There’s an idea getting quite a bit of play lately that Ales Kotalik and Ales Hemsky are finally starting to show chemistry playing together. While both are playing well, I don’t think that’s necessarily true.
Despite our craptacular play of late, Ales Kotalik has been a bright spot, one of very few to be frank. The chemistry between Kotalik and Hemsky was slow in coming, but it is evident now.
Kotalik has found a spot on the Oilers top line, playing alongside Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. It’s where the Oilers had originally pencilled him in to play, although he bounced around between units before becoming a fixture there.
– Derek van Diest, Edmonton Sun
van Diest points to Kotalik’s four-point night in Colorado as what sparked the turn-around, so I’m going to start there and take a look at his totals from that point on only. What follows is his personal game log from that point on (from the Oilers’ official site)
- March 19 @ COL – 1G – 3A – 4PTS, +3
- March 20 @ CHI – 0G – 0A – 0PTS, -2
- March 22 @ MIN – 0G – 0A – 0PTS, -1
- March 24 vs. DET – 1G – 0A – 1PTS, EV
- March 26 @ PHX – 1G – 0A – 1PTS, +1
- March 27 @ ANA – 1G – 0A – 1PTS, EV
- March 29 vs. MIN – 1G – 0A – 1PTS, +1
- March 31 vs. ANA – 0G – 1A – 1PTS, EV
- April 2 vs. SJ – 0G – 0A – 0PTS, -1
- April 4 vs. VAN – 1G – 0A – 1PTS, +2
- Totals: 10GP – 6G – 5A – 11PTS, +3
There’s no arguing that Ales Kotalik has earned his keep over the last ten games. However, the suggestion that his success has come as a result of chemistry with Ales Hemsky doesn’t seem provable to me.
Here are his results with Ales Hemsky from the last ten games:
- 4 goals for, 2 goals against (+2)
- 30 shots for, 29 shots against (+1)
- 62 shot attempts for, 49 against (+13)
- On-ice save percentage: .931% (team avg: .906%)
- On-ice shooting percentage: 13.3% (team avg. 9.2%)
The game against Colorado was played exclusively with Nilsson and Gagner; in point of fact, so was every game up until the game against Anaheim. So we’re basically looking at a five game sample of the two Ales’s playing together. During that time (of the numbers above all but one shot occurred within the final five game span) the two players have had incredibly high shooting and save percentages while they were on the ice.
The save percentage we can dismiss out of hand; it’s been conclusively proven that individual players have little/no effect on the save percentage of their own goaltender, so that comes down to simple variance. The shooting percentage, on the other hand, could be a function of two highly skilled players playing together. So let’s take a look at the goals scored by Kotalik and Ales Hemsky over that span.
The goal on March 27th was an empty-netter; that isn’t nothing to be sure, but it’s hardly an indication of any special talent. The March 29th goal was a result of a nice cycle between Horcoff and Hemsky; finally, Hemsky found Kotalik just at the edge of the left faceoff circle and Kotalik one-timed it home. Hemsky wasn’t involved in the March 31st goal. Kotalik’s goal on April 4th was scored after Shawn Horcoff took a shot from in close; Kotalik cashed in the rebound from the tip of the crease. Ales Hemsky had a goal and assist on April 4th; the assist was on a Souray point shot; Kotalik wasn’t even on the ice. Hemsky’s goal was on an empty net and Kotalik wasn’t involved in the play.
It seems to me that there haven’t been many signs at all of chemistry between Kotalik and Hemsky; even over the last five games where both have been performing well there has been exactly one goal where the two of them were the primary people in the play, and it was a rather common one-timer goal.
None of this is to say that Kotalik shouldn’t be re-signed; he’s certainly an NHL caliber player – a powerplay specialist with a fantastic shot and a big body. He can hold his own at even-strength in the right situations, and occasionally he goes on hot streaks, such as the one he’s on right now. If the Oilers decide that a player with that skill set fits their needs (which they might if, for instance, they send out on of their powerplay defensemen) it may well be a good idea to keep him.
But it would be a mistake to sign Kotalik based on the notion that he and Hemsky have some sort of special chemistry together, when they haven’t particularly shown it to date –even in a short stretch where both are playing good hockey. And it isn’t like they showed any special chemistry when they were united immediately after the Oilers acquired Kotalik either.