Our Buffalo Sabres report card series continues with Aaron Dell. I’m sorry in advance to my editor, who probably did not think through having me write about him.
Total Season Stats (Sabres): 12 GP | 1-8-1 | 4.03 GAA | 0.893 SV%
Regular Season Stats (Rochester Americans): 22 GP | 12-7-1 | 2.91 GAA | 0.909 SV %
Playoff Stats (Rochester Americans): 10 GP | 5-5-0 | 0.883 SV%
Contract Status: UFA
I know there are at least a few of you who are Pokémon nerds. Not, like, “oh, I loved the show! Pikachu is so cute,” but hardcore nerds who have researched how to build competitive Pokémon teams in the video games. Those of you who fall in that latter category know Smogon, but for those that don’t, it is a strategy website with dedicated entries on how to effectively use each and every Pokémon in competitive tournament or high-level battle situations.
My emphasis, here, is each and every Pokémon, because in 26 years of the beloved video game series, there have been, uh, some clunkers. The dedicated bloggers at Smogon have entries for each and every one of them. They use the power of the written word for winners and losers alike, and when they have to write about a loser, they do not mince words.
Consider Magikarp, the orange goldfish guy that’s only useful after he evolves into Gyarados, one of the most powerful monsters in the game. For most of its life, Magikarp can only perform “Splash,” a move that does absolutely nothing. Their writer pokes a bit of fun at the Pokémon’s expense, to really hammer home the point that this is a guy not worth using in any situation outside of you losing a bet.
All this nerd talk is related to hockey, because this is my report card for Aaron Dell. Aaron Dell is Magikarp, if Magikarp somehow evolved into Gyarados just to level a guy, and then went... back to being a Magikarp.
It’s hard to evaluate Dell’s play in net for the Sabres, other than the fact that it was bad. He turned it around in Rochester, but, all due respect, we’re not here to discuss the development of a 33-year-old goaltender like he’s some upstart who’s gonna make it next year. While it’s certainly nice to see that his time in Rochester was fine at best, there are stronger goaltender options for even the Amerks next year — my thoughts are a healthy Malcom Subban or Michael Houser.
Hockey players are human beings, and I know I’m being a bit cruel. But, in my defense, so was Aaron Dell when he targeted Drake Batherson in what was likely Dell’s final game as a Sabre on January 25. In an unquestionably dirty — and somewhat premeditated — play, Dell leaves the puck behind the net, sees Batherson, loads up, and hits. Dell defended his actions without remorse in his postgame interview, insisting his play was meant to buy time and he “didn’t mean to hurt anybody.”
Batherson missed right around two months of play with an ankle injury as a result of the hit. Dell was suspended for three games and placed on waivers. No one picked him up.
The Sabres goaltending situation is, to put it plainly, weird. Plenty of folks smarter than I are having a lot of fun theorizing what the future holds for the Sabres in net. Aaron Dell should not be part of that future. In closing, and because I’m not going to continue to spend more energy on this, here’s a snippet of what I think his apology should have looked like, since, as of publishing time, many months later, it’s unclear if he has made any sort of apology to Drake Batherson. Imagine this in a Notes App apology, if you would:
“Earlier in January, in an attempt to buy time for my defenseman, I leveled an unsafe hit on Drake Batherson. I reached out to Drake through our agents and I expressed my regret. I always play tough and I’m a competitor, but I crossed the line here. I’m sorry to have let my teammates and coaches down for such an unnecessary action.”
Overall Grade: F
Grade Aaron Dell on his 2021-22 season.
A - excelled above expectation
B - did better than expectation
C - met expectation
D - did worse than expectation
F - did much worse than expectation