Department of Obvious Statements: Ales Kotalik Edition

Kotalik

I had a positive post all ready to go, about love for the game.Lowetide had a great post on Sunday, and it reminded me that as much as I enjoy the nuts and bolts of the game, it’s good to remember why I love the game. Sure, Fernando Pisani will probably never catch fire again like he did in the 2006 playoffs, but those memories are gold. Yeah, the late-90’s Oilers teams never really did anything, but Curtis Joseph was incredible and it was impossible not to cheer for guys like Todd Marchant, Mike Grier, Ryan Smyth, Jason Smith and Ethan Moreau. Tough and willing, despite not having the greatest set of hands in the world – I loved that group.

That isn’t the post I’m going to write this morning, though. There are some ideas that are floating around out there about Ales Kotalik that bother me, so I’m just going to get into them.

I Don’t Care How Buddy-Buddy Ales Kotalik and Ales Hemsky Are – Kotalik Isn’t a First-Line Left Wing

Anybody have any idea how many points Ales Kotalik has this year at even-strength? 14. Let’s take a good look at the number 14 and see how it fits into the Edmonton lineup.

14 is less than half as many points as the Oilers leading even-strength scorer, Ales Hemsky (29). It’s exactly half as many points as the Oilers other new acquisition at left wing, Patrick O’Sullivan (28). It’s almost exactly half as many points as the Oilers best centre, Shawn Horcoff (27). In other words, it’s well back of the pack.

14 ranks fourth among the Oilers left wings. We’ve already discussed O’Sullivan, but Dustin Penner (22) and Ethan Moreau (22) are also well ahead of Ales Kotalik in even-strength scoring. Even Robert Nilsson, with seven fewer games and “inconsistent” as the first word in every scouting report this season, has 11.

But, you say, perhaps Kotalik’s having an off year? Last season, Kotalik had 19 even-strength points – 11th best among Sabres forwards. In fact, among regulars only Adam Mair, who played seven fewer games had less even-strength points (17).

There are plenty of advanced stats I could trot out to support my statement here (and yes, I’ve trotted them out before), but when you’re sandwiched between Marc Pouliot and Robert Nilsson in even-strength scoring, I shouldn’t have to.

Ales Kotalik is not a first line LW. End of story.

On The Other Hand, KotaliK’s Great On The Powerplay – As A Pointman

I’m frequently accused of not watching the games, or being hopelessly ignorant of anything other than math, so I’m going to engage in a little exercise – I’m going to review each of Ales Kotalik’s goals this year, from video available at NHL.com. If you want to follow along, go to this link, type in “Ales Kotalik” in the search bar, and flip over to highlights. You can watch every goal of his dating back for years, although I’ll only review this season.

February 24 vs. Anaheim: With Kotalik at the left point, Craig Rivet (#52) takes the puck at the right point. He hangs on to it for a minute, sees Kotalik sneaking in for a one-timer, and passes the puck over. Kotalik hammers it home.

February 13 vs. San Jose: Buffalo wins the draw in the offensive zone, with the puck going back to Rivet at the right point. He quickly flips it back to Kotalik, who fire a one-timer into the net.

February 11 vs. Ottawa: It’s difficult to make out who is playing the right point, but he takes the puck, sees Kotalik sneaking in, and flips it over to him. Kotalik, once again, fires a one-timer that beats the goaltender.

January 21 vs. Tampa Bay: Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the puck goes back to Rivet at the right point, who sees Kotalik sneaking in, sends it over to him, and he scores on the one-timer.

January 14 vs. Chicago: Rivet sneaks into the high slot as three defenders collapse toward the puck carrier, who passes it to Kotalik. Kotalik waits a split second, than puts a wrist shot home.

December 22 vs. Pittsburgh: Kotalik is sent in on a partial break, makes two quick moves, and then fires a wrist shot past the keeper. It looks just like his shootout goal against the Rangers.

December 8 vs. Pittsburgh: Kotalik is sitting in front of the net, and bangs home a rebound.

December 4 vs. Florida: Spacek and Kotalik sneak in from the point, and work the puck down to a forward sitting just off the side of the Panthers’ net. The forward sends the puck out to Spacek, who quickly passes to Kotalik. Kotalik one-times it home.

November 7 vs. Atlanta: Kotalik holds the puck in at the left point, and both he and his fellow point man sneak in. the puck is moved down to the low forward, who threads a pass through the Panthers box and on to Kotalik’s stick. Kotalik one-times the puck home.

October 17 vs. Vancouver (2): Kotalik takes the puck just in from the left point, and fires a screened wrist shot that beats Luongo.

October 17 vs. Vancouver (1): A Sabres forward carries the puck in with speed and is hooked going to the net. He blindly passes the puck behind him from one knee, finding Kotalik just in from the left point. Kotalik one-times it past Luongo.

Let’s review. Eleven of the thirteen goals that Ales Kotalik has scored are available at NHL.com. Six of those goals were scored on the powerplay, every single one of them from the left point. Three of his even-strength goals are scored on similar plays, with Kotalik alone in the high slot. One came on a breakaway, and one was a garbage goal in front of the net.

In other words: Ales Kotalik scores the vast majority of his goals on the powerplay, and from the left point/high slot. Why – and please, anybody, answer this – would Craig MacTavish deploy him as a forward on the powerplay, leaving Steve Staios on the point?

