Last night, in his first game as a member of the Buffalo Sabres, Christian Ehrhoff impressed, registering a goal and an assist in a 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. It was a strong debut for the former Canuck, who was named the game’s first star for his efforts. Now, it would be foolish to read too much into one early preseason game (unless you’re Tony Gallagher), but now seems as good a time as any to examine just what, exactly, Vancouver lost when Christian Ehrhoff signed in Buffalo.
The lazy question is this: will the Canucks miss Ehrhoff’s scoring? The answer is two-fold: on one hand, of course they will, because Christian Ehrhoff puts up a lot of points; on the other hand, probably not, because the Canucks didn’t let Ehrhoff go due to insufficient point production.
Unlike Henrik Sedin, I’m not comfortable declaring that Vancouver didn’t lose anything when they lost Christian Ehrhoff, especially because it’s not true. The Canucks lost a 50-point scorer, and that’s substantial. There will be times this season when Ehrhoff is scoring and the Canucks are not, and if the Vancouver media feels the need to report Michael Grabner’s nightly numbers, we’re definitely going to hear all about what Christian Ehrhoff is up to.
This city is going to be on Ehrhoff-watch all season long and sometimes his absence will seem regrettable, especially when the team slumps offensively. Still, what we need to understand, is that, while Christian Ehrhoff’s scoring will be missed at times, it isn’t an irreplaceable aspect. Here’s where Henrik Sedin gets it right:
“[Ehrhoff] was in a spot where we have other guys who can step up and play in that role. Alex [Edler] is going to get more responsibility. We have a healthy Sami Salo now. We have a lot of guys who are going to play a few more minutes. We have Chris Tanev who is coming up and he played great when he played last year. I think on the back end we were very deep last year and we are as deep this year.”
In short, there are other guys that can be promoted to Ehrhoff’s job.
Let’s talk about what that is. For much of the summer, I’ve heard people mistakenly refer to Christian Ehrhoff as a powerplay quarterback, and it’s an understandable misunderstanding: Ehrhoff is a defenceman that put up 28 of his 50 points last year on the powerplay. On the surface, that looks like the statline of a powerplay QB.
But that’s not how Ehrhoff was deployed. Rather, the Canucks used him as a roamer, a fourth forward, of sorts. Often, the other members of the Canuck powerplay would form a diamond around the opposition’s four-man box, then have Ehrhoff drop down inside of it. Either the box collapsed, opening up room on the outside, or it didn’t, and a narrow passing lane to Ehrhoff opened up to be exploited by the precision of the Sedins. Consider this goal, the Canucks’ first from last year, as evidence:
You may observe that Alex Edler is quarterbacking the powerplay. Christian Ehrhoff, meanwhile, is down very low.
Ehrhoff was encouraged to drop down that low because he was rarely counted on to be the last man back. Even when the Canucks used a forward at the point, as they did when Alex Edler went down and Mikael Samuelsson was promoted to the first unit in his stead, Ehrhoff remained the roamer. In short, the Canucks were just as comfortable with Mikael Samuelsson as the last line of defence as Christian Ehrhoff.
This is likely why they weren’t willing to make him their highest-paid blueliner, and this is what we need to consider. Christian Ehrhoff will put up a lot of points in Buffalo this year, because that’s what he does. He’ll likely outscore Kevin Bieksa too, and this will be a bone of contention for many after the Canucks effectively chose Bieksa over him. But Christian Ehrhoff was allowed to walk because of what he doesn’t do, and that’s play reliable defence. In a cap world, you don’t pay a defenceman $40 million dollars if his shutdown skills are on par with Mikael Samuelsson’s.
Consider, for instance, Ehrhoff’s playoff statline: yes, he put up 12 points, the most among Canuck defenders, but he was also a team-worst minus-13. Sure, the Sedins were minus-11 and minus-9, but they also put up 20 points apiece. In Ehrhoff’s case, his offence was effectively offset by the offence he afforded the opposition.
In other words, there are parts of Christian Ehrhoff’s game that will be missed, but there are also parts that won’t be. Consider that the next time someone bemoans his absence.Tags: Canucks, Ehrhoff, featured, Preseason, Wild Speculation