Ellis’ tenure with the Sabres hasn’t been completely smooth. Early on, he cleared waivers and went to the minors again. But he carved out nearly two full seasons as an NHL regular before last year, which he acknowledged was an “emotional rollercoaster.”
“I was older, I had established myself on an NHL level and now it wasn’t just myself and my wife going through the changes and the ups and downs of a call-up,” Ellis said. “It was bringing my two boys with us through the process, which made it a little difficult at times.”
Clearly, though, the Sabres view Ellis as an asset, even if he’s the 13th or 14th forward. His value can’t be measured in goals or points. Counting one playoff appearance, he had zero in 15 games last season, yet the Sabres went 12-2-1 when he played.
Incredibly, since Ellis arrived, the Sabres are 76-39-16 with him (a .641 winning percentage) and 53-49-13 (.517) without him. Ellis has 10 goals, 25 points and is a minus-1 in that time.
Ellis’ tenacity is legendary. He’s arguably the most relentless Sabre in recent memory, never taking a shift off or a day in the NHL for granted. At times, his hard work has almost shamed teammates into better efforts. His presence and positive attitude rubs off on youngsters and veterans.
That supreme work ethic has always been Ellis’ greatest strength, helping him go from the ECHL to Detroit in four years.
“It’s what got me my first professional contract,” Ellis said. “It’s what got me drafted to the OHL. I don’t think those things change. I think when you look back, and you can ask any coach I played for from the first time I picked up a hockey stick, and the first word that comes to mind when they talk about myself was that I was a ‘hard worker.’ It’s something that I’m proud of and it’s something that’s a natural for me.
“When I lace up my skates, even in the summertime when I put on my runners, when it’s time to get down to business, I let the passion kind of take hold, and I just run with it,” he said.