March 06 2009 11:34AM
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.