What To Do With Ales Kotalik?

Jonathan Willis
April 30 2009 11:40AM

kotalik2

Jim Matheson’s excellent interview with Steve Tambellini ran a couple of days ago. Tambellini was extremely guarded about some issues (the hiring of a new coach) and open about others. One of the items he was relatively open about was how the brass viewed Ales Kotalik.

Q: What are you going to do with your unrestricted free agents, Kotalik and Dwayne Roloson? A: They're in the world championship and we all agreed we'd talk after that and they'd talk to their families and see what they want to do. We'll have discussions with both guys.

Since we know the Oilers are interested in re-signing Kotalik, it’s probably good for us to take a look at him as a player again. I’ve done two previous pieces on Kotalik; one when he was acquired and another examining his ability to play left-wing on the first line. Tyler at mc79hockey also did a piece on Kotalik’s value as a shootout specialist. I’m largely referencing the work done in those three articles as I don’t especially want to redo the work done there. Based on those three articles and Kotalik’s career statistics, I’m going to make some statements about him:

Ales Kotalik…

  • is a very good/elite option as a powerplay point man
  • is an elite option in the shootout
  • does not kill penalties
  • does not provide anything more than average NHL offense at even-strength
  • does not get significantly outscored at even strength
  • adds size but not much more than average NHL grit/physical presence

Is that a fair evaluation? I think it is, but if there are any concerns please chime in below.

Based on that evaluation, Kotalik’s useful but unspectacular at even strength, and contributes nothing of significance to the penalty kill. In other words, if the Oilers are re-signing him, they’re doing it primarily for his contributions on the powerplay and in the shootout. Since the shootout is a bit of a fringe item, I think it’s fair to say that for Kotalik to provide fair value to the Oilers he should be a point-man on the power-play. Let’s look at who the Oilers have that can fill that role right now:

  • Sheldon Souray
  • Lubomir Visnovsky
  • Tom Gilbert
  • Denis Grebeshkov

If I were running the team, I’d view Kotalik as a support player at even-strength and a dynamic power-play option, so the only way I re-sign him is if I’m planning to move one of the four offensive defensemen currently on the Oilers. That frees up a powerplay spot for Kotalik (where he’s probably in the same range as any of the other four options) and allows the Oilers to address another area while trading from a position of strength. In other word, my decision would go like this:

  • If I’m trading a top-four defenseman, I re-sign Kotalik
  • If I’m making no changes to my defense, I’m letting Kotalik go

At this point, I think I would move a defenseman.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, 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 Ogden Brother
April 30 2009, 11:46AM
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My thoughts exactly, use one of the Dmen to get a dynamic winger. Use Kotalik on the PP.

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#2 Kyle
April 30 2009, 11:50AM
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O Please let it be Tom Gilbert who can fetch us an offensive weapon......hopefully all his turnovers at key points of the game are overshadowed by all his assists!!!

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#3 Archaeologuy
April 30 2009, 11:55AM
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Willis you sure are one busy bee. I liked Kotalik, but I'm not sure where Ales fits between Horc, Hemsky, Gagner, Cogliano, O'Sullivan, Penner, and any UFAs or trades that the Oilers can get. There are a lot of people to fit into 6 spots on a team that has stated it wants to make trades. I dont envy Tambi right now.

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#4 Archaeologuy
April 30 2009, 11:56AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

There are a lot of people to fit into 6 spots on a team that has stated it wants to make trades

i meant make changes

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#5 roughneck
April 30 2009, 11:57AM
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assuming he is overpaid at his current contract number (plausible). What would you pay him in the role you define above?

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#6 Rick
April 30 2009, 12:17PM
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roughneck wrote:

assuming he is overpaid at his current contract number (plausible). What would you pay him in the role you define above?

Exactly what I was thinking.

It's safe to say that UFA's to play in your top 6 never come at a bargain.

