Darryl Sutter has a fetish for "Vancouver Christian Ehrhoff":
"My memory of him is more of Vancouver. In my mind, that’s how I see him, as a Canuck...Vancouver’s style then with Alain as their coach is closer to our style than any team he’s played on since." (LA Kings Insider, 9/20/15)
"I’ve said it lots—in my mind, I see him in a Canuck jersey. That’s how I see him, because he was on a really good team. Hey, he went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final...I see him on the power play with the Sedins and Edler. It’s almost like last night for me." (LA Kings Insider, 9/28/15)
"When I see Christian, that's how I see him, as a Canuck. I see him and Edler.
"Quite honest, that was not a very good team in Buffalo. That's hard to evaluate. You look at some of those games there and you're like, 'I'm not watching that.' " (LA Times, 10/4/15)
Yet Ehrhoff is more than those Stanley-eyed Vancouver nights. His Buffalo squads were an eyesore, but Christian shone above it all.
Why is this important to the Kings?
First, hoping a 33-year-old regains his form from two years (as opposed to a half-decade ago) is realistic. Now also plausible? Viewing Ehrhoff's relatively poor '14-15 Pittsburgh campaign as an anomaly—if last season was a sudden dip (as opposed to being part of a multi-year lull).
I believe Ehrhoff has the potential to be the best second-pairing defender of the Sutter era. And that's just by approaching his Sabres success.
In the forthcoming table, I compare Christian's 5v5 Corsi For Relative %, dCorsi, and Goals Above Replacement figures to those of selected LA secondary rearguard from 2011-15 (25 GP+, including playoffs). Most of these defensemen (like Ehrhoff) averaged 20+ minutes a game; only a couple were both power play and penalty kill regulars (like Ehrhoff). I didn't include clear number-one Drew Doughty or obvious bottom-pairing blueliners:
LA Kings #2-4 Defensemen, 2011-15
In terms of expectations and usage, Ehrhoff is penciled in to pick up Voynov's second-pairing slack. But the German's possession numbers in Buffalo stand out on their own; they're far superior to the Russian's. Even his injury-riddled worst with the Penguins compares favorably with the disgraced defender's best.
Granted, Ehrhoff's recent GAR is not so spectacular. But even in this instance, he showed well as a Sabre.
Will the offense-minded Ehrhoff replace the offense-minded Voynov, a top-four defenseman?
"You can't do that," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. (LA Times)
Yeah, you can.
Last year's hampered Ehrhoff was roughly 2013-14 Voynov's equal; at his best, he's top-pairing. Los Angeles would be thrilled with a bounceback in between.
Barring injury and/or serious age-related decline, Ehrhoff and the Kings are set up for a hefty pay-off.