One of the most constant sources of frustration for fans of the Edmonton Oilers over Craig MacTavish’s tenure with the team was the ineffective powerplay, and that’s certainly something the Quinn coaching staff will look to address. Who, though, are the Oilers most effective powerplay performers?
Because so little of the game is spent on the powerplay, it’s difficult to get a good idea of a player’s proficiency on the powerplay from a single year – the numbers are just to small. With that in mind, I’ve taken a look at the Oilers powerplay options and gone back over the past three seasons to see how they’ve performed.
The statistics are presented as follows:
Player Name – Total Points – Total Icetime – PTS/60 minutes of ice-time
- Ales Hemsky: 86 – 867:20 – 5.95 PTS/60
- Shawn Horcoff: 60 – 759:04 – 4.74 PTS/60
- Dustin Penner: 49 – 775:35 – 3.79 PTS/60
- Sam Gagner: 27 – 453:38 – 3.57 PTS/60
- Robert Nilsson: 19 – 319:31 – 3.57 PTS/60
- Andrew Cogliano: 16 – 327:21 – 2.93 PTS/60
- Patrick O’Sullivan: 28 – 581:32 – 2.89 PTS/60
- Fernando Pisani: 9 – 263:21 – 2.05 PTS/60
What I See
Ales Hemsky is not only the best powerplay option on the team up front, but he’s the best by a wide margin. Honestly, he should get double-shifted with the man advantage – even if it means reducing his even-strength ice-time.
Shawn Horcoff’s numbers are surprisingly good – I’d expected him to show poorly here. On a team with a very good powerplay group Horcoff might get bumped to the second unit but the Oilers don’t appear to have other options. It’s too bad, because Horcoff’s needed at even-strength and on the penalty-kill and if Sam Gagner could step up it would make things much easier for this team.
Dustin Penner’s contributions aren’t solely reflected in his point totals. David Staples has touched on this previously, and he credits Dustin Penner with playing a screening role on 22 goals where he didn’t get credit for an assist – and that’s just this past season. The powerplay functioned best with Penner on it this past year – scoring 6.88 goals per sixty minutes, a higher total than with any other Oiler.
Robert Nilsson and Sam Gagner are fine second-unit options, and might see their points totals increase if placed on the top unit. That said, neither has proven they can displace the established options (Hemsky, Horcoff and Penner). It would be a positive if Gagner could surpass Horcoff in this particular category this season.
Andrew Cogliano and Patrick O’Sullivan, despite very decent scoring numbers at even-strength, have not been able to contribute positively to the powerplay, and should not be used as regular options with the man advantage. This applies even more to Fernando Pisani.
To finish up, I’d like to see the following two powerplay forward combinations:
- Penner – Horcoff – Hemsky
- Nilsson – Gagner – Hemsky
If Ales Hemsky isn’t capable of playing for the entire powerplay, there may be a chance here for Rob Schremp to grab a role. Schremp, as I’ve noted previously, is a liability at even-strength but over his entire career he’s been money on the powerplay. If Pat Quinn were willing to do something unconventional with his fourth line – namely turning it into a specialist line – or if Schremp can improve dramatically at even-strength, he may just stick as a powerplay specialist. This team needs one more competent forward.
- Sheldon Souray: 76 – 901:48 – 5.06 PTS/60
- Lubomir Visnovsky: 72 – 1020:43 – 4.23 PTS/60
- Denis Grebeshkov: 16 – 246:58 – 3.89 PTS/60
- Tom Gilbert: 26 – 460:03 – 3.39 PTS/60
What I See
There isn’t much room for argument here. The Oilers have four very decent options, with the only problem being that the two best – Sheldon Souray and Lubomir Visnovsky – both play similar roles (left-handed one-timer from the point). This may necessitate putting them on different units.
Sheldon Souray is a powerplay beast – although he did have the advantage of playing on an incredible (seriously, this was a league-best unit) powerplay in Montreal, where he collected 48 points in just one season. Even keeping that in mind though, Souray’s gold with the man advantage – possibly the best powerplay shooter in the NHL. Lubomir Visnovsky isn’t as good as Souray, but he’s still highly effective.
Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov look bad in comparison to the other two players, but they still post very decent totals for powerplay defensemen, and there’s nothing to worry about with this group.