Tag: Steve Ott


Sabres name Gionta captain


The Buffalo Sabres revealed their new leadership group on Tuesday, announcing that Brian Gionta would serve as captain for the upcoming campaign while also naming Josh Gorges and Matt Moulson as alternates.

This marks the second time that Gionta, 35, will captain an NHL club. He wore the “C” in Montreal for four straight seasons beginning in 2010, but relinquished the letter upon signing with Buffalo in July.

With the move, the Sabres officially moved past the ill-fated Steve Ott-Thomas Vanek shared captaincy of a year ago, a decision that was widely panned and ended up being something of a bust. Vanek was traded within weeks of getting his “C” while Ott was dealt to St. Louis at the trade deadline.

As for the new alternates, Gorges served as one in Montreal last year while Moulson wore an “A” for Buffalo last season after arriving as part of the Vanek trade.

Risk Factors: Chicago Blackhawks edition

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Chicago Blackhawks

From the same bunch of pessimists who brought you “Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup,” PHT presents a new series called “Risk Factors,” i.e. three reasons to be worried about each NHL team in 2014-15.

Chicago Blackhawks

1. Did they really solve the 2C problem? Much was made of Chicago’s lack of depth at center last year, especially in the Western Conference Final when Michal Handzus — who gamely tried to fill the second-line center spot — was overwhelmed in the playoffs.

Zeus is gone now, though, and in his place steps Brad Richards, the New York Rangers castoff that inked a modest one-year, $2 million deal to join the ‘Hawks in July. On paper, Richards is a nice fit; a veteran presence with good playmaking ability that’s been to two Stanley Cup Finals, winning once.

But that’s on paper.

There’s no denying that Richards, 34, is in the twilight of his career. The Rangers opted to buy out the remainder of his nine-year, $60 million deal this summer following a tough postseason in which he scored two points over his final 10 games and was dumped to the fourth line during the Cup Final.

Chicago will rejuvenate Richards to a certain degree. He’s going to be surrounded by talent on a (projected) line with Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, and will run the point on the second powerplay unit. But in terms of strictly upgrading the 2C position, other contenders in the West did more.

The Anaheim Ducks acquired Ryan Kesler from Vancouver to slot in behind Ryan Getzlaf. The Dallas Stars traded for Jason Spezza to play behind Tyler Seguin. The Blues, who often used David Backes as their No. 1 center last year, added Paul Stastny to the mix. And lest we forget the quality tandems already in place in Colorado (Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene) and Los Angeles (Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter).

The Western Conference has become an arms race down the middle and if you can’t keep up, you could be out — just ask Stars GM Jim Nill.

“If you want to be one of the elite teams, you have to have it,” Nill told the Globe and Mail earlier this summer. “You look at the other teams that are winning on our side now, you need to have two elite centermen.”

2. The cap crunch. Per CapGeek:


“[The salary cap’s] gotten a lot of attention, and rightfully so,” Hawks GM Bowman explained, per CSN Chicago. “But what I’ve tried to say all along is that we’re going to get it worked out and we’re going to be compliant come [the start of the season].

“It’s one of those topics where we’ve had a lot of discussions internally, we know how we’re going to make it work.”

Bowman wouldn’t reveal how Chicago will get cap compliant, though many have speculated one two defensemen — Johnny Oduya or Nick Leddy — will be traded. If that happens, it’s going to chip away at one of the club’s strengths; the next men up on defense are David Rundblad, Kyle Cumiskey, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Adam Clendening, and one of them might get called into action earlier than expected now that Michal Rozsival’s sidelined with an upper-body injury.

There’s another wrinkle to this cap situation. Compliance is one thing, but what about wiggle room?

Teams like to operate with some breathing space beneath the ceiling in the event something unforeseen happens. Injuries, slumps, ineffectiveness can often cause for a roster shakeup… and then there’s the trade deadline.

The ‘Hawks were hamstrung last year, resulting in Rundblad and Peter Regin being the lone acquisitions of significance — nice pickups, but ones that were relatively minor compared to what Los Angeles (Marian Gaborik), St. Louis (Ryan Miller, Steve Ott), Anaheim (Stephane Robidas) and Minnesota (Matt Moulson) did. Granted, not all of those deals worked out and the Kings were the only Western team to best Chicago, but the value of having trade deadline flexibility can’t be understated; during Chicago’s Cup championship in 2013, the Handzus pickup proved invaluable.

3. Age and health. Rozsival (36), Marian Hossa (35), Richards (34), Oduya (33), Patrick Sharp (33 in December) and Duncan Keith (31) have played an awful lot of hockey over the last two years, be it regular season — especially during the condensed ’13 campaign — playoffs, and international (everybody but Richards played in the Sochi Winter Olympics.)

At some point, it’s going to have an effect.

As mentioned above, Rozsival is currently sidelined with an upper-body injury. Hossa’s been dealing with a lower-body issue throughout camp and has a lengthy history of ailments while Sharp looked lethargic at times during last year’s run to the Western Conference Final, scoring just two goals in his first 14 games.

