After months of hearing his name floated around in all the trade rumors, Steve Ott was finally traded away from the Dallas Stars. Ott, along with quite useless defenseman Adam Pardy, went to the Buffalo Sabres for center Derek Roy.
The move has proved to be very polarizing for the Stars fanbase as Ott was the fan favorite on the team. However, the amount of anger directed GM Joe Nieuwendyk for this trade does surprise me, as this is a move that the Stars had to make.
I'm as big an Ott fan as anyone; he was the heart and soul of this team and I've always thought he should've been the captain of the team ahead of Morrow. It was a joy to see his passion on the ice and it was great to see his progression in becoming more of a scorer. He was the Stars' best face-off guy and one of their better penalty-killers.
However, he was a massive problem in the penalty department and prone to taking bad penalties, which can switch the momentum of the entire game.
This trade, meanwhile, fits the team perfectly. With Mike Ribeiro gone, there was a massive hole at the number two center position. The Stars just could not have gone into next season hoping and praying that Cody Eakin would hold that role. He's a nice young prospect, but he would have been overwhelmed with that responsibility in his first year as a full time player. Ott was a fine player but he was miscast here as a top-six guy the past couple of seasons. Dallas needed to center that second line.
Roy fills that spot nicely and takes an enormous amount of pressure off of Jamie Benn. Dallas is already going to count on Benn a lot but he would have had even more enormous responsibilities, too much in my opinion, if he didn't have someone proven in that second center role. It also provides a lot of flexibility with the top two lines. Loui Eriksson, Michael Ryder and Ray Whitney can shift between lines and still have a playmaking center to feed them. Roy works best with those snipers on the side and you could certainly do a whole lot worse than those three wingers. He's another piece to the power play and he can chip into the penalty kill if needed.
The move also keeps Eakin and the other younger players on the third and fourth lines where they can use their youthful energy to grind through the game. It's the perfect spot for him to continue to improve and hopefully take that second center role in the future.
Logistically and in order to make this team, as a whole, better, this move was the right one to make.
One of the big things that turned Stars fans off of the trade yesterday was Buffalo's reaction to the trade. Like Dallas, there were both those that liked or hated the trade. Some Sabres fans were downright ecstatic to get rid of Roy because of a multitude of reasons from his off-ice persona to his lack of fire on-ice. There was an amount of negativity about Roy coming from Buffalo that swayed the view of this trade in the eyes of Stars fans. I'll try my best to allay those fears.
First, his off-ice problems. Roy is known partier. He likes to get his drink on and it's been especially prevalent in the past couple of seasons. The thing is though, lots of NHL players party. Heck, Jamie Benn was out partying before games during the World Championships. Roy's off ice partying has been overblown in Buffalo because the media has done a terrific job doing a character assassination.
Sabres fans want the tough guy. They want players on their team that are willing to throw the body around and punish the opponent. The one thing I heard more than anything else from Sabres fans was about Ott's hit totals the past few seasons and how they would have led their team. Being physical is not Roy's game. He's a playmaker that needs the puck on his stick and a sniper beside him. Ask him to dish out hits and really pound the boards and he loses his effectiveness.
Roy came into the Sabres team as a highly touted prospect and put up numbers from day one. When Danny Briere left the team after the 2007 season, Roy got his monster contract and was the future of that team. He was golden boy of their new core. He went out and put up career numbers with 81 points (32 goals and 49 assists) in his first year after that contract. He led the team in scoring from that 2007-2008 year until the 2010-2011 season when he suffered a torn quad that knocked him out after for final 47 games of the season. In those first 35 games that he did play, he was again the team leader in scoring.
While his numbers did fall after the 2007 season, it's not something you can entirely blame on him. Their second best center for most of those years, Tim Connolly, could barely stay on the ice without suffering a debilitating injury and there was no one else on that team that could sufficiently take over that second line role. Roy was under pressure to deliver even more to the team and led all forwards in ice time every year from 2007-2010.
Without that second line center to help him out, Roy went up night after night against the opponent's top defensive lines for three straight years trying to lift his team and I think he just got burned out. Couple that with the city and media turning heel on him and putting all the blame on his shoulders; I think he just checked out mentally. He needed a change of scenery badly and moving away from a big hockey town in Buffalo to a smaller spotlight in Dallas should do him wonders.
Despite all that scoring from Roy, the Sabres just weren't winning and failed to make the playoffs in three of those last five years. As the wins failed to come in, Roy's off-ice stuff just continued to magnify and things reached a breaking point when he called out coach Lindy Ruff. Calling out Ruff, coupled with his non-physical play, dipping form and partying made him public enemy number one. There's literally nothing he could do to change their minds. There's such a predetermined hate towards Roy that Stars fans shouldn't take what Sabres fans say too seriously.
The other big worry for Stars fans was Roy's production last season, which was a career low (in which he played the whole season). You have to remember though that he was coming back from a significant injury in his torn quad. He didn't have the conditioning needed at the beginning of the season and struggled out of the gate. He lacked the usual explosion in his skating due to the torn quad and he didn't really get all of that going until near the final months of the season. He looked healthy at the end of the year and I would expect him to be 100% for the beginning of next season.
Now, an initial look at his stats might be disappointing, but when you sift through the advanced stats you'll see that he was one of the most important players for Buffalo even without the scoring numbers.
Among all forwards on the team, he faced the toughest competition and played the best out of all of the forwards against them, even with him coming back from injury. It wasn't Jason Pominville or Thomas Vanek; it was Roy. Whenever he was on the ice, play flowed towards the offensive zone. That's more puck possession, shots and overall control of play. His lack of points can be explained through a little bit of bad luck, either from his teammates missing shots or having shots blocked. Buffalo was able to control play when he was on the ice more than anyone else and had more shots during that time.
Overall, this is a fantastic trade for the Stars. Roy is a fine player and an improvement over Ribeiro, who he's pretty much here to replace. He plays a better two-way game than Ribs and is better at the face-off dot (though he's not as good as Ott). He's slotted here in the perfect role as a number two center and has the perfect wing players to suit his game.
Ott was a fine player but the Stars have youngsters that can bring his grit to team like Ryan Garbutt or Tomas Vincour. Dallas doesn't have someone suited to man the second line like Roy. Best of all, he's in a place where all the pressure isn't on him and he can relax and just play his style of game.
The biggest thing that Dallas lost from Ott was his heart and that's the only thing that the Stars couldn't replace. His style of game and his grit can be found in the younger players. Stars fans have to remember though that fans root for the team, not the individual player and this was a move that improves the team. The kicker to all of this was that Dallas was able to get Adam Pardy, and his useless contract, off their books.