What To Do With Ales Kotalik?

kotalik2

Jim Matheson’s excellent interview with Steve Tambellini ran a couple of days ago. Tambellini was extremely guarded about some issues (the hiring of a new coach) and open about others. One of the items he was relatively open about was how the brass viewed Ales Kotalik.

Q: What are you going to do with your unrestricted free agents, Kotalik and Dwayne Roloson?
A: They’re in the world championship and we all agreed we’d talk after that and they’d talk to their families and see what they want to do. We’ll have discussions with both guys.

Since we know the Oilers are interested in re-signing Kotalik, it’s probably good for us to take a look at him as a player again. I’ve done two previous pieces on Kotalik; one when he was acquired and another examining his ability to play left-wing on the first line. Tyler at mc79hockey also did a piece on Kotalik’s value as a shootout specialist. I’m largely referencing the work done in those three articles as I don’t especially want to redo the work done there. Based on those three articles and Kotalik’s career statistics, I’m going to make some statements about him:

Ales Kotalik…

  • is a very good/elite option as a powerplay point man
  • is an elite option in the shootout
  • does not kill penalties
  • does not provide anything more than average NHL offense at even-strength
  • does not get significantly outscored at even strength
  • adds size but not much more than average NHL grit/physical presence

Is that a fair evaluation? I think it is, but if there are any concerns please chime in below.

Based on that evaluation, Kotalik’s useful but unspectacular at even strength, and contributes nothing of significance to the penalty kill. In other words, if the Oilers are re-signing him, they’re doing it primarily for his contributions on the powerplay and in the shootout. Since the shootout is a bit of a fringe item, I think it’s fair to say that for Kotalik to provide fair value to the Oilers he should be a point-man on the power-play. Let’s look at who the Oilers have that can fill that role right now:

  • Sheldon Souray
  • Lubomir Visnovsky
  • Tom Gilbert
  • Denis Grebeshkov

If I were running the team, I’d view Kotalik as a support player at even-strength and a dynamic power-play option, so the only way I re-sign him is if I’m planning to move one of the four offensive defensemen currently on the Oilers. That frees up a powerplay spot for Kotalik (where he’s probably in the same range as any of the other four options) and allows the Oilers to address another area while trading from a position of strength. In other word, my decision would go like this:

  • If I’m trading a top-four defenseman, I re-sign Kotalik
  • If I’m making no changes to my defense, I’m letting Kotalik go

At this point, I think I would move a defenseman.

  • Hippy

    Archaeologuy wrote:

    Since the shootout is a bit of a fringe item…

    I wonder about this a little. Per here, teams go to a shootout about 11 times in an average season, and that's a healthy handful of bonus points. If Kotalik, who's roughly half again as good as the average player at shootouts, can make the difference in picking up even just three or four of those points, then that's going to be very important in the standings.

    Now, I'm not saying that the Oil should back a dumptruck full of money up to Kotalik's house based on his shootout performance alone, but I do think that it's possible to underestimate the value of that performance. The English national soccer team has been merrily undervaluing shootouts for years, and as a result has gone out of about 163 consecutive World Cups on penalties…

  • Hippy

    Ducey wrote:

    I think you have shown conclusively that he does not bring anything that the team doesn’t already have.
    His skills on the powerplay are duplicated by a number of players. His shootout skills are also duplicated by others.
    I don’t see him bringing anything that Gagner, Cogliano and Patty O’ bring 5 on 5.
    His value therefore on 5 on 5 is limited and he doesn’t add anything they don’t already have on special teams.
    No way they should bring him back.

    Completely agree.

  • Hippy

    @ Ducey:
    Whoa! I follow you on the powerplay redundancy, but who do we have that duplicates Kotalik's elite-level skill in the shootout? We had Gagner last year (07-08), but he went cold this past season. Without looking up statistics, I seem to remember Nilsson doing fairly well, but nowhere near the level Kotalik was/is at.

  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    I don't discount his value in those areas, but we also have some redundancy in those areas as well. I don't want the team to have him use up a roster spot at the expense of other team needs (grit, size that is used appropriately, face offs, etc.) If we can't address those other needs at this time then I would not mind at all having Kotalik back and excelling in his areas of expertise.

  • Hippy

    @ Robin Brownlee:

    Your not, for goodness sakes, suggesting that a player does something other than the most transparent of reasons are you? That their actions are designed to bring maximum benefit to themselves?

    *falls away in a dead faint*

  • Hippy

    SquidRx wrote:

    Why bother burying another offensively minded player in the bottom six?

    Because he scores at an inferior pace to Liam Reddox at even-strength. He hasn't put up points 5-on-5 since the lockout, but he's incredibly valuable elsewhere (shootout, PP). Buffalo seemed fine with him outside their top-six.

