Do linemates help make the player?

Jason Gregor
May 04 2010 08:50AM

Edmonton Oilers v Phoenix Coyotes

“He makes his linemates/teammates better.” That seems to be the newest saying when it comes to evaluating skilled players, and from where I sit it is the most misused phrase in the game.

How exactly can we evaluate if a player actually makes his teammates better?

Are increased point totals a fair standard? What about Plus/minus?

How much better can a player make his teammates? I don’t think you can make players better, you can give them a better chance to produce, but certain players will compliment one another very well, even if they don’t have the same skill set.

Dave Lumley scored a goal in 12 straight games playing with Gretzky, and that record still stands in Oilerville, but Gretzky couldn’t turn Lumley into a perennial goal scorer, outside of one 30-goal season.

People always talk about how Rob Brown only scored 49 goals because he played with Mario Lemieux, and while Lemieux was a major factor, you can’t underestimate how dynamic of an offensive player Brown was on his own.

He scored 212 points (a WHL record that will never be broken) in 1987 with Kamloops as a 19-year-old, and tallied 173 the year before when he was 18. To suggest Brown didn’t have any talent is absurd.

PLAYED DEFENCE UNTIL HE WAS 18

How many of you knew that Brown played defence his first two years in the WHL? Ken Hitchcock moved him up to forward his 3rd season, his draft year, and he tallied 173 points. He never played forward until he was 18, and three years later he scored 49 goals and 115 points in the NHL. That is extremely rare.

He had the offensive instincts to play with Lemieux, and succeed, like very few had, but why?

“I knew where he wanted me to be,” said Brown. “Some guys had more skill than I did, but they didn’t think the game like Mario. I could anticipate where to go, and more importantly where he wanted me to go. Guys like Mario will give any player more opportunities, but it still is up to you to produce.

“It is hard to create chances as a goal scorer if you don’t have a guy who can find you in the right spots. Very few goals scorers in the NHL can create goals on their own; they need a playmaker, just like the playmaker needs a goal scorer to finish plays”.

Brown was a goal scorer, which is remarkable considering he grew up playing defence and never practiced or learned a lot of the offensive tricks that most scorers develop in minor hockey. And of course he benefited by playing with Lemieux, and then Ron Francis in Hartford, but he also had the offensive instincts to know how to produce playing with those types of players.

I’ve heard and read a lot the past few weeks about players making their teammates better, and that’s becoming one of the big arguments between Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall, but is their any validity to it?

For years many Oiler fans stated that Ales Hemsky made Shawn Horcoff better, but then Jonathan Willis provided some insight stating that wasn’t the case. Hemsky’s numbers were in fact better with Horcoff than without.

No one would argue that Horcoff is more talented, but Hemsky produced better playing with Horcoff than he has with Sam Gagner, who most argue has more natural offensive instincts than Horcoff. Some offensive guys play well together, but some never click because their styles don’t match on the ice.

Suggesting that Hall doesn’t make his teammates better is off-base. He creates space for his teammates, but at the NHL he will probably need a good puck distributor to allow him to flaunt his goal-scoring prowess. Seguin, who became a better shooter this year, will most likely benefit more by being flanked by a scorer who can get open and finish when given the opportunity.

I think both of them will produce in the NHL, if they are put with linemates who compliment their respective games.

And that might be the biggest question that Stu MacGregor and Steve Tambellini need to ask themselves. When you look at the youth in the organization what type of player do they have more of: Playmakers or shooters?

I still say take the centre, but if they honestly believe that Sam Gagner might be a better fit with Taylor Hall, than Jordan Eberle or Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson would be with Seguin, then they have to look at that angle and act accordingly.

But I doubt either one of them will make their teammates that much better, rather, the Oilers will need to find players that compliment Hall and Seguin.

The great players will produce regardless of who they play with, and it is too early to tell if either Hall or Seguin will be great, but the Oilers need to ensure that whoever they pick has teammates/linemates who they can feed off to succeed.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#101 Jackie Treehorn
May 05 2010, 10:19AM
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If there ever was a time to lure Steve Yzerman, it would be in a draft year with the first overall pick. There's no time for that to happen now though.

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@Rusty Duggan

Pat Quinn and Tom Renney were suppose to bring credibility, they didn't. Again free agents won't come here until the team improves as a whole.

