With free agency looming and the question of the Sabres pursuing one of the two free agent defensemen from Vancouver I reached out to Vancouver (and all around) sports blogger Chris Ross from Painting the Black. Check him out on twitter as well @paintstheblack (he’ll follow back)
1. What are some of the key differences in Kevin Bieksa and Christian Ehrhoff’s games?
Bieksa and Ehrhoff have very different styles. Bieksa is more of a hard-hitting, puck moving defencemen who is grown into a shutdown defenceman this year with Dan Hamhuis. Bieksa has had his quesiton marks in his time in Vancouver but this past year he has shown that he is very reliable defensively. Bieksa is more offensively minded than the average defenceman but isn’t nearly the offensive player that Ehrhoff is. Ehrhoff is one of those few defenceman who have the skating ability and vision to rush the puck up the ice. Ehrhoff is more offensively minded than Bieksa but not nearly as defensively reliable. Ehrhoff isn’t as strong or as physical as Bieksa.
2. Is one better than the other on special teams?
Ehrhoff is definitely the better guy on the power play and Bieksa is the better guy for the penalty kill. Ehrhoff has a bomb of a slapshot and controls the puck very well at the point where as Bieksa is probably better suited to stay on the second-unit powerplay. With regards to the penalty kill, Bieksa is the better choice because he is better defensively, not much more complicated than that.
3. With Bieksa (29) and Ehrhoff (27) do either still have much room to grow as players?
They both have room to grow as players but at this point I think Ehrhoff has a lot more room to grow. Christian Ehrhoff at times can be absolutely brutal defensively, which can be a liability, especially in the bright lights of the playoffs. He needs to greatly improve on the defensive aspects of his game if he wants to become an elite defenceman in this league. Ehrhoff has all the intagibles offensively and is as smooth a skater as they come but he simply makes too many mistakes in the defensive end. At this point in Bieksa’s career he has probably reached his ceiling. He finally played up to his potential this year defensively but I think that he could bring back some of the higher offensive numbers he had earlier in his career. There were long stretches during the regular season this year where he went without getting points but other than that he has more or less maxed out.
4. Is one more suited to play on a top pair than the other with theSabres Tyler Myers?
To be honest, I don’t know too much about Tyler Myers’ game because he plays in the Eastern Conference. However, I know he is a young offensive defencemen, which leads me to think that Kevin Bieksa would undoubtedly be the better guy to play with him. Christian Ehrhoff as I have said is not defensively reliable and it would seem like a young defenceman like Myers would be better suited to playing with someone who can help him grow defensively and possibly make up for his youth and inexperience. Again, I don’t know too much about Myers but the fact that Ehrhoff needs to be paired up with someone very dependable makes me think that pairing him with someone as young, promising and inexperienced as Myers would not be the best fit.
5. What do you think will happen with the contract situations for both players? Will one or both return to Vancouver?
The contract situation is going to be quite interesting for these two. The Canucks will be hugging the Salary Cap again but with the cap moving up to $64 million there should be room to re-sign the both if they agree to take a bit less money. Bieksa and Ehrhoff have come out publicly and said the money is not their first priority and they want to stay in Vancouver. GM Mike Gillis also said he is confident that he can lock both players up. Obviously that is far from a guarantee but so far the signs are pointing to both guys staying in Vancouver.
Brian Bund is a Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills fan currently residing with his family in Syracuse, New York. He is a contributing writer at Hockey Heaven, Buffalo Wins and the author of the The Buffalo Sports Fan blog. You can reach him on Twitter at: @brianbund