This team is already stuck with bad contracts so paying a 40 pt UFA that gets pigeon holed as a specialist 3.5 or 4 mil a season (reasonable guess?)seems silly to me.

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#7 Sean
April 30 2009, 12:32PM
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The Oilers have a stock pile of average NHL forwards. Assuming Hemsky, Gagner, Horcoff, Cogliano and Pisani wont be traded, the list includes:

Penner, Nilsson, O'Sullivan, Moreau, Brodziak, Stortini, Reddox, JFJ and Pouliot.

If we are trading a defender for a forward it will be interesting to see which forwards get moved. Adding Kotalik and a forward guarantees at least 2 forwards from that list are gone. Its easy to say Reddox and Pouliot are gone but they have friendly cap numbers.

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#8 Jonathan Willis
April 30 2009, 12:38PM
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I don't think Kotalik plays in the top-six. I'd prefer to see the new coach use him like he was used in Buffalo: heavy powerplay time, odd shifts in the top-six, third or fourth line duty otherwise.

For that role I'd be happy to pay him what he currently makes; if the Oilers can move a defenseman out and bring in a cheaper guy in strictly a defensive role (which seems reasonable) they'll still be saving money.

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#9 roughneck
April 30 2009, 12:57PM
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@ Sean:

Tambos comments in the tencer interview echo one of the matheson lines and are revealing of how he sees his situation/predicament

http://oilers.nhl.com/team/app/?service=page&page=PodcastPlayer&pid=98&iid=14034

He states (2:55)

"We have a lot of players under contract already.... actually too many".

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#10 SOUBY
April 30 2009, 01:02PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I don’t think Kotalik plays in the top-six. I’d prefer to see the new coach use him like he was used in Buffalo: heavy powerplay time, odd shifts in the top-six, third or fourth line duty otherwise. For that role I’d be happy to pay him what he currently makes; if the Oilers can move a defenseman out and bring in a cheaper guy in strictly a defensive role (which seems reasonable) they’ll still be saving money.

I couldn't agree more. Let him stick to what he does best, on the power play. Next, I say package Gilbert, an underachiever such as Nilsson and a prospect and/or pick(s) for a top six forward. You help address the power play and your top two lines with this move.

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#11 Robin Brownlee
April 30 2009, 01:18PM
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". . . if the Oilers are re-signing him . . ."

"If I’m trading a top-four defenseman, I re-sign Kotalik . . ."

Let's not forget, the Oilers aren't re-signing Kotalik unless he says so.

Re-signing Jaroslav Spacek or Sergei Samsonov might have been good ideas as well, but there was no way in hell they wanted to come back to Edmonton, even though they were classy enough not to frame it that way publicly.

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#12 Quinn
April 30 2009, 01:23PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Didn't Kotalik state at the end of the season that he was favourably inclined to return?

Still, I don't know how badly I would want him to come back if it means that the Oil eat up cap room they could spend on a top 6 UFA.

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#13 Robin Brownlee
April 30 2009, 01:32PM
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@ Quinn: Unless is a player is a dolt, and Kotalik isn't, why would he say anything else? He'll weigh his options when the teams start calling and he'll take the best deal. Why not have Edmonton in the mix pitching and giving him leverage instead of shutting the door?

Let's not forget, he's spent most of his career in the East where the travel is cushy and the sun belt cities are. Besides, it's not like he played on a Cup contender here.

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#14 Ducey
April 30 2009, 01:38PM
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I think you have shown conclusively that he does not bring anything that the team doesn't already have.

His skills on the powerplay are duplicated by a number of players. His shootout skills are also duplicated by others.

I don't see him bringing anything that Gagner, Cogliano and Patty O' bring 5 on 5.

His value therefore on 5 on 5 is limited and he doesn't add anything they don't already have on special teams.

No way they should bring him back.