As for Tambo, when are people going to get it through their heads that he isn't going anywhere. Katz likes him and isn't going to make a knee jerk reaction. What right does Stevie Y have to do a rebuild? He barely one the Olympics with a 150mil payroll. The guy hasn't done squat at the NHL level yet people think he is the next coming of Jesus.

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#103 Chris.
May 05 2010, 10:21AM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

I highly doubt that Katz has any intention of removing Lowe or Tambo from their positions anytime soon. If Tambo has made his plan clear to Katz about a rebuild I think that Katz will wait it out. Barring a major screw up I can't see Tambo going anywhere anytime soon, it's just a wish that fans want.

I'm wondering if Tambellini may be a good transitional GM but will need to be replaced after he resests the organizational framework by which the Oilers do business.

Tambellini seems like just the right kind of uptight, overly conservative guy to set a new structure and process for the organization. He really seems committed to proper, patient player development; has attention to detail; is tight lipped; and actually seems committed to really shaking up outdated traditions...

That said, based on his first 18 months: I'm not sure that Tambellini will be the right guy to run things in three years time... Tambellini's "win now" moves were disasterous for this club.

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@Chris.

If Tambo is everything what you say in the second paragraph I see no reason to get rid of him. What else would you want in a GM?

I'm really curious to see what he does over the next 6 months. I've like what he has done in 2010 already and think he has made some smart moves. Heatley and Bulin were mistakes, but if Heatley ended up here would it have been a mistake?

Only knock I have on the guy is Bulin and that he didn't address the grinder position, although he did try do it from within so I give him credit.

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#105 Chris.
May 05 2010, 10:40AM
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@Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

So far, I like Tambellini's "rebuild" moves... but I hated most of his "win now" moves. What happens in three years time when the cupboards are restocked, when some good young players are entering their prime, and impactful roster moves need to be made to achieve balance?

I wonder if Tambellini will turn the ship around only to run it into another iceberg.

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@Chris.

His only win now move has been Bulin, hasn't it? I think the problem is when he came here he was expected to win and he made some drastic moves to try make this happen.

Comrie might've been a win now move too, but I really don't see this as a short-term or long-term problem. Signing guys to a 1.25mil contract that play the way he can don't count as bad moves to me.

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#107 Rusty Duggan
May 05 2010, 10:54AM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

His only win now move has been Bulin, hasn't it? I think the problem is when he came here he was expected to win and he made some drastic moves to try make this happen.

Comrie might've been a win now move too, but I really don't see this as a short-term or long-term problem. Signing guys to a 1.25mil contract that play the way he can don't count as bad moves to me.

Heatley was a win now move. It started win him, and then the domino effect happened....we signed Bulin to entice Heatley to come here. Doh!!! Tambo didn't care about culture last year, but this year it's a priority. I guess Tambo thought Heatley must of had a good reason to quit his job and be a bad team-mate.

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@Rusty Duggan

Heatley never happened so how is it a win now move? Again is Heatley that bad of a move if you get him?

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#109 Rusty Duggan
May 05 2010, 10:59AM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

Heatley never happened so how is it a win now move? Again is Heatley that bad of a move if you get him?

Actually Heatley happened for about two and half months last summer after they signed the goalie and wasted their off season to sign the win now player in Dany Heatley. Duh!

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@Rusty Duggan

So what were they to do with that time, because to be honest the guys that they needed to sign were still available when the Heatley fiasco ended. They just decided that they would fill the holes from within instead of signing a UFA.

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#111 Archaeologuy
May 05 2010, 11:06AM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

Heatley never happened so how is it a win now move? Again is Heatley that bad of a move if you get him?

The trade was made but it wasnt allowed to go through because of Heatley.

Yes its a bad move. Trade 3 roster players for 1 overpaid player with a history of demanding trades. Hmmm. Oilers lose their best Goal-scorer and its most stable defenseman along with Cogliano for 1 guy who wasnt that much better than Penner despite playing with Thornton and Marleau.

Bad Move. How would our rebuilding status be now if we launched 3 players well under 30 for Heatley? What was the next best offer? Michalek and Cheechoo?

Who was Tambellini bidding against when he decided on Penner, Cogliano, and Smid? Himself! This guy left the house with the Farm's only cow and returned with Magic Beans.

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#112 Chris.
May 05 2010, 11:08AM
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@Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

Cole for O'Sullivan... a prime buyout canadate IMO.

