|2012 - Christian Ehrhoff||47||5||17||22||6||34||1||0||2||102||4.9|
Contract: Signed through the 2020-21 season (oh my) at a cap hit of $4 million
Report Card Grade in 2012: 7.5 out of 10
Introduction: In the summer of 2011, the Buffalo Sabres signed Christian Ehrhoff to what was, at the time, a very exorbitant contract for a defenseman, both in terms of length and cap hit. However, two years later, his contract almost looks like a bargain; Ehrhoff logged a metric ton of ice time for Buffalo this year and finished this season with the fifth highest points per game ratio for players with a $4 million cap hit or higher in the entire NHL.
He's clearly become the Sabres most trustworthy defenseman and is one of a few to play big minutes in all situations. But just how important was Ehrhoff to Buffalo this year? Let's dig a bit deeper.
Key Stat: This stat is straight from NHL.com but is sums things up nicely - "Finished 10th among all NHL skaters with an average TOI of 25:11, the highest average of his career and the highest per-game average by a Sabres skater since Alexei Zhitnik skated 26:32 per game in the 2002-03 season."
Ehrhoff was the Sabres workhorse this season, and was, by far, the team's #1 defenseman in terms of TOI, production, and actually living up to lofty expectations. With many other Sabres defensemen either failing to live up to expectations or being too young to assume a top role, Ehrhoff was counted on to do everything, and do it well - and that's exactly what he did.
Thumbs Up: If the key stat wasn't good enough, Ehrhoff led all Sabres defensemen in TOI, power play TOI, goals, assists, points, shots, and plus/minus, and he was even second on the team in blocked shots to boot. Ehrhoff led the Sabres this season in Goals Versus Threshold, a measurement that tries to calculate exactly how much better a player makes his team, similar to WAR in baseball (though he was still outside the top 200 in the NHL).
The big German plays his best hockey against division opponents, scoring the most points and tallying his best +/- against the Northeast. He's also one of the few Sabres who seems to enjoy playing at the First Niagara Center - scoring at home more than double the points accrued on the road, 15 to 7. He must love booing.
Thumbs Down: You'd think that with Ehrhoff's lofty TOI numbers, he'd be playing most of his minutes against the top opposing players, however, that wasn't the case - Ehrhoff ranked fourth on the team in Relative Corsi QoC, a measurement of how good his opponents on the ice were. It's not really a horrible negative, but it's still something to note.Like all power play captains, Ehrhoff will always have the occasional horrible blue line giveaway, though it seemed like most of them came at the end of the year, and they're still fresh in our memories. You could argue that he needs to score more goals, but it's tough to nitpick like that with the guy who led Sabres defensemen in every offensive category.
Voting: Using the good old grade school system of A, B, C, D, F, with a A representing a great season, C an average season, and F a very poor season, grade Christian Ehrhoff on his performance this year according to the expectations you had for him.