Just because it feels like cheesy Sun headlines day.
Craig MacTavish’s pre-game press conference featured some interesting dialogue between the coach and the reporters; dialogue that gives us a very good idea of how he views the current situation at centre. His responses to two key questions were especially illuminating.
Asked whether Cogliano might need to be moved to the wing, MacTavish offered the following:
Well, yeah, but you get to the point of options. Ideas are great but you have to have an option for somebody else to go in the middle and take those minutes right now and that’s not in the cards. One of two things has to happen with him to continue to play centre – he has to get better in the faceoff circle or he’s going to have to start on the wing. With the makeup of our team, with Sam and cogs in the 2 and 3 spot is not ideal, we need some more size there so one of them is going to have to go to the wing at some point.
I take a few points from this:
1. Neither Kyle Brodziak nor Marc Pouliot is regarded as a viable option at centre above the fourth line at this point in time.
2. At least at the coaching level, the organization’s need for a third-line centre with some size is recognized; this should have been a priority at the trade deadline.
3. There is a log-jam up the middle and the coach recognizes it; Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano will not both have careers as centres on this team. Either one will be traded, which unsurprisingly isn’t mentioned as a possibility, or one will be moved to the wing. Given Cogliano’s problems in the faceoff circle, he would seem to be the likely candidate.
The second question was about Shawn Horcoff. Given how Horcoff has struggled to produce offensively, the coach was asked if he would like to lessen his load a little bit to get more offense out of him:
Yeah, options – what are the options? He plays a lot, he does a lot. Ideally, we’d have somebody to help a little more in carrying the offensive burden or a little bit more in the defensive burden, but right now we don’t. He likes the minutes but you’re right, sometimes all that ice makes it difficult for him.
The coach is under no illusions as to the ability of Sam Gagner or Andrew Cogliano to carry the load at the NHL level right now. Shawn Horcoff has been relied upon more in all situations than any other Oilers centre in recent memory; even Doug Weight had a checking line that the coach trusted.
I’ve seen it said that Craig MacTavish has more input on the transactions side of the equation than most NHL coaches, but I will say this: I don’t think there’s any doubt that if he were in charge this team would have entered the season with a second veteran option down the middle. They would certainly have been better off for it. I also imagine that if he were in charge the Oilers would have picked up a veteran centre at the deadline; with names like Sami Pahlsson and Dominic Moore changing teams they could certainly have afforded to.