How Do You Solve A Problem Like Cogliano?

Jonathan Willis
August 02 2009 06:00AM

Andrew Cogliano is an excellent young hockey player with a bright NHL future ahead of him. What that future holds is still uncertain – can he fit in Edmonton long-term? If so, where?

It needs to be said that Cogliano is a tremendous talent, and has done a lot to grab attention at a very young age. Drafted 25th overall by the Oilers in 2005, he ranks fourth in his draft class in points – behind only Sidney Crosby, Anze Kopitar, and Paul Stastny. In that respect, he represents a very real and tangible win for an Oilers’ scouting staff that has often been blamed for the team’s failings. They gambled on the small, speedy offensive forward playing in a lower level league (OPJHL) and to date it’s paid off richly.

He’s an incredibly fast skater; quite possibly the best on a team that has some good ones. Despite Sportsnet’s rather stupid scouting report (“Is more of a playmaker than scorer and needs to work on his shot”) he has an excellent shot that he uses judiciously; he’s had very good shooting percentages two years running and has scored 18 goals in each of his NHL seasons.

He’s still a young player, so his defensive game (which does have promise) isn’t where it should be yet and he’s just coming into the years where he’ll be a real positive difference maker for his NHL team. There are a few things working against Edmonton being that team though, starting with his inclusion in a package that would have brought Dany Heatley to the Oilers.

Do The Oilers Want To Trade Cogliano?

The short answer is simple: “No”. There’s been some talk since Cogliano’s name was first leaked that it may be difficult to mend fences with him if the Dany Heatley deal doesn’t take place. I don’t see it that way at all.

Frankly, despite Cogliano’s excellent upside, it’s pretty unlikely that he’s ever going to score 50 goals. This is a simple case of the Oilers being interested in one of the best goal-scoring wingers in the NHL, and having to give up something valuable for him. Certainly Cogliano should be smart enough to realize that the abortive trade shows how much value he has around the league, rather than viewing it as the Oilers giving up on him.

Where Does Cogliano Fit On The Roster?

Despite Cogliano’s obvious value, I do wonder if he’s a fit at centre in the short- to long-term.

The first problem is his inability in the faceoff circle. Last season, Cogliano went 37.2% on faceoffs – the worst season by any frequently used centre since 2000. Personally, I don’t view this as an insurmountable obstacle – the Oilers already have at least two wingers (Dustin Penner and Marc Pouliot) who can win draws and then switch back over to the wing after the faceoff.

The real problem is that the depth chart at centre is clogged right now. Sam Gagner is quite clearly the future of the franchise up the middle; a phenomenal talent who has two NHL seasons under his belt despite being under the age of 20. Aside from Gagner, veteran centre Shawn Horcoff is signed for the next six years, and even if he weren’t giving both top-six centre spots to a pair of players as young (and still undeveloped) as Gagner and Cogliano is not a recipe for success.

That leaves the third line spot, a role that doesn’t seem a fit for Cogliano’s skill-set; he’s too good offensively and not good enough defensively to fit there right now. He’ll certainly need more minutes in the next few years than that position would allow him.

The obvious, and possibly inevitable, answer is to convert Cogliano to left wing. Unfortunately, Jason Gregor has repeatedly stated that Cogliano is uncomfortable in that position, and in addition the depth chart is pretty crowded there already (Penner, O’Sullivan, Moreau). Still, I think that Cogliano may need to get used to the idea, and room can be made either via trade or by moving Penner over to RW - perhaps creating a top-six something like this:

  1. Cogliano/O’Sullivan – Horcoff – Hemsky
  2. O’Sullivan/Cogliano – Gagner – Penner

The other alternative in the Oilers’ unending (since the Smyth trade) search for a top-line LW is to dangle Cogliano as trade-bait for a legitimate game-breaker; something the Oilers have already done once.

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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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#101 Harlie
August 03 2009, 04:58PM
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I swear I saw a guy that looked EXACTLY like Erik Cole jogging right by the UofA about an hour ago.

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#102 Phil
August 03 2009, 05:07PM
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All I have to say is that despite him having a good past 2 seasons, I'm still not high on him and would like to see him get traded, not because I don't like his game but rather that I think he could fetch Edmonton something more useful for the team in the bigger, longer term scheme of things.

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#103 Lofty
August 03 2009, 06:27PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Why not go with Nilsson over Cheechoo? They both had 29 points last year and Nilsson makes 1 million less. Now get a time machine and trade for Cheechoo from 2005-06 and its a deal. Too bad he’s literally 1/3 as productive as he was in that season these days.

