The 'other guy' in Buffalo deal is 'a real good fit' for the Blues
It's a nice fit, this matchup of Steve Ott and St. Louis. The Blues give Ott a chance to play in the postseason for the first time in forever, and Ott gives the Blues a lift with grit, savvy and versatility.
Though he hasn't dented the score sheet yet, Steve Ott already is earning his new team's respect.
Before the reporter could finish spitting out the question, the new St. Louis Blues forward heard the word "playoffs." He knew where the query was headed, referencing the move from last-place Buffalo to second-place St. Louis and an opportunity for a postseason run.
"I knew this was a special group and coming right into the dressing room and seeing how tight-knit a group this was and how much fun they are having in doing so," he said. "There's obviously a lot of hockey left to go, but we have a chance. We have a chance at it if we continue to strive and continue to push forward, then this team, I think, has one of the top chances in the league to have success, and that's why we're here."
The "we're" he referenced, of course, is Ott and goaltender Ryan Miller, the centerpiece of last Friday's blockbuster deal that sent Jaroslav Halak and Chris Stewart to Buffalo along with prospect William Carrier and draft picks.
Ott, an 11-year NHL veteran, last appeared in the playoffs in 2008 when the Dallas Stars advanced to the Western Conference finals. He's had to watch the playoffs the past five seasons.
Ott should fit in well with coach Ken Hitchcock's defensive-focused Blues. He can contribute on special teams and is the type of player opponents hate to play against, as both David Backes and Barret Jackman described the day of the trade.
"I've played a style of play that I help contribute on a nightly basis, and if that's playing hard skill against some of their top guys, then that's probably what best fits me," Ott said. "I try to be very versatile out there. I can play left wing, center, right wing and in certain situations if it's penalty kill and power play and all that kind of stuff. I'm just here to help contribute in any possible way I can. They already have, or we already have, a very deep team here, and you just want to contribute."
You'll have to excuse him for the "they" versus "we" slip of the tongue.
But make no mistake: Ott, 31, is happy to be in St. Louis.
He knew he was likely to be traded before Wednesday's deadline, but he had no idea where.
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"If you could have asked me where, I would have obviously chosen this place," Ott said. "The depth of this team. The playing style. That type of stuff. I think it personally was an exciting fit."
The Blues think so, too.
"We're still learning about what he is capable of," Hitchcock said. "I think what he is is a real detailed player. There's a lot of things like when you're looking at video the next day, just things that you need to win with he does. He's on the right side of pucks. He knows where to reload. He's got good stick. He's a physical guy, not reckless. He understands, he can count numbers on the ice when to go after it and when to not get trapped."
Hitchcock coached the Stars from 1995 to 2002, so he was in Dallas when Ott was drafted in 2000. But the forward's rookie season was the year after Hitchcock had been relieved of his duties there.
"I've always found him to be a real cagey, smart player," Hitchcock said. "He's got great hockey sense. So his competitiveness has always been there, but when you've got competitiveness with great hockey sense, I think it's a good fit. And the way we need to play and the way we play, he's a real good fit for us. He's a real good fit because we're able to play him in every situation. He's really good on PK. He's good against the other team's top players. He's just an all-around good fit. We've got a lot of players similar to him who have learned to play the game we think the right way, and he just adds to that mix."
That mix has been going strong since the trade, with comeback wins Sunday at Phoenix and Tuesday against the visiting Lightning.
Ott has 264 points in 675 career NHL games but failed to record a point in either contest. Still, his contributions on the ice did not go unnoticed by his new teammates.
"He does a lot of little things really well," T.J. Oshie said. "One thing the wingers really try to work on is board play and getting the pucks out, and it seems like he's very calm and very good at protecting the puck on our breakouts. Playing with him (Sunday) I noticed that he made a couple really good plays coming out of our end. We want to play fast, and that's one of the ways to do it and he helps us out with that."
"He plays his butt off every single shift," Backes said. "Makes a lot of character plays out there. Those guys really give you some motivation, some inspiration. He's yet to get on the score sheet, but it's coming. He's around the net digging and doing the hard things, and he'll get some soon."
Ott averaged 19:42 per game for the Sabres and often logged more than 20 minutes per night. In his first two games with the Blues, he's averaging 13:36 of ice time.
That will be an adjustment for the former Sabres captain, who is just working to fit in with his new teammates and contribute however he can. All eyes will be on the Blues' new goalie, and rightfully so, but the Blues' new forward can more than hold his own.
"I'm just trying to earn the respect of my new teammates here," he said, "and hopefully I can do so by playing every night and playing hard for them."
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at email@example.com.