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#15 SquidRx
April 30 2009, 01:44PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I don’t think Kotalik plays in the top-six. I’d prefer to see the new coach use him like he was used in Buffalo: heavy powerplay time, odd shifts in the top-six, third or fourth line duty otherwise. For that role I’d be happy to pay him what he currently makes; if the Oilers can move a defenseman out and bring in a cheaper guy in strictly a defensive role (which seems reasonable) they’ll still be saving money.

Why bother burying another offensively minded player in the bottom six? I don't disagree with your assessment and he may not fit into our top six, but he doesn't really fit in what we need with our bottom six either. I think if we keep him he plays top six and powerplay otherwise we use his money and ice time elsewhere.

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#16 Jonathan Willis
April 30 2009, 01:46PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

I should have mentioned that all of this was dependant on Kotalik wanting to return.

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#17 Jonathan Willis
April 30 2009, 01:47PM
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SquidRx wrote:

Why bother burying another offensively minded player in the bottom six?

Because he scores at an inferior pace to Liam Reddox at even-strength. He hasn't put up points 5-on-5 since the lockout, but he's incredibly valuable elsewhere (shootout, PP). Buffalo seemed fine with him outside their top-six.

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#18 Quinn
April 30 2009, 01:48PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Your not, for goodness sakes, suggesting that a player does something other than the most transparent of reasons are you? That their actions are designed to bring maximum benefit to themselves?

*falls away in a dead faint*

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#19 Archaeologuy
April 30 2009, 01:54PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: Do you get the impression that the Oilers will open up some of the top 6 spots by using some of their assets to move up in the Draft?

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#20 SquidRx
April 30 2009, 02:18PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: I don't discount his value in those areas, but we also have some redundancy in those areas as well. I don't want the team to have him use up a roster spot at the expense of other team needs (grit, size that is used appropriately, face offs, etc.) If we can't address those other needs at this time then I would not mind at all having Kotalik back and excelling in his areas of expertise.

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#21 marconius E
April 30 2009, 02:19PM
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@ Ducey: Whoa! I follow you on the powerplay redundancy, but who do we have that duplicates Kotalik's elite-level skill in the shootout? We had Gagner last year (07-08), but he went cold this past season. Without looking up statistics, I seem to remember Nilsson doing fairly well, but nowhere near the level Kotalik was/is at.

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#22 RossCreek
April 30 2009, 02:21PM
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Ducey wrote:

I think you have shown conclusively that he does not bring anything that the team doesn’t already have. His skills on the powerplay are duplicated by a number of players. His shootout skills are also duplicated by others. I don’t see him bringing anything that Gagner, Cogliano and Patty O’ bring 5 on 5. His value therefore on 5 on 5 is limited and he doesn’t add anything they don’t already have on special teams. No way they should bring him back.

Completely agree.

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#23 Chunklets
April 30 2009, 02:24PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Since the shootout is a bit of a fringe item...

I wonder about this a little. Per here, teams go to a shootout about 11 times in an average season, and that's a healthy handful of bonus points. If Kotalik, who's roughly half again as good as the average player at shootouts, can make the difference in picking up even just three or four of those points, then that's going to be very important in the standings.

Now, I'm not saying that the Oil should back a dumptruck full of money up to Kotalik's house based on his shootout performance alone, but I do think that it's possible to underestimate the value of that performance. The English national soccer team has been merrily undervaluing shootouts for years, and as a result has gone out of about 163 consecutive World Cups on penalties...

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#24 Archaeologuy
April 30 2009, 02:29PM
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Chunklets wrote:

Archaeologuy wrote: Since the shootout is a bit of a fringe item…

I actually didnt write that.

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#25 Chunklets
April 30 2009, 02:37PM
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@ Archaeologuy: Archaeologuy wrote:

Chunklets wrote: Archaeologuy wrote: Since the shootout is a bit of a fringe item… I actually didnt write that.

Yeah, sorry, my HTML-fu is not mighty today. That's actually from the original post.

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#26 Archaeologuy
April 30 2009, 02:42PM
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@ Chunklets: its ok, I dont know any HTML-fu, so your attempt was impressive enough.

