Patrick Kaleta: v2.0

Posted on November 20, 2009 by Dave Drews

Patrick Kaleta’s role on the Buffalo Sabres since joining the team full time in 2007 has stayed pretty consistent, and has been pretty obvious. Hit hard, annoy people, draw penalties. And he’s been darn good at it too.

Since he’s arrived, Kaleta has led the league in penalties drawn for each 60 minutes played. As of now, he is at 5.6 per 60 minutes (around 1 every 10 minutes played). He is averaging 10 minutes and 6 seconds on the ice per game this year. Do the math there, and Kaleta is drawing around a penalty a game for a team that’s been pretty good at power plays this year. It’s a little known, but potentially game changing stat.

Combine into that Kaleta’s penchant for hitting anything that moves. Big hits rile up both the crowd and the team as much as a good fight, and can quickly rouse a slouching team.

But you knew all that. Those things are the reason, in addition to the local connection, that Patrick Kaleta is high on the list of favorite Sabres players among fans.

But Pat has been asked to do more than to be a pest this year. Lindy Ruff want more out of him than just a hit here or there. He wants the young grinder to prove he can be an actually hockey player, not just one of the Hanson brothers (if you excuse the Slap Shot reference). So far, Kaleta has been up to the task.

Kaleta has 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points thus far. He’s been up and down the ice, not only being in crashing the net, but also getting back and making some pretty good defensive plays as well. The young forward’s +/- record is currently a plus-6; that’s much better than what you would expect for a pest (see: Sean Avery: -2, Chris Neil: -2, Darcy Tucker: +1).

Ruff has noticed his ability this year, and trusted him with more responsibility. With Mike Grier out with a groin injury, no one would have been surprised to see Paul Gaustad moved up to the third line and Adam Mair moved in at center of the fourth. This would mean that the team’s (and league’s) best face-off guy was stuck on a wing somewhere. Instead, Lindy had no problem moving Kaleta up and leaving Gaustad where he belongs.

Of course, with any pest you get some problems. Kaleta potentially cost them the game on Wednesday against the Florida Panthers with a late, stupid interference penalty. Even Ruff, however, who was obviously livid when it happened, had to admit that for he brings to the team, a couple mistakes can be let off the hook.

Patrick Kaleta is young. He cannot be considered in the ranks of Avery and the like when it comes to pests. He simply hasn’t shown the volume of work guys like that have. He has, however, shown that he can be more than a big hitter, and that he might just earn his spot as a Buffalo favorite for years to come.

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