Tag: Steve Ott

Cody Hodgson

It’s Buffalo Sabres day on PHT


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.

It’s St. Louis Blues Day at PHT

Alexander Steen, David Backes, Steve Ott

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

It’s been like a sad movie on repeat the past few seasons for the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues have had brilliant regular season performances sullied by crushing disappointment in the playoffs. Two years in a row it was the Los Angeles Kings ousting them from the postseason. Last season, it was their hated rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, giving them the boot in the first round.

Before the playoffs began, it seemed like it was all set up for St. Louis to make a deep run. They acquired Ryan Miller and Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres to help give them the boost they felt they needed in goal and the agitating penalty killer you need in the postseason.

Adding those two to go along with captain David Backes, surprising goal-scoring maven Alex Steen, rising Russian star Vladimir Tarasenko, Team USA standout T.J. Oshie, and young stud Jaden Schwartz gave the Blues the depth up front they’d been lacking.

With the forwards seemingly set and a defensive corps led by Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Jay Bouwmeester the road to the Cup Final was there for the taking. Of course, things don’t always go how they’re drawn up.

Miller struggled in St. Louis. Whether that was due to the Blues tinkering with his positioning in net or not, the same bad goals Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott gave up in years past were also beating Miller. That combined with the Blues inability to keep up with the Blackhawks scorers netted Ken Hitchcock’s team yet another early start on the summer.

Suffice to say, if there are more playoff struggles next season there could be hell to pay.

Offseason Recap

The Blues were one of the most active teams of the summer.

They signed former Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny to a four-year, $28 million deal. He gives the Blues a true No. 1 center and a guy who is strong at both ends of the ice. While Backes was their top center last year, adding Stastny may help move him to the wing. That’s luxury.

St. Louis also re-signed Ott but lost Vladimir Sobotka to the KHL. That trade-off is one that made some scratch their heads as Sobotka is younger and seemed to be a perfect player with the Blues. Ott’s veteran abilities were valued by Hitchcock, however, and that always works out to have the coach on your side.

They also parted ways with Miller opting instead to keep Elliott and make him the starter and potentially give Jake Allen his chance to shine. Acquiring Miller brought on scrutiny for GM Doug Armstrong and the decision to let him walk to sign with the Vancouver Canucks will be put under the microscope.

The Blues also added forwards Jori Lehtera from the KHL and Peter Mueller from Switzerland. They also dealt Roman Polak to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Carl Gunnarsson. Blues fans may need a scorecard or a really sweet phone app to know who they’re rooting for next season.

Ovechkin thinks very little of plus/minus

Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard Trophy for the fourth time last season with 51 goals, but perhaps the statistic that sticks out most from his 2013-14 campaign is his minus-35 rating.

It was the worst in Washington by 14 points and third from the bottom in 2013-14. He also joined Toronto’s Phil Kessel as the only members of the top-10 goal scoring list to finish with a negative plus/minus rating.

He used that as ammunition when he was recently asked how he felt by the end of last season.

“I am very happy that I didn’t become the worst in the plus/minus category,” Ovechkin told SovSport in an interview translated by Puck Daddy. “I had minus-35. Steve Ott and Alex Edler jumped ahead of me. Can you imagine scoring 51 goals and getting minus-40? I would have made history!”

The interviewer brought up Sergei Gonchar’s past criticism about the use of plus/minus and Ovechkin took that opportunity to expand on the point.

“With the help of the plus/minus contracts can be obtained,” the 28-year-old forward said. “Once our defenseman Jeff Schultz was plus-50. He was plus-5 in the last game. And he signed a contract for four years averaging $2.75 million [Ovechkin makes big eyes]. And then his contract was bought out, and he signed for only $700,000 a year. Jeff is a good guy. But these plus/minus stats say very little about a player himself or the game as a whole.”

While plus/minus might not always be a great reflection of how a player performed, it is fair to say that the Capitals as a team had defensive issues last season. They hope some of that will be addressed by allowing goaltender Braden Holtby to play a style that he’s more comfortable with, the additions of defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, and bringing in Barry Trotz to serve as the team’s head coach.

That last change will impact Ovechkin, but for now he’s taking a wait-and-see approach. He acknowledged it’s difficult to change, but he’s been through this several times over the last few years, so he knows what to expect.