July 20 2010 07:34PM
Andrew Cogliano's final 21 games of the 09-10 season look much better than the rest of his year. In March and April, he went 21gp, 5-10-15 +3 and saw his shooting percentage improve to 13.5 (his career shooting percentage entering this past season was almost 17%). Previous to that, he looked pretty much lost (61gp, 5-8-13). Did he turn a corner?
Having been a fan of bad clubs over the years (1970's Expos before they developed all the kids, Oilers after their Stanleys) it is pretty clear to me that bad teams flush good young players because they believe these kids aren't developing. Sometimes it is true, other times the young player finds a role on a properly managed team and flourishes in his new town.
Andrew Cogliano is a college man, trained at the University of Michigan. He signed after two college seasons (age 20) and the Oilers called him "Marchant with hands." That fall, in the pre-season he got a chance to play with against NHL competition and drew solid verbal from coach MacTavish: "I thought for his first NHL game he had a good accounting for himself. He was instrumental in the winning goal." 21 games into his rookie NHL season, and Cogliano was third in rookie scoring among the league's 30 teams. 21gp, 4-9-13 and a shooting percentage of 15.4 for the first 6 weeks of his big league career.
There were some negatives. He was poor in the faceoff circle, he wasn't adjusting as quickly as hoped, and he could never establish himself as a top 6 forward despite mediocre competition for the skill minutes. In his first two NHL seasons he managed to score 36 goals. In the last decade, two-season totals from NHL newcomers include Mike Comrie (41), Jarret Stoll (32), Sam Gagner (29), Ales Hemsky (18), Jason Chimera (18), Shawn Horcoff (17). Cogliano was scoring goals and posting points, but he was also using up a lot of at-bats in order to deliver the numbers. He was not an efficient offensive player.
Last summer the Oilers traded Cogliano to Ottawa, but it didn't take. Cogliano arrived in training camp with a new head coach, a fresh start and an excellent attitude (his quotes during the period July-Sept 2009 are a top drawer example of the right thing to say). His 2009-10 season was, to say the least, trying. He played much of the season with subpar (and worse) linemates and spent enormous amounts of time accomplishing very little (example: he went 8gp, 0-0-0 -3 in one period during February, and that was during a time when the team went 5-3) offensively.
His stats line looked like this:
- Boxcars: 82gp, 10-18-28
- Shots: 139
- Plus Minus: -5
- Corsi (Rel): 1.5 (6th among F's)
- GF/GA ON: 41-46
- 5x5/60: 1.39 (7th among F's)
- 5x4/60: 2.55 (10th among F's)
- Quality of Competition: 7th toughest among F's
- Quality of Teammates: 4th best among F's
- FO %: 43% in 379 FO's
- Offensive Zone Start FO %: 49.1 (3rd easiest among F's)
- Cap Hit: $1,133,333 (RFA)
What do these numbers tell us? Well, in fairly calm waters he didn't deliver enough offense to earn top 6 minutes. The Oilers cut loose 4 forwards with better 5x5/60 minutes numbers and they played him a ton at center despite evidence he was not among the top 4 players at that position.
Most frustrating of all was a quote in an Edmonton Journal article by Jim Matheson in which the young center balks at being compared to Todd Marchant. Cogliano: "I almost scored 20 goals my first two years where I didn't have a major role. I've always put up numbers. And if I hadn't put up any in my first year, then maybe I'd be really worried. Maybe I'd switch my game ... for me, it's a matter of sticking with the mindset I can be a top-six player."
Andrew Cogliano didn't establish himself as a top 6 forward when the competition included names like Robert Nilsson, Ryan Potulny and Patrick O'Sullivan. Do we believe he'll have more success now that his competition includes Taylor Hall, Magnus Pääjärvi and Jordan Eberle?
I remain a fan of Andrew Cogliano. His wonderful speed should be effective on offense and on defense (forecheck and penalty kill). However, he was making the same mistakes (cross ice pass 6 feet in front of his own net that resulted in a turnover in a game versus the Canucks March 23) late this season as he was making as a rookie, and the "Marchant with hands" nickname has failed at both ends.
Sometimes a player reaches restricted free agency with three years experience. Other times, a player arrives at that place with one year's experience three times. I never thought I'd be saying that about Andrew Cogliano. In the same Matheson article quoted above, Cogliano also said he might adjust his style to focus on a more complete game: "maybe when I'm older, if my career doesn't take the path I want it to take."
Are we there yet?