Robin Brownlee
April 04 2011 04:44PM

Jordan Eberle isn't going to muscle into the Calder Trophy race in a meaningful way in the Edmonton Oilers final four games of this season, but that he's going to get some votes is testament to the kind of season he's had under trying conditions.

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Vande Velde Van Gogh In the FO Circle

April 03 2011 07:30AM


Chris Vande Velde arrived in pro hockey with a reputation for being a quality performer in the faceoff circle. He's performed well in the discipline in college, the American League and now in a small NHL sample. How valuable is the skill? Will it secure the Dutchman NHL employment?

When he was a junior and then college player, Vande Velde was a go-to guy in the faceoff circle and played the center position with aplomb. His draft day scouting report implied quality, and the earliest glimpse of the type of player we've seen recently in Edmonton:

  • Redline report: He has an incredibly long reach and is uncanny playing in traffic. When he got his skating legs going, he was nearly impossible to push off the puck, in an almost Keith Primeau–like fashion. Like Oshie, North Dakota has VandeVelde slated for the fall of 2006, and until then, he'll skate for the Lincoln Stars.

When Vande Velde turned pro last fall, I felt he'd be the first of the new pro's to emerge (based on age). However, Vande Velde's numbers (62gp, 12-4-16 -17) are not good and the number of minor leaguers recalled ahead of him (Reddox, Omark, O'Marra) suggested there was much to learn.

Doritogrande will be a well known name to Oilogosphere readers and he offered some exceptional insight into Vande Velde in OKC here. Quoting a portion of the post:

  • Chris VandeVelde was pegged as the de-facto checking center tonight, and was given the linemates befitting a player that the coaching staff wants in a defined role. He was able to saw-off the Moose top line of Hodgson-Volpatti-Shirokov with a little help from his friends. He showed good hustle, average speed and good skills in the faceoff dot.

This fits with Todd Nelson's (OKC's coach) viewpoint on the player:

  • His adjustment was learning the pro game. Up until Christmas, he was okay for us. But after Christmas he took it upon himself to play well in his D zone. Along with that, with the more responsibility he got, he began to improve offensively. He's been good for us, he's been excellent in the faceoff circle. He's 1-2 every night, it's either him or O'Marra.  

The entire interview is here. Vande Velde's rookie AHL season has him tied for 105th among rookies in that league, so he's going to have to bring other elements to his game. And that's where we can talk about his size (6.02, 204) and his ability in the faceoff circle.

In a very small sample size (8 games), Vande Velde is 56.7% on the dot (in 97 sorties). He's also gaining the confidence of the coach.

  • Tom Renney: “He’s very reliable. To a point, you expect what he delivers and he does. He’s a little bit predictable in that way, which is a good thing. I’m just tying to give him an opportunity to play in a number of different circumstances and he’s done well.”

The Renney quote (along with more on Vande Velde) is here.


Vande Velde is building enough of a resume to be "in the mix" for NHL employment in 11-12. A good bet would be more AHL time but perhaps an earlier recall when injuries or slumps force roster moves. I'd estimate he fits this way into the center depth chart at the pro level:

  1. Shawn Horcoff
  2. Sam Gagner
  3. Andrew Cogliano
  4. Colin Fraser
  5. Chris Vande Velde
  6. Ryan O'Marra
  7. Anton Lander (unsigned)
  8. Milan Kytnar

There are all kinds of things that could change (drafting RNH, moving Hall to center) but as it stands that 4line job should be an interesting contest during TC in the fall. Vande Velde's spring audition puts him in the mix, and his faceoff ability--in a small sample size--may make him a favorite.

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April 02 2011 07:14PM

Canucks 52-17-9. 9-1-0 in their past 10 games.

Oilers 23-43-11. Winless in 11.

This doesn't look good at all.

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Ryan Whitney and PDO

Jonathan Willis
April 02 2011 04:45PM

At plus-12, he’s the lone Oiler in double-digits by plus-minus, and has more than double the next best player (Ales Hemsky, plus-5).

Ryan Whitney’s spectacular plus/minus on a spectacularly bad team has garnered a lot of attention, even from people who don’t generally believe in plus/minus. I’ve quoted myself above, but the numbers has shown up in the columns of most of the local papers – from the Sun to the Journal.

Is it important, or is it a mirage?

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11-12 Questions about 11-12

April 02 2011 08:36AM

The Taylor versus Tyler debate is a distant bell. Another long season in the L column is almost complete. Oiler fans have the draft lottery ahead of them, and then a spring filled with debates over this year's #1 and a plethora of possible roster moves. Let's get started.

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