Matt Ellis = Kevin Martin? No, not the guy who plays basketball, dummy.
If the current Pegula Sabres were compared to 1990's alternative bands, then Matt Ellis might be considered Better Than Ezra or Candlebox. You might remember him/them for a few moments and even enjoy what he/they brought to the scene, but in the long run you forget they were ever there. This is why the Matt Ellis story is a tad different than what I wrote about Cody McCormick last week
. He hasn't earned a long term contract, a full-time roster spot, or in some cases, the respect of the casual fan. I say eff that. Over the past three seasons, this kid has probably worked harder than any other player on the Buffalo roster (sweeping generalization). Yes, he may have incredibly miniscule talent when compared to your average NHL athlete, but when have you not seen Matty Ellis busting his ass 112% and making the most out of every moment he gets in a Sabres uniform.
This is why Matty just got his new deal. Although not long-term and only a two-way deal this upcoming season, it displays the organization's knowledge that he is a hardworking, solid fourth liner that when called upon will do his damndest to get the job done. I'm not sure exactly how the deal works, but my guess is that he will spend most of this season as the captain in Rochester and will be one of the top forward call-ups. As for next season when it is a one-way deal, maybe this is Darcy's way of putting Ellis to the test for one more season and possibly giving him the opportunity to prove he can be a full-time fourth liner. If not, he at least will earn a full year of an NHL salary in 2012-13, whether it is with the Sabres, Rochester, or possibly another NHL franchise (if he gets traded or claimed off of waivers).
This all makes me extremely happy. I LOVE Matt Ellis, and the rest of the DGWU crew often makes fun of me for it. I have a soft spot for hardworking athletes who may not have the skill of others, but have the heart to do whatever it takes. This is why I have always pulled for athletes like Grady Sizemore, Steve Wojciechowski, Dustin Brown, Tayshaun Prince, and Jim Leonhard. These guys push themselves nonstop. Granted, maybe a couple of them are skill players who don't get noticed so it is hard to compare them to Ellis (Dustin Brown), but I think you get my point. It might be because this was always the type of athlete I was. I was a pretty solid track and cross-country runner, but of course those athletes never get much love or the spotlight, so I also played basketball. By the time I was in eighth grade I had the realization that "oh, I'm not very good. I better work my ass off if I ever want to play Varsity". So that is what I did. I hustled for every rebound I could, I sprinted up and down the court, and dove for every loose-ball. Just don't ask me to hit a 10 foot jump shot or drive the lane. I guess I identify with Matt Ellis (although he was probably a stud in high school sports back in Welland, Ontario), and thus why I pull for the guy so much.
If only I had game like Woody....
I still remember the day Matt Ellis signed with the club. October 1st, 2008 I believe. I was dying for the season to begin and would check every Sabres site I could for any news that I missed. Then I saw "Buffalo claims forward Matt Ellis off waivers", to which I responded, "huh?". I had NO CLUE who Matt Ellis was. I checked his NHL profile and saw that he had played most of his career in the AHL, and in the NHL for two teams in two seasons. This claim would make him 3 for 3. Not a strong background. His numbers:GP: 70 Goals: 3 Assists: 5 Points: 8 Average Time On Ice : 7:40 Plus/Minus: +2
Nothing to get excited about, but when news is slow, anything becomes interesting. However as he was given his new opportunity, Ellis scored seven goals and 12 points in 45 games with a +4 and earned a full-time position with the team in 2009-10. He even scored his first playoff goal, but will unfortunately will only be remembered in that series for a video I refuse to put up. You can read about it here as it was covered by the Yachtsman
back in the olden days of this blog.
Following his full-time run, he only earned a two-way deal last season and spent most of the time in Portland. Much of this was due to the emergence of Cody McCormick in the 09-10 playoffs and the following camp. But last year was still enough to get a deal done again for the upcoming season. In fact, I recently learned from Phil of BBG that the Sabres actually do quite well when he is in the lineup
. Therefore I believe that Darcy found another unwanted talent that has proven his worth. Matty Ellis is back!
