The Worst Offensive Season of Kurtis Foster’s Career

Jonathan Willis
June 13 2011 02:03PM

Kurtis Foster did not get rave reviews for his play in 2010-11. He slid down the depth chart, falling behind rookies and castoffs like Theo Peckham, Jeff Petry and Jim Vandermeer in terms of ice-time. Even that overstates the case; in terms of even-strength ice-time Foster was used just a little more than Taylor Chorney and Jason Strudwick on a per-game basis.

Does this past season reflect Foster’s real value? I have some doubts.

Hockey commentary and analysis tends to emphasize recent results over prior history. It’s the reason a player like Andrew Cogliano gets just barely more than half the money that Gilbert Brule gets despite the fact that career-wise the former has been more impressive than the latter.

I’m not sure that this uneven weighting toward recent results always gives us the best picture of what a player is going to be like going forward. I’ve always operated under the assumption that it’s better to defer to a long-term track record than a single season sample, unless there is a reason (such as serious injury) to believe a player has significantly declined in a short period of time.

That’s why I still think that Kurtis Foster could play a valuable role, either for the Edmonton Oilers or for another club if they opt to trade him. His track record is significantly better than his results in 2010-11.

Foster’s Offensive Track Record

2005-06 717.93 327.55 10 18 0.84 3.30
2006-07 760.08 213.37 10 13 0.79 3.66
2007-08 735.4 146.32 9 10 0.73 4.10
2008-09 108.98 18.22 4 2 2.20 6.59
2009-10 931.35 273.33 16 26 1.03 5.71
2005-10 3253.74 978.79 49 69 0.90 4.23
2010-11 1010.7 284.45 8 14 0.47 2.95
% Difference         -52.0% -30.3%

The chart above shows a staggering drop in Foster’s offensive performance this season. His performance last season was a more than 50% drop-off from his average output over the preceding five seasons, and his power play offense dropped off by nearly one-third. While we might look at the power play number and chalk it up to the Oilers’ anaemic special teams, there is no similarly easy explanation for the drop in even-strength offense. Not only were the majority of Foster’s numbers recorded with the ultra-defensive Minnesota Wild, but he was given a lot of offensive zone starts this year with Edmonton.

Similarly, we can’t blame the decline in offense on Foster’s catastrophic injury in 2008-09, given that 2009-10 was the best offensive season of his career.

Obviously, offense isn’t the only part of Foster’s game that deserves scrutiny. He was at times problematic defensively this season, but I suspect teams will forgive that if he can provide above-average scoring punch on the power play and at even-strength.

Can Foster rebound? It’s difficult to know without understanding exactly why he struggled this season, but his career to date suggests that he is a much better offensive player than he showed this season, and I would guess that we will see a big spike in his scoring next season.

Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
#51 Robin Brownlee
June 15 2011, 07:10PM
Trash it!

"Can Foster rebound? It’s difficult to know without understanding exactly why he struggled this season . . ."

It's difficult to understand why Foster struggled this season? A statistical breakdown of a player who endured the death of a child last off-season?

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