  • Hippy

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    I don’t think Kotalik plays in the top-six. I’d prefer to see the new coach use him like he was used in Buffalo: heavy powerplay time, odd shifts in the top-six, third or fourth line duty otherwise.
    For that role I’d be happy to pay him what he currently makes; if the Oilers can move a defenseman out and bring in a cheaper guy in strictly a defensive role (which seems reasonable) they’ll still be saving money.

    Why bother burying another offensively minded player in the bottom six? I don't disagree with your assessment and he may not fit into our top six, but he doesn't really fit in what we need with our bottom six either. I think if we keep him he plays top six and powerplay otherwise we use his money and ice time elsewhere.

  • Hippy

    I think you have shown conclusively that he does not bring anything that the team doesn't already have.

    His skills on the powerplay are duplicated by a number of players. His shootout skills are also duplicated by others.

    I don't see him bringing anything that Gagner, Cogliano and Patty O' bring 5 on 5.

    His value therefore on 5 on 5 is limited and he doesn't add anything they don't already have on special teams.

    No way they should bring him back.

  • Hippy

    @ Quinn:
    Unless is a player is a dolt, and Kotalik isn't, why would he say anything else?
    He'll weigh his options when the teams start calling and he'll take the best deal. Why not have Edmonton in the mix pitching and giving him leverage instead of shutting the door?

    Let's not forget, he's spent most of his career in the East where the travel is cushy and the sun belt cities are. Besides, it's not like he played on a Cup contender here.

  • Hippy

    @ Robin Brownlee:

    Didn't Kotalik state at the end of the season that he was favourably inclined to return?

    Still, I don't know how badly I would want him to come back if it means that the Oil eat up cap room they could spend on a top 6 UFA.

  • Hippy

    ". . . if the Oilers are re-signing him . . ."

    "If I’m trading a top-four defenseman, I re-sign Kotalik . . ."

    Let's not forget, the Oilers aren't re-signing Kotalik unless he says so.

    Re-signing Jaroslav Spacek or Sergei Samsonov might have been good ideas as well, but there was no way in hell they wanted to come back to Edmonton, even though they were classy enough not to frame it that way publicly.

  • Hippy

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    I don’t think Kotalik plays in the top-six. I’d prefer to see the new coach use him like he was used in Buffalo: heavy powerplay time, odd shifts in the top-six, third or fourth line duty otherwise.
    For that role I’d be happy to pay him what he currently makes; if the Oilers can move a defenseman out and bring in a cheaper guy in strictly a defensive role (which seems reasonable) they’ll still be saving money.

    I couldn't agree more. Let him stick to what he does best, on the power play. Next, I say package Gilbert, an underachiever such as Nilsson and a prospect and/or pick(s) for a top six forward. You help address the power play and your top two lines with this move.

  • Hippy

    I don't think Kotalik plays in the top-six. I'd prefer to see the new coach use him like he was used in Buffalo: heavy powerplay time, odd shifts in the top-six, third or fourth line duty otherwise.

    For that role I'd be happy to pay him what he currently makes; if the Oilers can move a defenseman out and bring in a cheaper guy in strictly a defensive role (which seems reasonable) they'll still be saving money.

  • Hippy

    The Oilers have a stock pile of average NHL forwards. Assuming Hemsky, Gagner, Horcoff, Cogliano and Pisani wont be traded, the list includes:

    Penner, Nilsson, O'Sullivan, Moreau, Brodziak, Stortini, Reddox, JFJ and Pouliot.

    If we are trading a defender for a forward it will be interesting to see which forwards get moved. Adding Kotalik and a forward guarantees at least 2 forwards from that list are gone. Its easy to say Reddox and Pouliot are gone but they have friendly cap numbers.

  • Hippy

    roughneck wrote:

    assuming he is overpaid at his current contract number (plausible). What would you pay him in the role you define above?

    Exactly what I was thinking.

    It's safe to say that UFA's to play in your top 6 never come at a bargain.

    This team is already stuck with bad contracts so paying a 40 pt UFA that gets pigeon holed as a specialist 3.5 or 4 mil a season (reasonable guess?)seems silly to me.

  • Hippy

    Willis you sure are one busy bee. I liked Kotalik, but I'm not sure where Ales fits between Horc, Hemsky, Gagner, Cogliano, O'Sullivan, Penner, and any UFAs or trades that the Oilers can get. There are a lot of people to fit into 6 spots on a team that has stated it wants to make trades. I dont envy Tambi right now.

  • Hippy

    O Please let it be Tom Gilbert who can fetch us an offensive weapon……hopefully all his turnovers at key points of the game are overshadowed by all his assists!!!