The Visnovsky Effect

Jonathan Willis
March 06 2009 11:34AM

Visnovsky Nash

The loss of Lubomir Visnovsky to injury has had a major impact on this team. How big an impact is a question that isn’t easy to answer, but I thought that one way to do it might be to check how the top line (Penner, Horcoff and Hemsky) have played with and without him this season, and also to check how his two defense partners (Grebeshkov and Souray) have performed. To do this, I used Vic Ferrari’s excellent website, timeonice.com. The numbers I checked were goals for and against (GF/GA), shots for and against (SF/SA) and shot attempts (including shots, missed shots, and blocked shots) for and against (SAF/SAA).

Horcoff with 71: 16GF/5GA (+9), 172SF/133SA (+39), 324SAF/253SAA (+71) Horcoff without 71: 23GF/23GA (EV), 255SF/283SA (-28), 453SAF/534SAF (-81)

That’s an incredible swing. With Lubomir Visnovsky, Shawn Horcoff has put up elite numbers this season. He been on the ice for more than three times as many goals for as against, his line has outshot the opposition at a tremendous rate and spent a ton of time in the offensive zone.

On the other hand, without Lubomir Visnovsky, Horcoff’s line has just broken even in goals, they’ve been outshot, and they’ve spent more time in their own end than in the good end of the rink.

Hemsky with 71: 13GF/5GA (+8), 144SF/112SA (+36), 286SAF/215SAA (+71) Hemsky without 71: 22GF/21GA (+1), 231SF/246SA (-15), 417SAF/436SAA (-19)

The swing here isn’t as incredible, but it’s certainly obvious. Ales Hemsky is not the same player without Lubomir Visnovsky that he is with him.

Penner with 71: 13GF/7GA (+6), 145SF/99SA (+46), 285SAF/185SAA (+100) Penner without 71: 24GF/19GA (+5), 243SF/253SA (-10), 449SAF/456SAA (-7)

The shift is least dramatic with Penner (who has put up great results on the season, effort or no), but it’s still obvious.

Souray with 71: 6GF/9GA (-3), 132SF/121SA (+12), 251SAF/216SAA (+35) Souray without 71: 29GF/26GA (+3), 352SF/392SA (-40), 638SAF/709SAA (-71)

Sheldon Souray is an interesting case. His goals for/against numbers are actually better without Visnovsky, but when we look at the other numbers we can realize that probably isn’t sustainable. With Visnovsky and Souray on the ice, the Oilers have fired 35 more shots at net than they have had directed against them. With only Souray, they’ve had 71 more shot attempts against than for.

Grebeshkov with 71: 26GF/15GA (+11), 221SF/225SA (-4), 455SAF/414SAA (+41) Grebeshkov without 71: 19GF/22GA (-3), 183SF/201SA (-18), 345SAF/351SAA (-6)

This case is actually the opposite of Souray’s – we see a massive difference in goals for and against with and without Visnovsky, a difference that’s probably greater than it should be. Still, there’s a legitimate drop by both shots for and against and Corsi, and there’s no doubt that Grebeshkov is better with Visnovsky than without him.

Lastly, let’s compare the team, with and without Visnovsky:

With: 37GF/26GA (+11), 419SF/409SA (+10), 838SAF/770SAA (+68) Without: 82GF/88GA (-6), 914SF/1117SA (-203), 1666SAF/2002SAF (-336)

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Lubomir Visnovsky is the best and most valuable defenseman on the team. It’s even possible that he’s the most valuable player at even strength, and he’s a key player on the power-play to boot. It would be a mistake to underrate the effect his injury has had and will continue to have on the Edmonton Oilers going forward.

Honestly, prior to the deadline and without Visnovsky, I'm not convinced that this was a playoff team. The trades will help, but it isn't a hole that can be easily or cheaply filled.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 baggedmilk
March 06 2009, 11:42AM
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Without Vish this teams misses the quick pass out of the defensive end. He's so mobile back there that it makes break outs so much more effective. Without Vishnovsky the break outs have become as effective as Stephen Hawking in an ass kicking contest.

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#2 baggedmilk
March 06 2009, 11:44AM
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*side note*

I was also thinking Stephen Hawking in a freestyling street battle.

you... bet-ter... lose... your-self... in... the... mu-sic... the... mo-ment... you... own... it... you... bet-ter... ne-ver... let... it... go...

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#3 Jonathan Willis
March 06 2009, 11:48AM
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@ baggedmilk:

Thanks for that ;)

But yeah, nobody on this team clears the defensive zone as well as Visnovsky. Terrific player.

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#4 The Towel Boy
March 06 2009, 11:49AM
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His street battle name could be:

Speak'n'Spell

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#5 DK0
March 06 2009, 11:52AM
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It'll be sweet next year when our first line pairing both have bionic shoulders. Vis to Souray: "Oh you got the 8000 model? yeah its pretty nice but i hear it only gives 106mph shots. I got this experimental 9000 model and i can shoot 110mph, no big deal."

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#6 Mike Krushelnyski
March 06 2009, 12:11PM
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DK0 wrote:

It’ll be sweet next year when our first line pairing both have bionic shoulders. Vis to Souray: “Oh you got the 8000 model? yeah its pretty nice but i hear it only gives 106mph shots. I got this experimental 9000 model and i can shoot 110mph, no big deal.”

Especially if they have a really jerky, uneven motion like that kid in Rookie of the Year.

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#7 bosman
March 06 2009, 12:21PM
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I expect the main reason for the difference between Horcoff and Penner in this comparison is the amount of time Horcoff starts in his own zone taking draws on other lines (or with Hemsky and someone less fat on left wing). Horcoff seems to be thrown out there like this a lot, Penner not so much. Just don't want people suddenly thinking Penner is actually better than Horcoff.

