Midseason Grade: C
Final Grade: B-
Joined Team: Acquired via trade from Florida for Karlis Skrastins and a 3rd round pick (Feb 26, 2008)
MHH Nicknames: Rusty [We need to work on this one]
- Leopold (26)
- Clark (12)
- Liles (9)
- Hannan (9)
- Foote (8)
- Tarnqvist (6)
- TOT 21:06 (4th)
- EV 16:30 (4th)
- PK 2:03 (4th)
- PP 2:33 (3rd)
*Rank is based on total minutes, not average per game.
Best Month: January (6 points in 13 games)
Career Highlights: 21 points doesn't seem like a lot, but it was the 3rd highest scoring season of Salei's career.
However, his 112 hits is the lowest since the league began tracking the stat 4 seasons ago.
Report: Last summer I gave a glowing review to Salei, but cautioned that I felt we were going to be disappointed with his play this season. I compared him to Karlis Skrastins and that, thankfully, was more joke than premonition. Regardless, Salei took a significant step backwards.
Actually, at the start of the season, the Skrastins comparison wasn't that far off. Salei was junk - seemingly indifferent to what was happening on the ice. Thankfully, he shook off whatever seemed to be bothering him and started to turn his game around. He improved steadily throughout the year - one of the few Avs we can say that about - although he never quite got to the level of play that he exhibited when he first arrived in Denver.
Salei is yet another example of a hard-hitting defenseman who gets bit by the pacifism bug in Denver. Salei had 192 his two years ago in Florida. Last year? 107. He was still our most physical bluleliner (and one of 4 with 100+ blocks), but it was still frustrating to watch. Drops in physicality is nothing new, of course; Kurt Sauer, for example, nearly doubled his hit totals in his first year away from Jacques Cloutier.
Despite the drop in hitting, Salei was rather good defensively (once he pulled his shit together after the awful start, that is). His +/- of -4 was the best of the 6 primary D-men. He wasn't quite top 2 material, but he was a very steady top 4.
Offensively, like so many of his teammates, it just wasn't there. Salei had 3 goals in 17 games last spring, but couldn't carry that momentum into the following season - he had 4 in 70 games. It's not like Salei has a history of being an offensive dynamo (his .30 point per game rate last year is above his career average of .23), but he has shown flashes in the past and those weren't on display at all this year. His seven powerplay points in 179 minutes (2:33 per game) are quite anemic...but sadly blows Brett Clark out of the water (2 points, also over 179 minutes).
If I was grading based on what a player is capable of, Salei would probably get a D, because he played below his capabilities. But, based on what he provided - relatively steady defense, adequate hitting, solid shot blocking and a hint of offense - I'm giving him a B-.
Fun Fact: Salei had an "impressive" stretch in February where he received a penalty in 8 straight games.
The Ruslan Salei Drinking Game: Drink when Salei makes a big hit Drunk potential: Nowhere near as high as it should be
What I Said Last Year: "I am really excited to have Salei on the team and feel he was a significant upgrade last year to Skrastins. However, as good as Salei was, I have a nagging suspicion that he may have been playing a bit over his head and that may have been validated a bit by his atrocious play against the Wings. In other words, I think it's possible that we may find out that we've traded Skrastins for... another Skrastins.
2008 Salary (and Cap Number): $3.025M ($3.025M)
2009-2010 Status: Salei is entering the final year of his contract.
Outlook for 2009: On one hand, Salei is our most physical defensemen, and you'd hate to see him get traded (especially if we were to get a coaching staff that takes the brakes off). On the other, he's really the only veteran defenseman we have who is both marketable and tradeable. As he'll be a free agent next summer, I expect Salei will be traded at some point. If he's not moved this summer, he will likely be the subject of trade rumors all the way up to next year's trade deadline. Maybe we can move him to get that Kurt Sauer guy back?
Next Up: Paul Stastny