Buffalo Sabres fans, I’m not a big guy. Standing somewhere between 5’7″ and 5’8″, depending on what kind of shoes I’m wearing, I can pass through the halls of the high school at which I teach and be confused for a student fairly easily, as long as it’s casual Friday and I’m wearing a hat to cover up the fairly noticeable (translation: huge) bald spot on the top of my head.
Suffice it to say, I sympathize with under-sized athletes, and usually root for these under-sized under-dogs to prove everybody who says they can’t play the game wrong.
Which makes my argument today against the Buffalo Sabres re-signing Tyler Ennis a painful one to make.
What does Ennis have going for him? Well, he was the third-highest scorer on the Sabres last year, with 10-21-31. He’s pretty fast, he skates well, and he’s brave, all of which are desirable qualities. He autographed some stuff for my kid once, so I guess he’s got that going for him. Lemme see, what else can I say about him . . . hmmmm . . . .
On to the reasons I would have serious reservations about the Sabres signing him to a long-term contract. The first is the most obvious: his size. Ennis has already had one season cut virtually in half due to injuries (2011-2012, when he played only 48 games due to an ankle sprain), and a player his size will always have more reason to be concerned about injuries than some of the larger players, partly because everyone is going to want to take a run at the 5’9″ guy coming down ice. Do the Buffalo Sabres really want to make a long-term investment in a guy who almost certainly is going to battle the injury bug numerous times in his career? I suppose they might, if he was fierce enough to win a lot of battles up against the boards . . . but since he doesn’t . . . next question!
For the sake of argument, let’s say the Sabres are not too worried about Ennis getting injured; after all, every player gets injured at multiple points throughout their career. Let’s just look at what Ennis brings to the Sabres on game day. He’s an okay scorer, but a defensive liability on every shift. If I’m going to commit big dollars to keep this guy in a Sabres sweater for 4-5 years, I better get a GREAT scorer for someone who is fairly useless on defense. Look: Martin St. Louis is 5’8″. He’s not a great defender, by any stretch of the imagination. However, he’s been good for 60+ points a year throughout his career. (Obviously, he’s been good for far more than 60 in a number of seasons. Hell, he had 60 last year, in only 48 games!) Usually, St. Louis’ line scores more goals than it allows, as his career +/- of +12 will tell you. So far, that’s not the case with Ennis (although his career +/- is still heavily influenced by last year’s -14). Will Ennis ever become a consistent 60+ points a year producer? Eh . . . next question, please!
I know it’s probably not fair to compare Ennis with a future Hall-of-Famer such as as St. Louis. Still, you don’t want there to be a precipitous drop-off in production between your first line and your second, and last year, there certainly was. How hard do you want your first line to have to work, in order to keep the second line from just giving it all back to the opposition?
And don’t even get me started on his usefulness on the power play. Two PP goals last season, Tyler? That’s only two better than my total.
I have nothing against Tyler Ennis; I like his feisty play and am tempted to say that he is going to step up his level of play this year and make a serious run for 60 points, especialy if the Sabres stop trying to make him a center and shift him back over to the wings. If he does that, I’ll be the first one in cyber space to congratulate him. Unless he has that sort of barn-burning year, however – and there’s been nothing this preseason to suggest that he will – I would argue that it is time for the Sabres to shop him, or let him walk if there are no takers. The Buffalo Sabres cannot afford to have their second line counteract their first line as badly as it did last year, and since the team has enough young prospects who have played great on the second line, I think the odds are pretty good that Ennis will not be a Sabre this time next year.
Agree? Disagree? Think ill of me? Please leave your comments below, or harass me on Twitter @theamazingMrS.