And yes, we really miss Visnovsky. Why couldn't it be Strudwick that wrecked his shoulder?

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#8 baggedmilk
March 06 2009, 12:33PM
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bosman wrote:

And yes, we really miss Visnovsky. Why couldn’t it be Strudwick that wrecked his shoulder?

I'd rather rit be Staios.

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#9 Clarkenstein
March 06 2009, 12:43PM
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Coincidence only. Horcoff is played out.. that is obvious. He's playing with a right winger that turns it over 783 times per night and for good measure he has to play with Cheeseburger Charlie on the left wing. Plus he ain't that good to start with.

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#10 Zamboni Driver
March 06 2009, 01:23PM
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Man this is thorough.

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#11 yo
March 06 2009, 01:45PM
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Lubo is an integral part of the team for sure. However he is not a factor in the season long schizophrenic tendencies of the team as a whole. There are alot of players who are not buying into something...either each other or the coaching staff/management. Is it possible that the there is a loyalist faction to MacT and a newer group of younger players who are not buying into MacT's man-management style. My personal take is that the public floggings didn't go over very well in the room. MacT's desperation may be partly exasperation but the players are maybe not so enamoured with his post-game pithy stand-up routines and public airing of his views of individual player performance. Naming names.

How would it go over with MacT if Katz went on the media and ripped him a new one for his almost 8 consecutive years of poor performance? Not so much methinks!!

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#12 rOILty
March 06 2009, 02:04PM
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This is a very intriguing article. Also i notice how many times we have been scored on in the first 30 seconds of a game this season, after we win the draw.

Is this a problem with systems play, or is it noone knows what to do with the puck or how to move it up the ice efficiently.

man i miss visnovsky...

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#13 Unleaded
March 06 2009, 02:47PM
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What do you mean JW? Steady Steve's Suicide ring-a-rounds are surely as effective as Visnovsky skating out and making a smart pass to the open man. And of course dumping the puck in and grinding in the corners is a better plan for all the players on this team than those transition plays that our skiled forwards are trying to make. Why else would MacT be consistenly telling everyone that ringing it out and dumping and grinding is what this team needs to do more of? Why else would our grinders, who do this so well, be extolled so by this team, while players who play differently are thrown under the bus repeatedly?

Obviously your numbers are wrong.

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#14 Dennis
March 06 2009, 03:56PM
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I think the Oil made the decision that the year was done once 71 went out; at least in terms of having any chance to win a playoff round.

And I think that was reflected in their deadline moves. Of course dealing a 2nd round pick for a rental runs counter-point to that argument but I think that pick would've been better used on a Havelid type or towards a Havelid-type package.

Still, the fact that they didn't try and get the jump on replacing 71 is telling, IMO.

And it's probably the right call but frustrating to watch nonetheless.

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#15 Chris
March 06 2009, 05:42PM
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Remember the start of the 2007/2008 season? The Hockey News, TSN, and pretty much every NHL pundit around picked the Oilers to finish 13-14th in the west. Then this year, the Oilers were expected to contend for the division...Why..?.. Cole, Visnovsky. How many times did you hear the sentence, "With the aquisition of Cole and Visnovsky the Oilers should blah, blah, blah..."? Well Cole is gone and Visnovsky is hurt. Take the 2007 roster and eliminate Green, Stoll, Torres, and Pitkanen for Strudwick, O'Sullivan, and Kotalik... Why are The Oilers suddenly expected to make the playoffs now?

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#16 Dennis
March 06 2009, 06:59PM
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Chris: it's yet another year of trying to win while rebuilding.

For example, I think the world of young 13 but in no bloody way is the kid a centre - and the room gets even darker when you consider that 89's also a pivot. Just count how many times 13 loses his man and it would blow your mind. It's not worth kicking 13 over because he's a kid but 2009 picture is that 10's working his nuts off doing all kids of heavy lifting because 89-13-51 are the supporting pivot cast.

The blue was stacked when it was healthy and Roli's been great but the pivot situation was inherinatly flawed right from the get go.

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#17 David S
March 06 2009, 08:25PM
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I'm pretty sure Dennis has it right. With a healthy team, I would have expected the plan was to get the kids into the playoffs to elevate their sense of what's needed to be a truly successful team. That would have been a good step forward in the development of the team. I remember the boys on the bus got blown out in a first round and came out the following year to start one of the most sensational runs in the history of sport. Maybe that's where Lowe is drawing his strategy from. If that's the case, I can't imagine the anguish Lowe and Tambellini must be going through right about now.

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#18 Poo Czar
March 06 2009, 08:30PM
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Mike Krushelnyski wrote:

Especially if they have a really jerky, uneven motion like that kid in Rookie of the Year.

Funky Buttlovin!

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#19 Poo Czar
March 06 2009, 08:32PM
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Oh sorry, this is the "smart" thread. Where do we go for the abortion jokes again?

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#20 David S
March 06 2009, 08:51PM
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Poo Czar wrote:

Oh sorry, this is the “smart” thread. Where do we go for the abortion jokes again?

http://www.jeanshortsandbaggedmilk.com/

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#21 Jonathan Willis
March 09 2009, 09:00AM
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@ Dennis:

I don't think the Oilers made a decision that the year was done; otherwise the trade for Kotalik makes no sense.

I think Visnovsky's a hole that can't be filled, so the Oilers' best bet 5v5 is to just hope that Gilbert, Grebeshkov, and Souray can hold their own for a while. Kotalik seemed to be a powerplay addition; he's been an effective point man, although MacTavish doesn't seem inclined to use him there.

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