With the 2011-12 Buffalo Sabres ending in disappointment and after a few weeks for us to gather our thoughts, it's time for us to issue our report cards on the season. Over the next few weeks, we'll grade every player that wore a Buffalo Sabres uniform in 2011 and 2012, from Luke Adam to Mike Weber.
|2011 - Christian Ehrhoff||66||5||27||32||-2||47||1||0||3||136|
Introduction: Coming into the season as the prize of the Sabres new free agent class, Ehrhoff had a lot of pressure to perform right away. After trading for his negotiation rights and promptly signing him to a 10 year, $40 million deal, some fans probably hoped to see him do a little more in the scoring department. But Ehrhoff was able to showcase his skills at the blue line and proved that his contributions to the team stretched far beyond the stat sheet.
Key Stat: Plus/Minus of -2. Although fans that watched all season will recognize that this negative number was largely due to the lull in goals the Sabres displayed for most of the season, it's still a notable statistic. Ehrhoff was coming off back to back years of double digit plus/minus (+36 in 09/10, +19 in 10/11) for Vancouver. In fact, minus 2 was Ehrhoff's second worst plus/minus of his eight year career (he posted a -12 in 08/09 for San Jose).
Key Stat #2: One Power Play Goal. When the Sabres brought in Ehrhoff, they expected him to at least be a threat to net some chances on the power play. He had scored six PPG in each of his last two seasons for the Canucks. His slap shot from the line looked deceptively powerful to start the season, but it just never seemed to get through. To his credit, Ehrhoff did a decent job anchoring the point at times, but hopefully next season he will pick his spots with better care. After all, his shot did only go in 3.7% of the time.
Thumbs Up: Defensive instincts. When the Sabres were at their best during their run to bring themselves back into the playoff picture, Ehrhoff was also flourishing. He posted a +6 from 2/19/12 until he was injured on 3/27/12. The Sabres won 14 of 19 games during that stretch. He displayed great speed for a defender and showed a great ability to defend in one on one situations and odd man rushes. Still only 29 years old, Ehrhoff is in his prime as a hockey player. I expect him to have a big year for the Sabres next season, as he becomes more and more comfortable with his new team and system.
Thumbs Down: Injury. Sure, it's not fair to him, but the 16 games Ehrhoff missed this year hurt the team, especially to end the season. Let's hope it's not a trend, since Ehrhoff only played less that 77 games one other time in his career. When Ehrhoff was on his game, he seemed to be the cog that held the Sabres defensive unit together. It would also be nice to see some scoring punch from the blue line, but I'm not really one to get hung up on that for defensemen. If it's there, it's there. After watching him for a full season, it's somewhat clear he's just not that great of a shooter, so why force it? The Sabres should focus more on putting weapons around him on the power play.
Voting: On a scale of one to ten, one being the lowest and ten being the highest, grade Christian Ehrhoff on his season according to the expectations you had for him. If he met them, give him a five or a six. If he eclipsed them, aim for a seven or beyond. If he failed to meet them, give him a lower number relating to how poorly he missed the target.