I wonder how much a half Amerks, half Sabres Ellis Jersey would cost?In honor of the aforementioned Candlebox, I had to drop this youtube gem. Still one of my favorite songs, which is why the Matt Ellis comparison works so well for me.
In case you don't know me well, I should probably let you know that one of my favorite players in the NHL is Matt Ellis. In fact, this was supposed to be a post all about Matt Ellis. Yup, you read those sentences correctly. However as I started planning, it began to evolve into something else entirely. No worries though, Matty Ellis will get his day soon.
in 2009, it looked like it would be an uphill battle for Cody MCormick
I like underdogs. Of course that goes without saying because I'm a Sabres/Bills/Cubs fan. Yet what I really enjoy are the players that are considered underdogs. Undrafted free agents, burned out veterans, and journeymen have always found a place in my heart. Call me cheesy, but I love seeing a good comeback story, or hearing about some kid from a Division III college making it in the NFL. I love former and current Bills players like Jim Leonhard, Fred Jackson, and David Nelson who had to work hard just to get noticed after going undrafted. I love the small teams in NASCAR like Front Row
that have to dig for sponsors each week just to run a full race. And I love that post-lockout Darcy has found several "diamonds in the rough" that have saved their careers and in some cases helped the franchise. Not every veteran panned out well (i.e. Joe DiPenta, Nolan Pratt), but there are a handful that stick out.
I put together a short list of the players that nobody wanted who were given another chance with the organization. Darcy obviously saw something in all of them, and these guys turned their opportunity into positive play. First up:
What's better than this picture? The whole video at the end of the post.
This is obviously the best "hidden gem". Back in August 2009, two whole months after free agency started, the Sabres signed McCormick to a one year, two-way deal, adding grit to a roster that was about to let Andrew Peters walk away. When then signing occurred, I honestly didn't know much about McCormick. I remembered him getting into a couple scraps in Colorado, but I had to immediately google the name in order to find out any real information. What I saw stat-wise was nothing spectacular, and I figured it to be a desperate move by Buffalo to add any "fighter" they could besides fan non-favorite Peters. McCormick had already spent five seasons in the NHL, shuffling back and forth between Colorado and AHL affiliates in Hershey, Lowell, Lake Erie, and Albany. His career stats looked a little like this:
GP: 190 Goals: 9 Assists: 21 Points: 30 Average Time On Ice : 8:37 Plus/Minus: -2
I should also add that he was a career -26 in the AHL. I found some solid fights and decent hits on youtube, but overall it was a meh signing to add veteran leadership in Portland. And that is where he stayed during the regular season, scoring 17 goals in 66 games and racking up a massive 168 penalty minutes without a single call up to the NHL. Fellow veterans Matt Ellis and Mark Mancari, as well as youngsters Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe all got offensive call-ups while Cody stayed back in Portland. With Adam Mair on the roster, there was no real need for another gritty forward and who would drop the gloves.
But when injury struck the Sabres before/during the playoffs (as it always seems to), McCormick got the NHL call and then proceeded to make fans wonder why the hell the Sabres hadn't made the move earlier in the season. He was arguably the hardest working player on the ice for the Bruins series; digging for pucks, agitating the opponent, and lowering the boom when everyone else was afraid to hit. In his three game call-up, he logged over 10 minutes of ATOI and 16 PIM, adding two assists as well as the admiration of the fans and the attention of management. Those three games earned him a one year, one-way deal with the club a few months later, which he turned into his best NHL season yet and has solidified himself as a solid 4th line forward and team leader. In one full season McCormick scored 3/5 of his total career points and established himself as maybe the strongest forechecker on the team. Right when nobody wanted Cody, Darcy somehow found him, gave him a chance and he has parlayed it into a new 3 year deal worth 3.6 million dollars. Not bad for a guy that the average fan didn't know existed until April 2010. Now he is the heart of a serious contender.
Next up: My personal superhero, Matt Ellis. I hope he has a contract by the time the post appears, whether it's with the Sabres/Amerks or another organization.
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