Because Nilsson brings nothing to the oilers that they dont already have. Cheechoo brings a passion that the oilers havnt seen since Smyth left. He gets mad, he gets physical and he has the ability to put up bunches of points when he is the only one going to net.

I'm not going to pretend he is going to pot 30 goals every year but he plays in the corners which is more than can be said for Nilsson or Penner. I dont mind Penner and think he will do well now that we have new coaches. The Oil do not have a guy that can stand in front of the net and then go into the corner and dig out pucks.

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#104 gdawg
August 03 2009, 06:30PM
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@ Lofty: Agreed. What would be to lose in having Cheechoo on the Oilers. Grit is what the Oilers are lacking and he could fill that void. I assume his work ethic is better than Nilsson's.

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#105 Lofty
August 03 2009, 06:31PM
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Hemmertime wrote:

With his 68 pts in 135 games over last 2 years?

Sorry been away...

But damn right, have you seen how he plays? You need to have a diverse team with speed, skill, grit. The oilers have nobody that plays like Cheechoo. They do have a lot of players that play like Bobert Nilsson.

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#106 Lofty
August 03 2009, 06:38PM
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@ gdawg:

I'm not going to pretend he is the best thing since sliced bread but I think he knows he needs to earn his dollars. From all the SJ games I watched last year I would love Cheechoo and Setoguchi to be a part of any all-star team. Setohuchi is an Oiler killer, I dont how many points he put up against them but he made his mark.

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#107 gdawg
August 03 2009, 06:47PM
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The one consensus I see is that this Oilers roster definitely needs to be tweaked at the very least. It will be an uphill battle to lure guys here but Im sure eventually this curse will be over.

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#108 Dallas
August 03 2009, 07:42PM
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Anyone know what the addy for the pipline site is

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#109 bingofuel
August 03 2009, 07:58PM
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Dallas wrote:

Anyone know what the addy for the pipline site is

Why, it's listed under the OilersNation blogroll, under "Coming Down the Pipe!" (http://thepipelineshow.blogspot.com/)

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#110 Ogden Brother
August 03 2009, 09:46PM
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With the Sharks needing to open up some cap space to complete their roster, what would everyone think of dealing Cogs for Michalek?

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#111 jeff
August 04 2009, 08:40AM
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@ Ogden Brother: I'd like to throw something else in there to help us out with the cap.

I've thought about him too and maybe we turn out to be that third team in the 3-way trade.

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#112 kingsblade
August 04 2009, 09:20AM
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Lofty wrote:

Hemmertime wrote: With his 68 pts in 135 games over last 2 years? Sorry been away… But damn right, have you seen how he plays? You need to have a diverse team with speed, skill, grit. The oilers have nobody that plays like Cheechoo. They do have a lot of players that play like Bobert Nilsson.

You are right, except for the fact that there are plenty of guys out there who do exactly what Cheechoo has done the past two years for far far less money.

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#113 OvenChicken8
August 04 2009, 10:38AM
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Is Zherdev a LW and if so, what would you guys think of bringing him in for 1 year just to see how he does?

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#114 Dallas
August 04 2009, 12:00PM
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OvenChicken8 wrote:

Is Zherdev a LW and if so, what would you guys think of bringing him in for 1 year just to see how he does?

Great if he was a leftwinger BUT he's not he is a RW same as hemmer

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#115 Mike Krushelnyski
August 04 2009, 12:03PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

With the Sharks needing to open up some cap space to complete their roster, what would everyone think of dealing Cogs for Michalek?

Four thumbs down. I would only be willing to trade Cogs in a package to get a superstar player - like the Heatley deal. Trading him for someone like Michalek is something we would really, really come to regret.

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#116 Dominoiler
August 04 2009, 12:22PM
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Why Cogs for the LW... I thought I remember seeing somewhere that although he is uncomfortable on the LW, he can play the RW...?

Make Gags the centre and... there we go?!..

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#117 Archaeologuy
August 04 2009, 05:54PM
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@ Lofty: So you would add a 3 million dollar player who cant stay healthy or score because he has passion? He isnt going to help any team win, nevermind the Oilers.

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#118 DizzyD
August 05 2009, 06:46AM
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Tambo has a Plan B. its for next season. wait till some contracts are up and dump a truck load of money into a old fellow by the name of Jagr. He even said he'd give E-town a shot because they showed interest in him... by then he'll deny us and we'll all hate him, but we won't worry about that till next year. By the way, if this truly is plan B We're screwed....or even screwederer(no reason why that can't be a real word) than now :)

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