Time for the first installment of our 432 part series, Better Know A Sabre. Tonight's subject: Rob Niedermayer, THE FIGHTIN' NIEDERMAYER!!
Tom Stivali from the NJ Devils blog In Lou We Trust was gracious enough to offer up his opinion on former Devil and new Sabre Rob Niedermayer in return for some thoughts on Hank Tallinder. Check out what Tom had to say about the veteran center below.
All summer fans were clamoring for a top scoring forward, and we ended up with Rob Niedermayer. Although he won't fill that hole, he did have 10 goals and 22 points last year. Can Sabres fans be hopeful that he's got enough offensive skill left to center a third line that will have at least one scorer on it, or should we be expecting him to be the center for a shutdown line or a grinding fourth line?
Tom: At this point in his career Niedermayer seems to be a checker/shutdown center that at times can show some offensive ability. Last year Jacques Lemaire didn't utilize a true checking line (not that you would be able to tell with all the line shuffling anyway) but there were times when he was utilized in the shutdown role.
Tom: I wouldn't say it hurt, but with Martin Brodeur, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Patrik Elias providing leadership (among others) he was really brought in to fill a hole that some of the younger players couldn't after evaluations in training camp. Where he certainly did help was the penalty kill. Niedermayer was primarily brought in to replace the minutes that former Devil and current Minnesota Wild center John Madden played both on even strength and the penalty killing unit. He did seem to gel with the team though, even going on vacation with Travis Zajac during the Olympic break last year!
How effective was Niedermayer on the PK last year? Do you think the Sabres should utilize him in that role even though we didn't lose any forwards from a great PK unit?
Tom: The Devils didn't have a great penalty killing unit last year but Niedermayer will be missed. Replacing his minutes on the PK will not be easy as he averaged the highest time on ice during shorthanded situations for the Devils. He was typically matched against the other team's top line and spent the majority of his time shorthanded paired with Jay Pandolfo. Pandolfo, after a shoulder injury early in the year, didn't play all that well after he returned and ended having his contract bought out after the season. The Sabres have a pretty strong penalty kill unit right now, but there is no reason why they couldn't use Niedermayer in the second forward unit on the ice to compliment the top unit.
In addition to his penalty killing skills Niedermayer will also be missed by the Devils in the faceoff circle. After playing on the wing his last year in Anaheim (only taking 68 faceoff's) he took 945 faceoffs for the Devils last year (second on the team) and had a 50.6% faceoff win percentage.
Very few things bother Sabres fans more than having someone take a cheap shot at one our our players and then watching everyone just stand around instead of sticking up for the guy. He doesn't have to drop the gloves, but will Niedermayer at least take someone into the boards for spraying Ryan Miller?
Tom: Devils fans feel exactly the same way. Parise gets abused at times and I feel like many of the players stand around. Niedermayer will push and shove after the play but he won't often lay a big hit on someone in retaliation from a previous play. That said, Niedermayer is a very smart player and considering some of the players he ends up out on the ice against, he doesn't take many dumb penalties.
Overall, Niedermayer is a good player for the price you have him at and will help fortify your penalty kill unit while contributing solid minutes on the third line. I was hoping the Devils could re-sign him and he could help groom some of the younger centers the team has in the system, but the Kovalchuk saga has taken much of management's time and Buffalo came up with a good offer. Of course there is also one intangible item that makes it great to have Rob Niedermayer on your team. If Scott starts to get the itch to play again, guess where his first choice to play will be..........
Thanks again to Tom Stivali for all his help!