2nd round pick for two months of Kotalik and no playoffs.

Moving Brodziak at the draft.

Rehabibulin for FOUR years.

Penner, Cogliano, AND Smid for Heatley. (I wanted it; but hindsight has proven this move would have been disasterous).

Comrie? (Isn't it sad that a low cost UFA nobody else wanted proved to be an upgrade over so many of our "skilled" young players?)

Tambo's record of identifying the needs of a mature roster, and finding the right guys to bring about balance and improvement... not so great.

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@Archaeologuy

Except when the deal was done Penner was useless and Smid had asked for a trade multiple times. Smid was also not thought to be as good as he was last year. Heatley was also coming off of 39, 41, 50 and 50 goals.

Not saying I'm 100% on board with that trade, but at the time the talk was about losing Cogs and Smid's potential. Penner was a throw in according to most fans.

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@Chris.

I don't mind the Cole trade because he wasn't resigning here. O'Sullivan was a good guy to take in on a trade.

Kotalik I agree was a bad move, but then again it was an acquistion to make a push for the playoffs.

Brodziak while dumb wasn't exactly a win now move. If anything it was moving a guy that refuses to listen to what he needs to work on for future prospects.

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#115 Senator Theo
May 05 2010, 11:19AM
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Rusty Duggan wrote:

Having a guy like Stevie Y would bring instant credibility to the franchise, and it may even help bring in free agents. Tambo gives off bad vibes that remind me of John Ferguson Jr. Why should this management have the right to take part in the rebuild ? They don't deserve it.

I can't understand why people want to hire a hockey player to fill a business position. A GM spot needs to be filled by someone with business acumen - not a guy that just retired from playing a few years ago. Has the Lowe experiment taught us anything?

You get a lawyer or at least an MBA for a position like GM, and then surround them with people (like Yzerman or Lowe) with hockey knowledge to round out the skill set.

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#116 Archaeologuy
May 05 2010, 11:19AM
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@Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

Not this fan. Needless to say, the GM who took a year to evaluate these players SHOULD have been able to project what these players were capable of doing a little better than the average Penner hating fan.

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#117 Rusty Duggan
May 05 2010, 11:43AM
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Senator Theo wrote:

I can't understand why people want to hire a hockey player to fill a business position. A GM spot needs to be filled by someone with business acumen - not a guy that just retired from playing a few years ago. Has the Lowe experiment taught us anything?

You get a lawyer or at least an MBA for a position like GM, and then surround them with people (like Yzerman or Lowe) with hockey knowledge to round out the skill set.

Gotta give him some credit for the Olympics, and his time spent learning from Holland in Detroit to be groomed for the position. This is crazy talk anyway, but the optics would look good, and maybe the press would stop using us a punching bag and start respecting us again. Again, this is all nonsense talk... kinda like Hitchcock coming here...lol.

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#118 Senator Theo
May 05 2010, 11:51AM
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@Rusty Duggan

IMO, an athelete doesn't belong in that position, unless they've gone and had some education/training to prepare them. Not unlike (ugh) Brian Burke.

*spits on floor*.

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#119 Archaeologuy
May 05 2010, 11:55AM
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@Senator Theo

A more acceptable answer would have been Pat Quinn.

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#120 Rusty Duggan
May 05 2010, 12:00PM
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@Senator Theo

Burke gets a free ride this year. The press is in denial and shock I think. You'd have to assume the media would have a hard time defending Burke if they lose another top five pick next year. They will eventually come to their senses....then again it's Toronto.

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@Archaeologuy

I like all three guys and was torn on the trade, but getting a Heatley would've been great.

At the time Peckham was looking like a replacement for Smid and Eberle/MPS/Omark were replacements for Cogs.

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#122 Archaeologuy
May 05 2010, 12:25PM
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@Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

I'm not convinced that if the trade happened last summer that we wouldnt be looking at yet another trade request this summer from him. Then it would be us taking Michalek and Cheechoo.

There's a lot of risk for not that much more return than the guys that were shipped out.

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@Rusty Duggan

Burke has been in office for a few months less then Tambo, so why should he get a pass? The leafs have very little future right now and that is with his bonus of being in a market where guys want to sign. IMO he has been worse then Tambo so far.

