Steve Ott would be a lot more worried if he wasn’t getting scoring chances.
There’s no doubt the frustration level is high. Ott expected more production through the first 10 games and the co-captain would love to help lead the Buffalo Sabres out of their offensive funk.
The team is averaging a league-worst 1.2 goals per game. At 1-8-1 the Sabres are in the basement of the Atlantic Division facing traditional rival Boston tonight. And Ott? He has just one assist.
“Absolutely, it’s concerning after 10 games to only have one assist and that’s something for myself I want to help produce and help contribute to this team,” Ott said. “Obviously with everybody chipping in, it makes a huge difference in the wins and loss column.”
But he’s not going to panic about his offensive numbers just yet.
“You know what, I don’t get frustrated so much on goals as I would be on scoring chances. And why I say that is I feel I’m getting scoring chances,” Ott said. “I’ve had a lot of chances on net, and when the chances aren’t there, then it’s a problem somewhere. For myself, I know I’ll score soon. It’s just percentage-base on the amount of chances you get.”
His lone point this season came Oct. 10 against Columbus when he had the first assist on Thomas Vanek’s goal in a 4-1 loss.
While Ott’s primary role is not as a goal scorer, he has been a consistent offensive contributor in his NHL career. Last year, he netted nine goals for the Sabres in a shortened season. In 2009-10 he had an NHL career-high 22 with Dallas.
For the first time as a professional, Ott is a captain, sharing duties with Vanek. Could that be adding some pressure?
“No. I don’t think so,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said.
“He’s able to handle that. He’s been a leader his whole career. Just having a ‘C’ shouldn’t change that.”
Ott doesn’t think so either.
“You know, no because I’ve always done the things that I’ve always had to do,” he said. “That’s the same with Vanek and myself. This is nothing new for us. We’ve always led in our own way. Nothing’s really changed in the essence of, ‘Oh, you have a letter on your jersey now.’ You want more. Absolutely. You want success and we want accountability. That’s something we’re aiming for ourselves and then spreading it from player to player.”
But the slow start has been cumbersome, especially for the veterans. Getting those scoring chances may be an optimistic sign, but breaking out of the slump to capitalize on those chances is another puzzle to solve.
“Oh for sure. I think you squeeze your stick a little bit more on some of the plays,” Ott said. “That does happen. But for myself, I’ve been consistent my whole career, since junior on. Some times you do go a little while and you get slumping but you know what, you work your way out of it. The only way to do so is through the work ethic. I’m a firm believer in the work ethic takes care of offensive output.”
“Of all our veterans we expect them to create offense,” Rolston said. “I think some of those guys have had slow starts. They’d like to have a better start but that’s behind them now, so they have to start tomorrow.”
The opportunity for a fresh start comes against a Boston team that is tied for third in the Atlantic Division after winning its last two games.
The Bruins have scored 20 goals in seven games while surrendering just 10. Add in the tradition of a rivalry game, and how the Sabres start becomes a crucial element to success.
“We’re hesitating,” said Ott, whose team has been outscored, 13-1, in first periods. “We’re sticking one toe in the water and feeling the game out. Then we realize, ‘Oh wow, we can play with them,’ and then we get going. That’s not good enough.
“We need to be a team that comes out with energy — young, youthful energy — and go from there and get our chances that way.”