The Oilers Won the Visnovsky Trade

In his latest column, veteran writer Jim Matheson asks a question that rears its ugly head every so often around these parts:

If the Edmonton Oilers could get a do-over, would they move Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll for Lubomir Visnovsky?

I know that I’d make that trade over again in a heartbeat.

It’s pretty simple, really: Lubomir Visnovsky is a far better player than either Stoll or Greene.

Matheson in his column talks about how the Oilers have a surplus of offensive defensemen, and how they never managed to replace Greene or Stoll, but both of those points are largely irrelevant.

The surplus of offensive defensemen isn’t a bad thing, and if the Oilers could I imagine they would keep their top four intact. The limiting factors are a pressing need for more help up front and salary cap issues. The former could have been addressed through free agency – and still could be – while the latter is simply a case of too many players getting contracts they aren’t likely to outperform. The point is that if the Oilers are moving a defenseman, it’s their own fault.

As for Jarret Stoll, he’s now recorded between 36 and 41 points in each of his last three seasons, and has been signed long-term for 3.6MM/season. As tempting as it is to look at his success in L.A. and say the Oilers made a mistake, the fact of the matter is that he’s playing a much different role for the Kings. Let’s compare his numbers, his quality of competition and teammates, and which faceoffs he’s getting sent out for:

2007-08:

  • 81GP – 14G – 22A – 36PTS, -23.
  • Quality of Competition: 1st
  • Quality of Teammates: 8th
  • Faceoff Split: 181 more defensive zone than offensive zone faceoffs

2008-09:

  • 74GP – 18G – 23A – 41PTS, -7.
  • Quality of Competition: 9th
  • Quality of Teammates: 2nd
  • Faceoff Split: 2 more defensive zone than offensive zone faceoffs

That’s a huge contrast. Stoll has gone from playing the best players on the other team with lousy linemates to playing third-rate players with great linemates. He’s gone from getting sent out in the defensive zone every faceoff to an even split. That’s why he’s gained +16 in plus/minus. On the flip side, he’s still a minus player, and although he does well on special teams (he does put up points on the powerplay and effectively kill penalties) he’s an offensive sinkhole at even-strength – just like he was in 2007-08. His 1.40 PTS/60 slides nicely into the bottom of the Oilers list:

  • Ethan Moreau: 1.50 PTS/60
  • Liam Reddox: 1.43 PTS/60
  • Steve MacIntyre: 1.43 PTS/60
  • Jarret Stoll: 1.40 PTS/60

Stoll was a mess as a checking centre in 2007-08, and L.A. wisely took him out of that situation. He’s a specialist on both the PK and PP, but at even-strength he’s nothing special and hasn’t been since a career-altering concussion in 2006-07. That year he managed 20 points at even strength in just 51 games, but in the years since he’s recorded 20 and 19 points at even-strength. The fact of the matter is that he has yet to be the player Oilers fans remember from before his concussion, and it’s completely plausible that he never will be.

Matheson talks about the need the Oilers have for a right-handed faceoff man to take defensive draws. Let’s compare Stoll’s numbers from 2007-08 with another right-handed centre from this past season:

Jarret Stoll, 2007-08:

  • Scoring: 81GP – 14G – 22A – 36PTS, -23.
  • Even-Strength Scoring: 20 points
  • Quality of Competition: 1st
  • Quality of Teammates: 8th
  • Faceoff Split: 181 more defensive zone than offensive zone faceoffs
  • Faceoff Percentage: 55.1%

Kyle Brodziak, 2008-09:

  • Scoring: 79GP – 11G – 16A – 27PTS, +4.
  • Even-Strength Scoring: 23 points
  • Quality of Competition: 13th
  • Quality of Teammates: 14th
  • Faceoff Split: 112 more defensive zone than offensive zone faceoffs
  • Faceoff Percentage: 51.6%

Granted, Brodziak wasn’t playing against the toughs the way Stoll did, and he wasn’t as brilliant on faceoffs as Stoll was. However, he contributed the same amount of even-strength offense with far less ice-time, was +27 better on the plus/minus scale, and costs about one-third as much as Stoll will for the next three seasons.

Also, when it comes to not replacing Stoll as a faceoff specialist, that represented an unforced error on Kevin Lowe’s part: in 2007-08, he not only traded away Stoll, but he also declined to sign Marty Reasoner. Reasoner, a cheap faceoff ace and a very good defensive forward, signed in Atlanta (again, for roughly one-third of Stoll’s price) and would have been a valuable part of the team this past season. Not only that, but according to his public remarks, he wanted to stay, and he’s always had the reputation of being a team-first guy in the dressing room.

That brings us to Matt Greene, who after years of struggling in a depth role with the Oilers finally paid off big-time as a shut-down defenseman in Los Angeles. He’s big, he’s nasty, and all of a sudden he’s helping his hockey team win games.

There are, however, two points worth making about Greene:

  1. He is not now, and likely never will be, a superior player to Lubomir Visnovsky.
  2. The Oilers have a very similar player in Ladislav Smid, except that Smid is a) younger and b) signed for the next two season at less than half the price of Greene (1.3MM vs. 2.95 MM)

I like both players the Oilers sent away to get Visnovsky, but frankly it was still a good trade. Jarret Stoll’s play has dropped off dramatically since suffering that concussion two years ago, and Matt Greene for all of his strengths isn’t in the same class as the guy the Oilers got.

One thing I haven’t gone to great lengths to emphasize is just how good of a player Visnovsky is.

Matheson talks about Denis Grebeshkov as a replacement for Visnovsky, but even at his best Grebeshkov doesn’t have the poise of the former or the same level of puck-moving ability. Visnovsky’s the most talented puck-distributing defenseman this town has seen since at least Chris Pronger, and quite possibly since Paul Coffey. The Oilers’ inability to bring in a third-line centre this past season shouldn’t be held against him.

  • Hippy

    completely agree. I also love how Vishnovsky doesn't get flustered. Just have to figure out how the PP units shape up. Never been a fan of having Souray and Vish play on the same unit, especially since they both have a lethal one timer from the right point.

    Maybe we go with a 1a, 1b set up like Detroit. You never did know which of their units would start the PP. Although obviously they had the skill to have 2 pretty amazing units last year; missing Hossa, Samuellson and Hudler will change that for them this year.

  • Hippy

    I'm suprised it's even up for debate

    1/2 Dmen >>>> 3rd line center+4/5 Dmen.

    I'm pretty sure the Oil could be more then say Pahlson+Commodore for Gilber. And Vish >> Gilbert

  • Hippy

    Lubo is also a very exciting player to watch. While I loved Green and Stoll they didnt exactly bring the fans out of the seats. Lubo is fun to watch and when you consider how expensive the games are to see live, having another exciting player, just sweetens the deal.

  • Hippy

    I'm not too familiar with how other fans are, but it seems like Oilers fans have an incredible amount of buyer's remorse. I was sorry to see Stoll go, but the fact is he hasn't been the same since his concussion.

  • Hippy

    I was pretty convinced that the Oilers won that trade when they made it, but that was more based on "saw him good". Your numbers just confirm it. *runs to the nearest store to buy Vishnovsky jersey…realizes he's in Vancouver and weeps*

  • Hippy

    Wow JW if it wasn't for you this site would practically close for the summer. However many sweaty used t-shirts your being paid in it isn't enough.

    Nice analysis too, Vishnovsky is the Bee's Knees.