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@Archaeologuy

Fair enough

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#125 Crash
May 05 2010, 07:20PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

Gregor

Not sure if you are going to do an article on our goalies, but I have a few comments/questions based on what you were talking about yesterday.

I really like your idea about signing a Sanford or a Corey Hirsch type goalie to start in the AHL next year.

I wonder though if maybe we shouldn't sign a Biron to backup Bulin next year and keep both JDD and DD. Try pass both through waivers and hope that at least one does. I just can't see us losing both of those guys via waivers, who exactly would want them?

Is this even an option? I mean is it really a loss if we lose both through waivers?

It's just a thought. I don't think DD/JDD being a backup in the NHL is really going to help them in there development and if they can play in the AHL and get some games maybe one of they can become something.

IMO...I don't know about JDD but I don't there's anyway that Dubnyk makes it thru waivers...and yes IMO losing Dubnyk would be a loss...what most around this site always seem to want is guys to develop forever on the farm..well Dubnyk has done that and now that he is close to ready why wouldn't we want to reap the rewards of the patience of having him in the AHL for the last 4 yrs?

There are a long list of teams who need a good cheaper back up and would most likely grab Dubnyk...but more than that I really do believe that Dubnyk is on the cusp of becoming a real legit starter sooner rather than later...

Not sure what good adding Biron would be. NYI had him and he didn't exactly do them a world of good for them.

But just watch...Dubnyk is going to be a good one.

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#126 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
May 05 2010, 08:48PM
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Senator Theo wrote:

I can't understand why people want to hire a hockey player to fill a business position. A GM spot needs to be filled by someone with business acumen - not a guy that just retired from playing a few years ago. Has the Lowe experiment taught us anything?

You get a lawyer or at least an MBA for a position like GM, and then surround them with people (like Yzerman or Lowe) with hockey knowledge to round out the skill set.

all you need to understand is the average hockey fan is nothing more than a think they know spaz. (myself included)

how many other professions can one simply watch on TV and become an "expert" without ever actually becoming a pro?

for example:

Golly Mike Holmes, i watch alot of DIY network, and i think you are framing this 2nd floor addition all wrong

probably gets you a 2x4 to the pills.

yet

joe blow 7-11 gas jockey can sit his fat ass on the couch and, never having set foot in a pro locker room, know why the powerplay is broken AND how to fix it, know which players are good in the room and which arent, and know what schemes the coach should be using to get player A producing.

dont get me wrong, i love talking about the game as much as the next guy, but honestly...

signed,

a spaz

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#127 Andrew
May 06 2010, 12:21AM
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Good article and I agree it is an overused statement. I want Seguin mainly because the Oilers have drafted potential goal scorers in Eberle and MPS. Where the Oilers are the weakest in terms of their forward corps is down the middle. I believe that Eberle would compliment a player like Seguin because Eberle instinctively knows where to find openings in the offensive zone and owns a very quick release. Also while MPS doesn't play a physical game he does use his speed consistently to pressure on the forecheck and cause turnovers and Seguin does much of the same which would give the Oilers two very speedy forecheckers with skill and size on one line, which they haven't had in God who knows how long.

As Detroit proves using an active stick and aggressive speed is just as, if not more, effective as hitting. Seguin would give the Oilers a well rounded guy who can contribute with solid, but not spectacular, goal scoring and a potential elite playmaker. And as we all saw the Oilers could use another one because when Hemsky went down the offense dried up because at that point no one could create offense consistently and our opponents would just crowd Penner and neutralize the Oilers only other consistent offensive player.

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#128 madjam
May 06 2010, 08:14AM
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TRENDS and the new Oiler TEMPLATE ? Oilers will go forward next season with possibly only one smaller forward in lineup , and that most likely will be Eberle . Don't be surprised if all the rest are gone ! Eberle gets his chance to see if he can be that gifted goal scorer with enough speed , grit and toughness to remain . L. O'Mark bought over to pawn ? The rest already in the lineup simply have not done enough to overcome their size disadvantage and are too soft, along with not much offensive numbers to keep them . Staios and Visnovsky gone for an upgrade in size -notice the trend ? Expect same trend for size in forwards . Notice the trend in size of clubs looking to go to semi finals ? Some mighty big clubs will once again be in final four . Maybe Oiler fans should realize this off season will be to form our new roster around size , as the other way did not get us anywhere . Moving forward with size this time . Now ,lets see how successful Tams will be in fullfiling that template ?

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