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#27 Tim S
April 30 2009, 02:44PM
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I let him walk unless he wants to come back at a huge discount. As stated in the article we have 4 other pp options, and on the shootout we have options in Gagner, Hemsky, O'Sullivan, Nilsson and mr 5 hole Horcoff.

He is not small, and despite his hit count he is not overly physical. For my UFA dollars I would like to see them fill actual holes, talent to play with Hemsky either in the middle or opposite wing, physical dman, some size hopefully in in the form of a 3rd line center. If there is a block buster 5 for 1 deal and we clear out some forwards then I guess that is another story.

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#28 Milli
April 30 2009, 03:06PM
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We have lots of holes, and lots of contracts. Ouch. I'd like to see a Dman and whatever else moved in a package deal for a proven scorer (but I'm sure there are alot of teams wishing this). Tambo's gonna be busy!!!

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#29 Jonathan Willis
April 30 2009, 03:23PM
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@ Chunklets:

That's an excellent point and I probably am underrating the shootout here.

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#30 Dennis
April 30 2009, 03:24PM
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I think it's flat-out pucking refreshing to have a GM who openly admits they have too many contracts on tap rather than Lowe's old lines about how he couldn't do anything because they were close to the 50 limit.

Do tell, oblivious sir, who signed all those contracts in the first pucking place;)?

I wouldn't spend a whole lot of time chasing Kotalik and I hope he isn't a guy who winds up here because he's one of the few guys who'd consider signing here in the first place,

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#31 Teufel
April 30 2009, 03:31PM
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Kotalik is worth re-signing for his work in the shootout alone. He's simply a guy who can get the job done and almost guarantees you a few extra wins per season. He's good for 40-50 points a year with 20-30 points on the PP. As long as he wants to come back and isn't demanding too much, I'd love to see him back next year.

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#32 Ducey
April 30 2009, 03:45PM
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The shootout percentages are here:http://www.vote.nhl.com/ice/shootoutstats.htm?fetchKey=20092EDMAAZAll&sort=shootingPctg&viewName=shootoutsSkaters

Kotalik is way ahead of everyone last year.

Career wise: Horc 55.6 % Kotalik 52.6 Nilsson 50 Pisani 46.2 O'Sullivan 44.4 Gagner 32

Why MacT didn't use Horc more on the shootout last year, I don't know.

So if you want someone to sit on the bench all game and shoot in a shootout 13 times a year, Kotalik is the man. I think given the fact that he doesn't bring much else, and the Oilers lack of toughness, grit, and forechecking, he is not a good fit for this team.

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#33 roughneck
April 30 2009, 03:57PM
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Ducey wrote:

Why MacT didn’t use Horc more on the shootout last year, I don’t know.

Optics huh... I think that may have been one of the decisions MacT made this year that I endorse.

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#34 Sean
April 30 2009, 04:01PM
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JW, what do you think the trade value of Nilsson is? Comparing his numbers last year to this year is quite the difference.

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#35 Jonathan Willis
April 30 2009, 04:03PM
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Sean wrote:

JW, what do you think the trade value of Nilsson is? Comparing his numbers last year to this year is quite the difference.

I think Nilsson's trade value is pretty minimal.

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#36 Jonathan Willis
April 30 2009, 04:31PM
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Further on Ducey's comment, you'll never believe which Oiler has the best career mark in the shootout... (hint: it isn't a forward)

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#37 TV
April 30 2009, 04:42PM
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I'm not exactly sure that Tamby's comments regarding the Oilers "have too many contracts" actually applies to AK21 in the 1st place.,?

I just don't see him including a player on that list who is a UFA on July 1st & who is/won't not counted on that 50 player list.

(Yes, I understand that may be just semantics, but it's still fact.)

From all his comments after arriving from Buffalo regarding his last few season there, I just don't see him coming back next season if he is told he will be a 3rd line player. But, from a Oiler standpoint, if he was to come in for the same amount of $$$ & no longer than 2yrs of term, I think they have to take a very hard look at bringing him back. He does have some intangibles that the Oilers could/would covet.