Health-wise, one of the more underrated stories over the last two seasons was the durability of Chicago’s regulars. Patrick Kane missed 12 games last year to a lower-body ailment, which was a rarity; he’s played 80 games or more four times in his career (and played 47 of 48 during the lockout-shortened ’13 season). Bryan Bickell missed 23 games with a variety of bumps and bruises, yet rebounded to show up when he often does — in the playoffs — scoring seven goals in 19 games.

But in the NHL, injuries are unavoidable. The grind and physical toll often wears down even the fittest of players and we’re talking about a collection of Blackhawks players that are getting older and have played a remarkable amount of games over the last 24 months.

Sabres to name captain following training camp


On Tuesday, Buffalo head coach Ted Nolan informed reporters he’d name his new captain at the commencement of training camp.

The Sabres have been without a captain since March, when Steve Ott was dealt to St. Louis as part of the Ryan Miller deal. Ott had previously served as a co-captain with Thomas Vanek, who wore the “C” for less than a month before getting shipped off to the Islanders.

It’ll be interesting to see what direction Nolan takes with his new leadership group. Historically speaking, the Sabres have often utilized a rotating staff — under Lindy Ruff, the club used Michael Peca, Stu Barnes, Miroslav Satan, Chris Drury, James Patrick, J.P. Dumont, Daniel Briere, Jochen Hecht, Toni Lydman, Brian Campbell, Jaroslav Spacek, Jason Pominville and Craig Rivet. But it’s possible they could go with a more traditional format under Nolan.

In what might be a glimpse into the head coach’s thinking, three veterans will serve as alternates for Tuesday’s preseason home opener against the Hurricanes: Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges and Matt Moulson.

With Ott gone, who will be Buffalo’s next captain?

Tyler Ennis

Since the start of 2013, three different players have worn the ‘C’ in Buffalo — Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, and Steve Ott — and they have all been traded. That’s created something of a leadership vacuum for the Sabres going into the 2014-15 campaign.

Fortunately, there have some candidates to fill that void.

Perhaps the most obvious player is Brian Gionta, who inked a three-year, $12.75 million contract with Buffalo over the summer. The 35-year-old doesn’t have experience within the Sabres’ organization, but he has a strong resume after serving as the Montreal Canadiens’ captain and winning the Stanley Cup.

He could prove to be a mentor for the young Sabres and aide them in their rebuilding efforts. After his tenure with Buffalo ends, the team could then hand the captaincy to one of the young forwards that’s established himself and symbolically complete the transitional period at that time.

The Sabres might also opt to go with a younger option to put the focus more squarely on their future. Tyler Ennis, for example, is an interesting choice. He’s just 24 years old (25 in October), but already has 267 NHL games under his belt. On top of that, he’s starting a five-year, $23 million contract this season, so he’s someone that will be around for the rest of Buffalo’s rebuild and then still be young enough to lead them once the Sabres are on the other side of it.

Ennis plans to learn from Gionta and the other veterans on the team, but he also recognizes that at this point he should take on more responsibilities in the locker room.

“It’s time for us (Ennis and Tyler Myers) to take over now,” Ennis said, per team’s website. “It’s a good balance of older guys, middle guys ready to take over and lot of great young kids coming up.”

Another option is for the team to pass on naming a captain this season. As a rookie, Sam Reinhart isn’t expected to take on that role, but the 18-year-old is, as Flames president Brian Burke put it, an “Einstein on the ice” and might be a serious candidate in a year or two if everything goes right. On top of that, if Buffalo has a bad season, it could end up drafting a potential superstar in Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

Would it make sense for the Sabres to leave the position vacant for now in the hopes that one of their promising young players will claim it? That’s up to head coach Ted Nolan, but he certainly has a few interesting paths he could take.

It’s Buffalo Sabres day on PHT

Cody Hodgson

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Buffalo Sabres.

The Sabres entered 2013-14 with low expectations, but even with that in mind it was a disappointing campaign. They got off to a 0-6-1 start, never did better than a three-game winning streak, and finished the season with 52 points, which was 14 less than the next worst team.

Buffalo’s offense was a disaster. Only four players recorded at least 10 goals with the Sabres and Cody Hodgson led the team with 44 points. Collectively, they averaged just 1.83 goals per game, which is worse than any team has done since the dawn of the 21st century.

And yet, it’s not all doom-and-gloom in Buffalo. The Sabres made some moves that should help them down the road, starting with the trade of Thomas Vanek to the Islanders in exchange for Matt Moulson, a 2015 first-round pick, and a second round selection. They later dealt Moulson and Cody McCormick to Minnesota in exchange for Torrey Mitchell and a pair of second rounders.

Buffalo also sent goaltender Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott to St. Louis and got, among other things, Chris Stewart, another 2015 first rounder, and goaltender Jaroslav Halak (who they later flipped to Washington in a deal that brought goalie Michal Neuvirth to Buffalo).

Losing the likes of Vanek, Miller, and Ott had to hurt, but they might have walked away as free agents anyways and Buffalo now has three 2015 first round picks to work with.

Over the summer, Buffalo brought back Moulson on a five-year, $25 million contract and also added veterans Brian Gionta, Cody McCormick, and Andrej Meszaros. The hope is that they’ll help guide the Sabres’ young core.

On paper, the Sabres look like a team in for another long season, but at least there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Buffalo’s future.