(HockeySTL)-- When Ryan Miller and Steve Ott were traded to the Blues last week, there was little doubt surrounding who was the key player in the deal. Miller was the main reason the Blues made a seven-piece trade with Buffalo, but Ott wasn’t just a throw-in.
The Blues liked Ott from the get-go. They had rumored interest in the forward for weeks, and when they were able to talk Buffalo into packaging him up with Miller, the deal became much more enticing.
Ott and Miller have now played in three games with the Blues. All three have been wins. Miller has looked good in net, and Ott has looked good on the ice. Ott’s chemistry with his new teammates is already an existing key to the success of the team. His work ethic is an even bigger component.
Ott tallied his first point as a Blue on Thursday in Nashville, when he assisted on defenseman Ian Cole’s goal. Blues captain David Backes correctly predicted on Tuesday that Ott would soon begin finding some offensive stats next to his name.
“It’s coming,” the captain said when addressing Ott’s offensive production. “He’s around the net digging and doing the hard things and he will get some soon.”
T.J. Oshie is one of the Blues players to have gotten an early opportunity to play with Ott. While it was just for a few shifts, Oshie saw some real positives.
“He does a lot of things really well,” said Oshie. “It seems like he’s very calm and protective of the puck on the breakout. I was playing with him (for a bit) and he made a couple of really good plays coming out of our end. We want to play fast and he really helped us out with that.”
But it took a while for Ott to catch up to the Blues pace of play. The forward had grown accustomed to playing significant minutes with the Sabres. He had done so since going to Buffalo from Dallas two seasons ago. With the Blues, he is playing fewer minutes, but more intense minutes and in a different role.
“It honestly doesn’t even feel real because you wake up and are accustomed to how you were playing there in Buffalo and you wake up and you are on one of the top teams in the NHL,” said Ott. “It’s a great opportunity to be playing for a franchise like this. I just want to fit in any way I can.”
While it is a large change for the Canadian forward, the move has done little to change the way he plays. The grit that the forward has become infamous for League-wide is still present. In three games with the Blues, Ott has five hits. It may seem like a bit of a decline for Ott, who has averaged more than three per game this season, but instead, it’s a sign that Ott is adapting to the new responsibilities that come with playing for a contender like the Blues.
“Personally, that’s the type of game I try to play,” said Ott. “I try to work hard, compete on a nightly basis. I’m more of a complete guy, and try to compete when I possibly can. I want to forecheck and make plays out there.”
Ott’s style is what caught the Blues’ attention when they saw that they had a potential trade partner in Buffalo. Ott fits the Blues’ team mold perfectly, and adds an interesting perspective to their roster. And the Blues aren’t the only ones who benefit from the trade, because for Ott, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.
“It was a little overwhelming but I was just so excited,” Ott said. “I know how strong this team is, I have some pretty strong connections with the general manager, and obviously the coach.”
Ott played for the Stars’ organization when now-Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock was the skipper in Dallas. At the same time, Doug Armstrong was the general manager of the Stars. The connections Ott made while with the Stars also play a role in the Blues’ locker room, as well.
Teammate Brenden Morrow was with the Stars when Ott broke into the League in the 2003-04 season. Ott and Morrow grew close, and the relationship remained even when Ott moved to Buffalo. When Ott heard the rumors of a trade, he couldn’t help but wonder if he would be reunited with Morrow.
“I had watched probably five or six of (the Blues’) games this season,” said Ott. “I’ve been really close to Brenden and wanted to see how he was doing here. Just to see how this team competes, their work ethic, to see a glimpse of it, the strength, the pace they play with, (was amazing).”
And there was little doubt in Ott’s mind that he would be moved. As much as he liked his time in Buffalo, he was hoping for a move to a contender. When he was told last Friday, prior to the trade deadline, that he was not suiting up for Buffalo’s game, he became anxious.
“The last month or so I kind of knew something was going on,” said Ott. “It was tough. Obviously I got traded to Buffalo about two years ago and they were expecting big things with the new ownership. But then they changed directions and wanted to rebuild the franchise. When you are in a rebuilding situation, your older pieces are going to get moved for assets and that’s what has been going on.
When he found out St. Louis was his destination, and that he was accompanying Miller to the Blues, he was overjoyed. Now, his Blues teammates get to share in Ott’s joy, as they quickly discover what kind of teammate he is.
“He plays his butt off every single shift,” said Backes. “He makes a lot of character plays out there and those guys give you some motivation, some inspiration.”
The match between the Blues and Ott is a good one. If you had asked Ott a month ago about his future and where he wanted to be, and he had answered honestly, St. Louis would have been his ideal spot. Going from dead last in the League to a contender was not necessarily something Ott saw happening, but he’s certainly happy with the way things played out.
“If you could ask me my first choice, I would pick St. Louis in a heartbeat. It’s like a dream come true.”