In conclusion, I have three simple points:

1. Ales Kotalik is not the solution at first line left wing.
2. Ales Kotalik scores the vast majority of his points on the powerplay, not even strength.
3. Ales Kotalik has had success as a point man on the powerplay, not a forward, so Craig MacTavish would likely be better off using him as such.

  • Hippy

    CurtisS wrote:

    What you think of the new lines today

    Kotalik Horc Hemmer
    Nilsson Gags Pouliot
    Sully Cogs Pisani
    Reddox Brodz Huggy Bear

    Let's see.

    1. Kotalik shouldn't be 1st line LW.
    2. Does anyone really believe that a) healthy-scratching Penner has worked to motivate him or b) that he's the 13th-best forward in the lineup? Because if the answer to both of those is no, he should be playing.

    Other than that, it's fine.

    Fire the coach.

  • Hippy

    CurtisS wrote:

    What you think of the new lines today
    Kotalik Horc Hemmer
    Nilsson Gags Pouliot
    Sully Cogs Pisani
    Reddox Brodz Huggy Bear

    I'm willing to bet that the second and third lines are flipped in terms of total ice-time. I'd be tempted to run things like this:

    Penner – Gagner – Hemsky
    Pouliot – Horcoff – Pisani
    Nilsson – Cogliano – O'Sullivan
    Kotalik – Brodziak – Stortini

    The first line runs some power vs. power; Gagner's really not the ideal fit here, but with Hemsky and Penner on his wings they should do at least OK. They get some shelter from the Horcoff line below.

    Pouliot, Horcoff and Pisani are run out as a checking line; there are two guys there who can handle it for sure and Pouliot has some ability in this area. Horcoff's counting numbers will drop off, but I don't particularly care.

    Nilsson, Cogliano and O'Sullivan have one job: put up points. O'Sullivan and Cogliano can do it, and it's probably time to give Nilsson another shot.

  • Hippy

    Wow I cant believe Kotalik plays forward on the powerplay, no way mact hasnt seen Kotaliks goals this season. My lineup for the pp would be 27-89-83-44-21. Kotalik on the first line I dont mind as much, at least not yet, they havent looked worse than when Penner was there, OSullivan deserves a tryout though

  • Hippy

    I cant for the life of me figure out why Sully isnt on his natural wing on the first line. Sully played the whole season in a top 6 role for the Kings.

    Meanwhile Kotalik plays the off wing just to play with Hemsky. He played in the bottom 6 role the whole season for Buffalo.

    What you think of the new lines today

    Kotalik Horc Hemmer
    Nilsson Gags Pouliot
    Sully Cogs Pisani
    Reddox Brodz Huggy Bear

  • Hippy

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    Why – and please, anybody, answer this – would Craig MacTavish deploy him as a forward on the powerplay, leaving Steve Staios on the point?

    A better question is this: when has Craig MacTavish used a player in their PROPER role at ALL this season?

  • Hippy

    David S wrote:

    4. Ales Kotalik has 0 points since joining the Oilers. Erik Cole has 5 since joining the ‘Canes.

    People keep bringing this up as if it is some kind of indictment of the Oilers management. I wish Cole all the success in the world. Classy guy, good hockey player.

    Point 1- Cole was not traded for Kotalik, he was traded for POS and a 2nd. Now, POS doesn't have a point either but I'm just saying.

    Point 2- I don't care if Cole scores a thousand points before the end of the season. He was not going to sign here at the end of the season. The Oil got a good return on the trade. If they let him walk for free, that would be horrible asset management.

    So, my question is, if your going to keep bringing it up about how much better Cole is than Kotalik (or POS)…….What do you think they should have done?

  • Hippy

    @ Darcy:

    I figured this trade was about addressing the left point on the powerplay – Kotalik has proven success there, and could adequately replace Visnovsky over the short term.

    I'm not sure if Mactavish is on the same page as Tambellini or not.

  • Hippy

    @ David S:

    Actually, if I'd done a 4th point, it would have been something like this:

    4. The Oilers probably could have better invested a 2nd round pick in a player other than Ales Kotalik.

  • Hippy

    Since Hemsky was the first to inform Kotalik that he had been traded (even before Darcy R), its obvious that Hemsky's wishes were included in the thinking for this trade.

    Perhaps its a short term fix to the LW problem as Hemsky sees it. (many would argue that despite his apparent lethargy, Penner is working)

    Keeping your underpaid star happy is a good thing.

    Putting players in a place where they aren't the fit is not.

    If I were Tambo I'd err on the side of keeping Hemsky happy and put in Kotalik as a 20 game solution.

    Even if the Oilers had Ovechkin as their 1LW they are going nowhere in the playoffs this year, should they make it to the post season. So you really aren't banking on anything by bringing Kotalik in, excpet losing a 2 round pick (which has real value)

    Keep Hemsky happy with Kotalik for this season, and make real substantive changes in the off season.

    This trade was more about Hemsky than anything else.

  • Hippy

    Wait! Did you say MacTavish wasn't using a player where he has had past success, and is most likely to succeed again!!??!?!?

    STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!!!!

    Hold on…….naw, sorry, that's standard.