The player called up by the Buffalo Sabres to replace Patrick Kaleta, while Kaleta has been suspended for 4 games. He was chosen as Kaleta’s temporary replacement because Rochester Americans coach Ron Rolston likened his style of play to be most similar to that of Kaleta’s.
In the 3 games since Tropp has been up with the big club, the Sabres are 3-0. In Ottawa, he displayed his tenacity by trying to challenge Chris Neil to a fight. Against Winnipeg, he showed his determination by driving directly to the net and hacking at his own rebound until he notched his first goal, leading Rick Jeanneret to yell out “Rookie time! Rookie time! Corey Tropp guns it home!” His ice time during the 3 game stint has been limited to 6-7 minutes a game, but when he has been on the ice, he has been very noticeable, and more importantly, contributing.
The 22 year old Tropp is only in his second professional season. Does he deserve a spot on the Sabres when Kaleta returns? The candidate that he could most likely replace is Matt Ellis, but is this a move that will be made? Will we see the fourth player in NHL history to wear jersey #78 stick around a little longer? (The other three players were Pavol Demitra for the Ottawa Senators (1993-96), Eric Landry for the Montreal Canadiens (2000-02), and Marc-Antoine Pouliot for the Edmonton Oilers (2006-08).
In his first full pro season with the Portland Pirates last year, Tropp notched a very respectable 40 points in 76 regular season games with 113 penalty minutes. He chipped in another 7 points in 12 playoff games. So far this year with the Amerks, Tropp was on a similar pace with 7 points in 10 games. Conversely, Ellis has just one assist in 7 games with the Sabres, and is a minus 3. The 30 year old Ellis has 34 points in 208 NHL games.
Without a doubt, nobody can question what Ellis brings to the table: a superior work ethic, great attitude, safe and sound 2-way play, and a heart of gold. In the eras of previous ownership, Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier have displayed a tendency to stick with a “safe choice” type of player such as Ellis, over a “risky option” like the unproven Tropp. With the new ownership of Terry Pegula and the “let’s do what it takes now” attitude surrounding the club, is it possible for Tropp to stay longer?
I think the Sabres need Tropp much more right now than Ellis. He brings additional physicality to the ice and a presence that the Sabres desperately need. He brings aggressive puck pursuit, is feisty, and he is not hesitant to go after the puck in the corners or crash the net. Tropp is able to not only chip in on the scoreboard, but is willing to drop the gloves. Having a team with 4 aggressive forwards (Tropp, Gaustad, Kaleta, and McCormick) would be a complementary balance to the other 8 forwards. It would help keep other teams more honest, prevent them from taking extra liberties, and help create extra space for the more crafty players to work.
Ellis is a sound player, but he was also the last man to make the Sabres roster this year. How many other NHL teams rosters would he have made? Tropp is a faster skater than Ellis. Ellis has NHL experience that Tropp lacks. The Amerks have had the captaincy waiting for Ellis, should he return to Rochester (it was assumed Jochen Hecht would be coming back sooner than later, with Ellis being sent down). Although Ellis is the safer option, I think the Sabres should give Tropp an extended look. The energy and edginess that he has brought while on the ice, along with his decent size and grit, are something the Sabres could benefit from right now. He brings the type of game, tough but skilled, that quickly endears and energizes fans. Tropp played well in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, and has been one of the better Amerks on the ice so far this season. There is one more game left for #78 to prove he is a piece the Sabres need right now…this Friday, 11/11/11, against the Senators.
So far, it looks like he might have the praise needed from coach Lindy Ruff. In the post game interview following the Winnipeg game, Ruff said “He’s really played well. He works hard. He had a great opportunity to go to the net and also the rebound opportunity. He’s supplying real good energy for us, he’s been in and around the net and he’s done a great job with pucks down low and that’s with the limited ice time he’s had, so kudos to him for playing as well as he has in his first couple of games.”
Let’s Go Buffalo!