The extra contract just to keep Ales #1 all warm & fuzzy just might be worth it over the short term.

x6

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#38 RossCreek
April 30 2009, 04:52PM
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So, with Pisani, Moreau & a 3rd line center, and Kotalik not good enough to fit in the top 6, where does Kotalik fir in? And how much $$ are you willing to give this man? If they re-sign him, they will be duped.

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#39 RossCreek
April 30 2009, 04:54PM
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*fit* guess my aim is off, stupid fingers

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#40 Chunklets
April 30 2009, 05:53PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Further on Ducey’s comment, you’ll never believe which Oiler has the best career mark in the shootout… (hint: it isn’t a forward)

Yes, he'd have been about my last choice to be the Oilers' shootout king!

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#41 Thunder
April 30 2009, 05:57PM
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Ducey wrote:

His skills on the powerplay are duplicated by a number of players. His shootout skills are also duplicated by others.

I totally disagree, other that Souray and Hemsky, he would be our best power play guy. approx 50% of his points are on the PP. Our PP was terrible so that is an area we need to fix. If you can do that at minimal cost by utilizing a 3rd liner or part time 2nd liner that is fantastic. If we score 15 more goals on the PP with him, and he keeps up his shot out %, I can see that giving us 8-10 more points a year.

My issue with him on the 3rd line is he doesn't kill penalties. I think your 3rd liners all need to be able to kill penalties.

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#42 RossCreek
April 30 2009, 06:43PM
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Let the Jammi Jagr rumors heat up once again. According to Sportsnet, Jagr has stated that IF he is to return to the NHL next season, the Edmonton Oilers are his 1st choice.

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#43 Dennis
April 30 2009, 07:04PM
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RC: I'd imagine that's because he believes that based upon previous discussion, that's the team that will pay him the most.

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#44 Archaeologuy
April 30 2009, 11:36PM
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TV wrote:

I think they have to take a very hard look at bringing him back. He does have some intangibles that the Oilers could/would covet.

And just ask Shawn Horcoff what intangibles qualify you to make here in Edmonton...

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#45 Oilersordeath
May 01 2009, 11:16AM
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Guys, what GM in their right mind would give us a top 6 forward for Gilbert, Pouliot, and prospect. If I was a GM that watched any of those two play last season I would laugh at that trade!

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#46 Archaeologuy
May 01 2009, 11:38AM
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@ Oilersordeath: Yeah, I totally agree. Young Defensemen who put up 45 points a season are totally a dime a dozen. Dont you hear that all the time? "Offensive Defensmen are not coveted in the NHL." People are going to look at his +/- and say "what? he could only be plus 6 on a bad team?" No one in their right mind would take that guy.

Pouliot's a throw in, most of the prospects are too.

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#47 nboilerfan
May 01 2009, 12:24PM
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Another important factor here IMO, even if Kotalik displays an interest in returning is... how much commitment can/will Tambellini be able to give Kotalik prior to July 1st and teh handful of days following?

I think this decision really hinges on whether or not the Oilers go after a "big name" player. Meanwhile I think Kotalik ends up in the same position as Glencross.... "Yes, we're interested in you... but please hold off right now until we see if we can lure a bigger fish... then we will now if we still want/can afford you"

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#48 misfit
May 01 2009, 12:53PM
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I gotta say, I'm of the same mind as JW here. If we can't use him on the point ont he powerplay (a role I think he'd do well in), there's really no point in giving him the money he's sure to sign for. Right now, I don't think he replaces Souray or Visnovsky there, and while he's bigger, I don't think he'll be an upgrade on any of the forwards we already have in the top 6* at ES.

*Assuming that top 6 is made up of Horcoff, Hemsky, O'Sullivan, Gagner, Cogliano and one of Nilsson/Penner.

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