This is my first report card of the grading period. Continuing the tradition of pointing out your potential biases, I will go ahead and point out that Ryan Ellis is my four-year-old son’s favorite hockey player/human. While this would normally mean I would have a hard time being objective, I often found myself on the receiving end of a barrage of “look what happens after you sign a big contract” comments and defending his performance this season. However, I also got pretty good at conceding when he demonstrated some shortcomings. Because of that, I feel like I can deliver a fair grade.
The Report Card
Ryan Ellis spent the majority of the season partnered with Predators team captain Roman Josi. First and foremost, while Josi tends to be a bit more offensively-minded as a defender, that’s probably the reason he was paired with Ellis, the more defensively-minded defender. I like to think of it as balancing out.
With Ellis on the ice, the Predators were 2% better than the league average at defending. Of course, this number is reflective of the many other players (including Roman Josi) that shared the ice with him. In order to take a closer look at Ellis’s individual impact, it will help to take a look at how he did when some of the other guys weren’t out there with him
Considering Ellis spent about 1500 minutes on the ice and only 245 minutes were without him (and 149 of those 245 with Mattias Ekholm), it’s safe to say that the TOI sample size is a bit low to be as accurate as the first graph. It appears that Ryan Ellis is a solid defender who defends better than league average in most situations. The slight rise in defense without Josi is probably largely attributed to Ekholm’s skill as a defender meshing well with Ellis’s skill in the same. Whereas when paired with Josi, they balanced one another out to where half of the pairing is playing shutdown defense and the other half wants to go out and bolster the offense. I think this is probably a smart pairing given the tools Laviolette had to work with last season.
Take a look at the following stat line:
Remember when I mentioned I had to “hear about it” several times in regards to performance? Well, this is what I’m referencing. Ellis was sidelined for the beginning of the 2017-2018 season while rehabilitating from knee surgery. We here at OTF had a countdown to Ellismas in hopes that St. Ryan Ellis soon would bring presents...and he did. In what amounts to three games more than half a season, Ellis scored nine goals and 23 assists. Had he played the whole season at that rate, he would have finished with around 17 goals and 45 assists...and probably some Norris discussion. It only makes sense that coming into last season healthy, everyone in Smashville felt Ellis was primed to have a huge year.
But, he really didn’t. His seven goals and 34 assists certainly showed that he stayed involved in scoring, but his 41 points, compared to the previous year’s pace of around 62, failed to live up to anyone’s expectations. However, I feel that while this is in the “negative” category, it’s a perceived negative.
I call this a “perceived negative” because in reality, Ellis still managed to be sixth on the team for points and fourth for assists. If you want to view it as a negative, fine, but Ellis on the ice means there’s a solid scoring chance waiting to happen.
I like to call this the “monkey off my back” goal...mainly because he broke his goalless streak and also because he literally removed the proverbial monkey from his back and threw it away.
Benn knocks Ellis out of the way like he’s a peewee hockey player. Ellis had the speed and placement, but he must have thought Benn was going to give up easily. An easy pass to Radulov and the game is out of hand. This is the moment I point to when people ask why the Predators didn’t do so well in the playoffs: they weren’t playing with heart.
Ellis is solid. He’s going to go out and play his game regardless. As a leader, I hope to see him lead the charge to play a full 60 82 times—because when Ellis is on fire, he burns bright and hot. The question remains, with P.K. Subban gone, how will the pairings wind up? While I certainly feel like combining Ryan Ellis with Mattias Ekholm would be a phenomenal pairing, does that mean Dante Fabbro will have to balance out Roman Josi like Ellis did last year? Is Fabbro ready for that responsibility? I would look to see Ellis back with Josi and Fabbro with Ekholm...which will probably be a great place for Fabbro to hone his game.
Final Grade: B
I went with a B because he was definitely above average defensively and offensively. However, I, like the rest of us, wanted to see that 60-point season.
How would you grade Ryan Ellis’s season?
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