After an eventful five days that included qualifying ten players, walking away from six players, signing four UFAs, a trade, a buy-out, waiving a captain and waiving and retaining a disgruntled employee how do the Oilers look?
The Oilers are much bigger and tougher than they were last week. Jason Strudwick, Steve MacIntyre, Jim Vandermeer are tough, while Kurtis Foster adds size and a heavy shot on the backend. These are all depth guys, although Foster should contribute the most.
Saying goodbye to Patrick O’Sullivan, Marc Pouliot, Ryan Potulny and Robert Nilsson was pure brilliance, regardless of who replaces them. They were dead weight and were never going to contribute enough to make this team competitive.
The time was right to say goodbye to Ethan Moreau, and it was a bonus that the Blue Jackets claimed him and saved the Oilers over a million in buyout money. No one claimed Sheldon Souray, which surprised nobody, and I won’t be surprised if Souray shows up at training camp. Dustin Penner wasn’t happy in April of 2009, but by October he was fine. Why can’t the same thing happen with Souray?
Colin Fraser signed a two-year deal, so that leaves nine of the ten qualified players yet to sign. Look for Gilbert Brule to file for arbitration. Liam Reddox and Jeff Deslauriers can also file, but I doubt they will since neither has a strong case, and the NHLPA prefers to only have players with strong cases go to arbitration.
Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano will be signed, but I see Gagner getting a longer term deal than Cogliano. Cogliano is a hard player to figure out. I see the NHL changing to three scoring lines, with one of them good enough to moonlight as a checking line, and one energy line. I think the days of a pure shut down line, with little offense to offer, are over.
Look at Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia. Their top-end guys: Datsyuk, Toews and Richards produce offence, but are good enough defensively to match up against the opposition’s top line.
With that philosophy in mind is there room for Cogliano?
As a rookie he scored 18 goals — only one on the PP but two SH — was +1, averaged 13:39 of icetime, had a ridiculous 18.4 shooting percentage, was a woeful 39.5% in the dot and tallied 45 points.
His sophomore year he potted 18 goals — four on the PP, zero SH — was -6, averaged 14:24 on the ice, had a solid 15.5 shooting %, was even worse in the dot at 37.2% and scored 38 points.
He dipped a bit in his second season, but nothing too dramatic.
Last year his stats plummeted.
He scored ten goals — one on the PP, zero SH — was -5, averaged 14:10 of icetime, had a woeful 7.2 shooting percentage, improved to 43% in the dot but only had 28 points.
His offensive numbers were down, but I think he actually competed much harder on loose pucks and in the corners. I’m not sure how much he improved in the dot because in 2009 he took 702 faceoffs, and last year he only took 379. He won 43% of them compared to 37% in 2009, but he might have been sheltered a bit more last year.
I’m not sure the Oilers know what they have in Cogliano just yet.
It’s obvious he isn’t great in the dot, but if he is given 40 or 50 games with offensive-minded players, could he produce more? Can he and Sam Gagner be the two offensive centres in 2010?
There is no debate that Shawn Horcoff is the best overall centre on the Oilers. Sam Gagner has better offensive instincts, but he doesn’t have Horcoff’s two-way game. JW and others have proven that Ales Hemsky produces better with Horcoff than any other centre, but with Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi Svenssonand, and Jordan Eberle entering the mix, can one of them combined with Gagner or Cogliano work with Hemsky?
Horcoff won’t give the Oilers the offence that a Datsyuk, Richards or Toews will, but he can play the tough minutes and if he has an MPS on one wing his offence should be okay. Which leads me back to Cogliano.
From day one, Gagner has been given more of an offensive role than Cogliano, because he is a better pure offensive player. But the numbers show he isn’t that much better of a goal scorer. Gagner has averaged 0.197 goals per game in three years, while Cogliano has averaged 0.186. Keep in mind that Cogliano has six PP goals in his career while Gagner has 16.
I’ve questioned if the Oilers can keep Cogliano and Gagner long-term and be successful. I don’t think they can, but there is a part of me that is curious to see if both were given a chance with offensive players how they’d fare. The Oilers don’t have any wingers who are pure checkers right now. Ryan Jones is more of an energy guy than a checker, while Zack Stortini, JF Jacques, and Steve MacIntyre don’t fit the bill.
Taylor Hall and Hemsky are destined to play together, but can Gagner keep up with them? Could Renney try Cogliano in the middle with them and put Gagner between Dustin Penner and Gilbert Brule/Eberle? Or is Cogliano a better fit with Penner, because Penner can take some of the draws. MPS skates well with a reputation of being a solid two-way player, so put him with Horcoff and either Eberle/Brule and have them as your offensive/checking line.
I’m positive the Oilers don’t know where and how to use Cogliano and that’s why his name has continually surfaced in trade rumours. But I don’t see the Oilers just giving him away. Why not keep him for one more year at a low cap hit; play him a lot so they can increase his trade value or, ideally, show the organization what type of player he can be?
I don’t think the first three seasons have been a clear indication of how good, inconsistent or indifferent he actually is.
How many more can Tambo add?
I still think the Oilers need a veteran 3rd line centre or winger with some size, grit and little offence, but can they bring him in to the mix and still play all the kids.
Penner, Hemsky, Hall, Horcoff, MPS and Eberle are signed. Gagner, Cogliano and Brule will get signed so that’s nine forwards. Toss in Fraser, Jones, Stortini, Jacques and MacIntyre and that is 14. Alex Giroux was signed yesterday and he’ll push for a spot, but is likely to start in Oklahoma City. (Keep in mind I said there was no way Ryan Stone would make the team out of camp last year.) The Oilers could re-sign Stone, because it’s questionable whether Jacques will be ready when camp starts.
If Tambellini brings in a veteran via free agency, he then has to make a deal and move out a top-nine forward or plan to have one of Eberle or MPS start in the minors. Maybe he rolls the dice and goes with three rookies in the top-nine and a question mark in Cogliano.
Could the Oilers start the season with what they have, or do they need a veteran?
Should they give Cogliano a shot with offensive guys, or is his inability to win a draw to big of a risk?
These are some of the main questions Tambellini and Tom Renney are contemplating as the free agent frenzy slows down and the Oilers start filling out "white board" lineups.
No Omark — how come?
Many have asked why Linus Omark won’t be at the development camp starting Tuesday. Omark is 23 and has played four and a half years of pro hockey in the SEL and KHL, so he doesn’t qualify. The Oilers consider him a pro player at this point.
The on-ice sessions start Tuesday from 10 a.m to noon and are open to the public at the Clareview Arena. You will see Hall, Eberle, MPS, Jeff Petry, Anton Lander, Teemu Hartikainen, Chris Vande Velde, all of the other ten draft picks from 2010 and a total of 18 forwards, seven D-men and three goalies.