Vulgar Statistics: Buffalo Sabres Fans Versus Matt Ellis
It has been said during the off season, I believe by Ron Rolston, that the Sabres would like to have Matt Ellis up in Buffalo. What that means exactly is open to debate, but I think it implies that they want him in Buffalo to play him, at least for 41+ games. I think the gut reaction by many Sabres fans is, despite Ellis’s likability, that a Matt Ellis type player has no place on a cup contender’s roster. Is that actually true?
The easy answer is yes. The 2008 Detroit Red Wings had a Matt Ellis type player log 35 games for them during the regular season. His name was Matt Ellis.
But let’s take a closer look. What is a Matt Ellis type player exactly? Well, Ellis himself is a solid bet to score fewer than 5 goals, log fewer than 10 points and whose best seasons are his 2009-2010 campaign (3-10-13) and 2011-2012 (3-5-8). He plays fourth line minutes and doesn’t hit, doesn’t fight, doesn’t kill penalties, and really doesn’t have any demonstrable value other than being an “energy guy,” and a “good locker room presence.” If you think I’m being harsh, just go look at the numbers.
My somewhat arbitrarily defined cup contenders did one of two things:
- They played in a Conference Finals
- They finished first or second in their Conference during the regular season
This gave me 44 teams. The next step was going through them all and whittling down players. At first my only restriction was playing more than 40 games. Then I whittled out the fighters (more than 1.0 PIM per game), the Penalty Killers (More than 1:00 short handed time on ice per game), the hitters (more than 1.0 hits per game), and the offensive producers (>10 goals in any season).
One-hundred-fourteen players had similar point totals as Matt Ellis to begin with, and three played similar games as Matt Ellis when all was said and done:
- Mattias Tedenby of the 2012 New Jersey Devils
- Vladimir Zharkov of the 2010 New Jersey Devils
- Mark Mowers of the 2006 Detroit Red Wings
You’ll note that one of those teams made the cup finals, and the other two lost in the first round.
A player like Ellis isn’t necessarily a handicap in itself, but most contending teams in recent history do not employ that sort of player. They employ similar players, but those players usually do one or more of: fight, kill penalties, or hit.