Robin Brownlee mentioned second assists in his latest column, saying that Tom Gilbert’s numbers have been inflated by a bunch of second assists. It’s a point worth noting; obviously a first assist in most cases is going to be more valuable, so I thought I’d break down the Oilers assists this season to see who is cashing in on the greatest amount of secondary assists. All data courtesy of Gabriel Desjardins’ Behind the Net and NHL.com. Only players with at least 10 assists are considered. There is a tiny bit of error in this sample as 5-on-3 assists are not recorded at Behind the Net, but that shouldn’t be a major consideration in the overall picture.
Player X: Assists | Primary | Secondary | Percentage of Assists That Are Primary
Robert Nilsson: 20 | 16 | 4 | 80.0%
Dustin Penner: 20 | 14 | 6 | 70.0%
Ales Hemsky: 42 | 26 | 16 | 61.9%
Sam Gagner: 25 | 15 | 10 | 60.0%
Ethan Moreau: 12 | 7 | 5 | 58.3%
Kyle Brodziak: 14 | 8 | 6 | 57.1%
Patrick O’Sullivan: 27| 15 | 12 | 55.6%
Shawn Horcoff: 34| 17| 17 | 50.0%
Marc Pouliot: 12 | 6 | 6 | 50.0%
Ales Kotalik: 23 | 11| 12 | 47.8%
Andrew Cogliano: 19 | 9 | 10 | 47.4%
Steve Staios: 12 | 9 | 3 | 75.0%
Sheldon Souray: 28 | 15 | 13 | 53.6%
Denis Grebeshkov: 30 | 14 | 16 | 46.7%
Ladislav Smid: 11 | 4 | 7 | 36.4%
Tom Gilbert: 40 | 14 | 26 | 35.0%
Lubomir Visnovsky: 23 | 7 | 16 | 30.4%
Looking at that chart, a couple of things stand out.
Robin Brownlee was indeed correct that Tom Gilbert has been picking up a ton of second assists (only Visnovsky has a higher percentage). On the other hand, I’m not entirely sure that this is a bad thing for a defenseman – given that the guys who do the best job of clearing the zone seem to have the highest number of second assists, doesn’t it seem likely that all those second assists are a reflection of that ability? I don’t really know one way or the other – I’m just raising what seems like a logical possibility to me.
Two forwards who have been maligned for poor offensive output this season (Dustin Penner, Robert Nilsson) have been generating an incredible amount of primary assists relative to their total number of assists. This may suggest that part of their offensive dropoff is a decrease in second assists (particularly since Dustin Penner led the team in percentage of secondary assists at even-strength last season). I’d expect both to rebound to some degree next year.