Next on the report card list are role players and a few re-calls from Rochester.
Patrick Kaleta – B-
Kaleta had another rough and tumble season in which he dealt with injuries and suspensions. He was effective playing his gritty style, although the offense wasn’t where it was a few seasons ago when he was an ideal third line grinder.
As an RFA, I wonder if Kaleta could be on his way out the door. At some point Darcy Regier will probably start trimming a few dollars here and there to keep his top six at an elite level. Many teams do this in one way or another. While Kaleta fills a valuable spot, he could be deemed expendable.
For what it’s worth, Kaleta would be very difficult to replace. He had another great year blocking shots and being very defensively responsible. Those types of forwards are tough to come by, which could be a primary reason Kaleta is back for next season.
Cody McCormick – C-
McCormick’s chance at building on a terrific 2010-11 was derailed by concussion issues. While he did a nice job as an enforcer and filling a fourth line role, his sporadic play (due to injury) kept him from producing offensively. He only had one goal this season and when paying over one million dollars for a fighter/grinder, you need more production than that.
Matt Ellis – C+
Not much to say about Ellis. That is both a good and bad thing. He continued to display that quiet, hardworking style that Lindy Ruff has come to love. However, his offensive contributions are few and far between. When talking about bottom six forwards, there isn’t always a need to keep the same ones around on a yearly basis.
Ellis is a great piece for organizational depth, especially because he fits so well if recalled. I would venture a guess that the Sabres could find a player with a little more jam in his game and maybe a little more offensive touch. If they don’t find such a player, it is ok. Ellis offers a steady option for the wing or at center on the fourth line.
Travis Turnbull – NA
Turnbull only played a few games, so I won’t bother giving him a full grade. However, he did acquit himself well in that brief recall. A goal and a scrap that accompanied some solid physical play appealed to just about everyone. Those who think Turnbull should be a permanent fixture on the Sabres’ roster aren’t thinking straight. Turnbull is a great depth player who is obviously capable of playing a game in the NHL here and there. However, I don’t think he is a solution for your fourth line.
Colin Stuart – NA
No grade for Colin Stuart for the same reason that Turnbull didn’t get a grade. Stuart only had a cup of coffee up in Buffalo this year. He is a decent player who won’t ever be a complete liability. However, like Turnbull, he isn’t someone you would keep with the big club for the entire season. Stuart has been a great influence and contributor for the Amerks and should be kept around as veteran talent in Rochester.
Derek Whitmore – NA
Only two games for Whitmore won’t warrant a grade. He is an interesting case compared to Turnbull and Stuart. While he and Stuart have that offensive touch, Whitmore is far more of an offensive weapon than his two teammates in Rochester. While he filled a spot on the bottom six, he is still an offense first player. This will probably make any future recalls a challenge, but does put him in an interesting skillset. While he will likely play most of his career in the AHL, he has the offensive skillset that could make him a worthwhile recall if the Sabres are in a pinch.