This is nothing new in the NHL: a team filled with small, scrappy players who feel they need to send a message early to their opponents that they shouldn’t be pushed around. There’s nothing wrong with that, except when you end up being penalized for foolishly reckless plays.
The Buffalo Sabres have a lot of these types of guys and their lack of discipline cost them this season.
Patrick Kaleta is probably the first guy that comes to mind. He often charges head-first to make a statement that doesn’t need to be made and ends up putting the Sabres on a penalty kill. However, he can almost be forgiven for his actions.
That is what Kaleta does and the coaching staff or front office know that and continue to play him. Also, don’t make the mistake that he is an imposing presence out there at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. Even though the opposition knows what Kaleta is all about, it isn’t as though they cower before him because of his size. There is nothing wrong with his brand of hockey unless others follow in his footsteps.
Which is why Steve Ott can be such a potent detractor. Ott leads all Sabres in penalty minutes this season with 74. On a team that lacks many veteran leaders, Ott’s penalties, especially earlier in the season, further hurt the Sabres for more than just giving the other team a powerplay. Ott’s scrappiness is one of his stronger traits but like Kaleta, his is also on the smaller end of the spectrum at 6-foot, 190 pounds.
To Ott’s credit, ever since he was named an assistant captain after Jason Pominville was traded, he has reduced his penalty minutes significantly. Ott only has nine penalty minutes in the eight games.
It also doesn’t help either of these players that the Sabres don’t have any enforcers with size on the team. Even though neither Kaleta or Ott would admit to wanting some backup, it sure couldn’t hurt. Opposing teams may not goad Kaleta or Ott nearly as much if they knew that there could be repercussions from someone that could inflict some serious damage due to their size and mean streak.