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Doing more… December 15, 2009

Posted by calvin in Uncategorized.
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I think we all knew Pat Kaleta had more talent than just in hitting people, right? If you’ve watched him play you’ll notice he’s a very good skater, for one thing. After watching him at the rookie camp in Summer 2008 I knew he had an accurate shot – he went 4 for 4 in the target shooting drill. Other guys couldn’t even hit the net itself every time, and he was putting the puck through a space about 6″ in length. However, I know not everyone went to rookie camp that day, so I wouldn’t blame you if you had no idea Pat could shoot the puck.

Lindy Ruff has said more than once that he has talked to Pat about being more than just a hitter. Though he obviously relishes annoying opponents into taking stupid penalties, Pat wants to be known for more than that too. But what makes a player suddenly able or willing to do more? Is there a defining moment, or does it just kind of sneak up on the guy?

I think at least part of the answer in Pat’s case is the confidence Lindy has shown in him. It’s not surprising that when Pat plays well he gets more ice time. He’s Lindy’s kind of player – Lindy can appreciate who he is and what he has to offer, because he shared similar traits with Pat when he was playing.

Interestingly enough, I think another aspect of it has to do with being put on the penalty killing unit. Some players seem to take pride in being part of the PK. I can’t understand for the life of me why Lindy doesn’t use Thomas Vanek in shorthanded situations. When he played the PK early last season I thought he did a heck of a job. Apparently Lindy disagreed, because he yanked him off it and hasn’t used him much since. Moving on…

Pat is a good defensive player. He hustles, he’s willing to block shots, and as I mentioned above, he’s a good skater. I think guys like him love to play the PK. It’s almost like it’s another way for him to thumb his nose at opponents.

So is there a magic bullet or does a player gradually build up the willingness and ability to move out of their comfort zone? The results are often good when they do. Witness Kaleta, but also Chris Butler, Andrej Sekera, and Tyler Myers moving up on the play, as well as Tim Kennedy gamely taking on the role of center (though his faceoffs have GOT to improve). All in all, when these guys do more the team is more well-rounded and one of the most potent aspects of offense, in my opinion, is the ability to roll four competent lines. People have commented that the Sabres attack in waves – just when you think your head is above water they send out another line.

If third- and fourth-line players were content being third- and fourth-line players and didn’t think they could do more this team wouldn’t have the depth it does. I think depth and the pack mentality, as well as the maturing of key players, are all reasons the Sabres are doing better this season. Let’s hope more players see how much fun it is to perform elaborate windmill-ing goal celebrations.

Ottawa tomorrow night. I hope Jason Spezza isn’t in the mood to be a Sabre-killer.

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Comments»

1. manda903 - December 16, 2009

Yay! I mean, wow, sorry about that knee injury, Jason. Now that Heatley’s been traded to the Western Conference and Spezza is out for a while (including at least one more game against the Sabres), the only Sabre-killer left on the roster I’m worried about is Daniel Alfredsson. Hopefully he will be less effective without his compatriots.

2. Kathleen - December 15, 2009

The way Kaleta has broken out this season really reminds me of Paul Gaustad. Granted, Goose was an enforcer (or at least, enforcer-ish rather than an agitator, but they’re both highly physical, defensively responsible, Lindy Ruffian players who, surprise, surprise, turn out to be able to play some pretty good hockey too. The biggest difference is in maturity, but when Gaustad was Kaleta’s age, he was in Rochester riding out the lockout.

Oh, and no Spezza tomorrow! Or until the Olympics, even. http://blogs.buffalonews.com/sabres/2009/12/senators-lose-spezza.html


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