earned him suspensions.

Kassian admitted that he regrets the hit he landed on Matt Kennedy that earned him a 20-game suspension in his first game with the Windsor Spitfires in 2010. He believes that the negative attention from that check on Kennedy bled into the decision to suspend him for what he believes was a clean hit during the 2011 World Junior Championships.

One can debate the validity of Kassian’s claims, but it’s likely that he will make an impact in Buffalo sooner or later. Again, the Sabres need to sort out their cap issues – they’re currently about $3.6 million above the ceiling. Once they do, Kassian could bring an intriguing mix of size, physicality and scoring prowess to the table at an affordable $875K cap hit … if he can manage to avoid getting suspended.

Kassian will try to make the Buffalo Sabres out of training camp next month, but even if he is unsuccessful, logic suggests he will end up in uniform at some point this season. He has so much of what the Sabres seem to need, with a low salary cap hit off the ice and the lurking promise of a massive hit on the ice.

“I need to play with an edge, but I have to make sure I don’t cross that edge,” he said Tuesday. “With all the skill Buffalo has, I think they need some grit and definitely some people that are hard to play against to give those skilled guys some room. I feel like I can fill that job, and hopefully, I can do it sooner than later.”

The Sabres picked Kassian 13th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, and they have seen their prospect earn nationwide exposure in Canada for reasons both good and bad. He has been a Memorial Cup champion and a member of Canada’s national junior team, but he has also briefly been the star of junior hockey’s most wanted list.

It’s likely that Kassian will be on the Sabres’ radar until he makes a prolonged impact at the NHL level, but he’ll also get plenty of attention from officials who are aware of his lower moments. If Kassian can find a way to bring that edge without going over the line, he’ll be a serious asset for Buffalo. That might be a big if, though.

Report: Devils to retire Scott Niedermayer’s number this season

Scott Niedermayer

While the New Jersey Devils haven’t confirmed the date or the decision, Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice passes along a (since-deleted) Tweet from agent Al Dhalla that Scott Niedermayer’s number 27 will be retired next season. If Dhalla’s claims are correct, the jersey will go up into the Prudential Center’s rafters on Friday, December 16, although Gulitti makes a valid point that it might make more sense to retire his sweater when the Devils host the Anaheim Ducks (Niedermayer’s other team) on February 17.

Gulitti reports that the Devils and Niedermayer discussed the idea a bit last season too, which would make sense since Niedermayer’s No. 27 was no longer in use by fellow defenseman Mike Mottau, who awkwardly donned the number for three seasons in Niedermayer’s absence.

Niedermayer didn’t confirm the news with Gulitti, but he didn’t shoot down the rumor either. In a way it seems like an inevitable development when you consider Niedermayer’s impact on the franchise; he’s one of five players who were around for all three of the Devils’ Stanley Cup victories.

“It’s sort of a strange thing to talk about,” Niedermayer said. “If it does happen – and I guess maybe it will – it’s a great honor. But I don’t really find it my place to talk about it. It’s their decision ultimately. They’re in charge. They’re calling the shots, not me, and that’s the way it should be.”

“Lou will do it when he feels it’s right to do,” Niedermayer said. “In my eyes at least, I don’t think anything has been finalized anyway.”

When I asked Niedermayer how Dhalla might have come up with the Dec. 16 date, he replied, “There’s probably been a few dates that have been talked about and maybe that had been one of them. Whether everything has been finalized, I have no idea.”

As Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski points out, the pending decision might rub some Devils fans the wrong way. There might be some Devils fans who still feel jilted over Niedermayer’s choice to sign with his brother Rob Niedermayer and the Ducks in 2005, where he would go on to win another Stanley Cup and play more excellent hockey.

In 2005, Niedermayer had a choice. He could remain a Devil via a lucrative unrestricted free-agent contract, stabilizing a franchise that was at the end of the Scott Stevens era on its blue line and entering a new trap-unfriendly era in the NHL; or, he could leave for the Anaheim Ducks’ less lucrative offer and play with this brother, Rob.

Niedermayer of course chose the latter, winning the Conn Smythe along with a Stanley Cup in 2007 and solidifying his place as a top three defenseman of his era.

The Devils? Well, if you were going to trace a line from their three-Cup mini-dynasty to their sometimes hapless years under the salary cap and new NHL rules, it begins at Niedermayer’s end in New Jersey.

To some, it might seem silly to hold a grudge on Niedermayer, especially when you take the presence of his brother Rob in Anaheim into account. Then again, others might argue that the mere act of being a fan is a bit silly, so it’s perfectly fair for some fans to smart about the choice Scott made six years ago.

The Devils and Niedermayer have eventually patched things up so it’s just be a matter of time before the team raises his number 27 up, whether that night comes on December 16, February 17 or some other time. We’ll keep an eye out for an official announcement, but how do you feel about the Devils retiring his number?

Rob Niedermayer will play in Switzerland next season

Alex Ovechkin, Rob Niedermayer

For the first time since his brother Scott came into the league in 1991-92, there won’t be a Niedermayer in the NHL. Former Buffalo Sabres center Rob Niedermayer will play the 2011-12 season overseas with Lugano in Switzerland, according to Darren Dreger.

While his brother Scott is poised for a Hall of Fame induction after completing superlative work with the New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks, Rob will settle for his useful career in the league. As Battle of California‘s Earl Sleek would say, Rob Niedermayer was a “Hall of Famer along the boards” but a plodding defensive forward in other areas of the ice.

Niedermayer’s first great run came with fellow high Florida Panthers draft pick Ed Jovanovski (Rob Niedermayer was the fifth overall pick of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft; Jovocop was the first pick in ’94) as the duo factored into Florida’s one great run to the 1996 Stanley Cup finals. Niedermayer served as a solid defensive forward in Florida, Calgary and Anaheim before bouncing around in New Jersey and Buffalo during the last two seasons.

His most valuable moment probably came when he helped lure his brother to Anaheim. Bringing Scott helped give that team some much-needed credibility while the Chris Pronger trade gave the team two Norris Trophy winners. The team promptly won the 2007 Stanley Cup with that combination and Rob was there to celebrate with his brother.

Maybe he didn’t have the kind of career expected of a top-five draft pick and he certainly wasn’t at his brother’s lofty level, but Rob Niedermayer can ride off into the Swiss sunset with his head held high.