Vladimir Sobotka abandoning the NHL in favor of the KHL was a difficult pill to swallow. For the Blues, they lost a solid hockey player who unfortunately overvalued the skills he brought to the ice. The team followed up Sobotka’s decision by giving Steve Ott a two-year contract.
Approximately 95% of fans groaned, aware that Ott is far from an adequate replacement for Sobotka. Coach Ken Hitchcock apparently falls in the other 5%.
StL coach Ken Hitchcock is high on Lehtora, believes Ott will make up for loss of Sobotka, says Elliott is No. 1. More from Hitch tomorrow.
— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) July 14, 2014
I fall into the camp that actually believes Ott is a halfway decent player when used in the proper role and when he’s held up to reasonable expectations. Fans counting on some sort of offensive surge when Ott came aboard last year were disappointed, but that’s because they were expecting too much from a man who is best off on the third or fourth line mixing things up.
I’m not opposed to the Blues bringing back Ott, but only if it’s clear that he is in no way comparable to Sobotka. The two men are tough customers (Sobotka leads in the “gumption” department) and both are capable of winning their fair share of draws, but Sobotka leads by a decent margin offensively. The 2013-14 season was Sobotka’s best, tallying nine goals and 24 assists (33 points). Ott ended with nine goals and 23 points, but he managed just three assists after arriving in St. Louis. Sobotka may have a bit more room to grow his game offensively while Ott appears to have reached his ceiling.
Ott is a decent player and he will help the Blues, but let’s not pretend he’s a magical fix for the Sobotka situation. Perhaps Hitchcock needs to be reminded that the team was trying to sign Sobotka first and it was only when he decided to head for the KHL that they turned to Ott. There’s a reason why Ott was Plan B. He’ll work hard and he isn’t as much of a liability as some think, but let’s be honest with what he brings to the table.