Standing Out in the Crowd

For the 09-10 Edmonton Oilers, life (as they knew it) is over. Buyouts, trades, declining to make offers to rfa’s, the troops will look much different come fall. Fans are on board with the rebuild and will be watching the future closely beginning with training camp. The important new names? Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Pääjärvi and Chris Vande Velde. What now?

  1. You’re including Vande Velde with the three Hockey Jesus’us? Yes.
  2. Aside from being an attention-grabbing move, why on earth would you include him? Vande Velde is a unique prospect on the current Edmonton Oilers, and if he shows well could play in the NHL this season.
  3. What makes him unique? He’s a center, he’s 23 years old (closer to NHL ready), he’s 6.02, 207, 54% in the faceoff circle and you can reasonably use the word rugged in the scouting report. That’s unique on this prospect list.
  4. You’re way off. Winning a faceoff in college is NOT an indicator that he’ll have success in the NHL. Actually, it is. Jonathan Toews was a terrific faceoff man in the NCAA and remains one in the NHL. Travis Zajac too, and guys like Drew Stafford and Zach Parise who eventually moved to wing. I’m not saying he’ll be winning 50% in his first season, but he has a very nice resume in this area and could be a plus player down the line.
  5. Now you’re comparing him to lottery picks and impact players. Beauty comps. Out to lunch much? The players mentioned above bring more offense to the game but in this one area VV is a very good prospect. And there are other areas, like size and winning battles.
  6. How do you know this? Scouting reports, anecdotal information–sometimes from the Oilers themselves. Oilers director of Player Development Mike Sillinger: “He has pretty decent speed, battles hard in the corners and always comes out with the puck. He does a lot of the dirty work. He would be a big addition to our farm team."
  7. Notice he said FARM TEAM? Besides, the Oilers are always telling us great things about their prospects. Not always. I can’t find a lot of positive things about Riley Nash on the interweb, and they were quite grumpy about Jani Rita. Vande Velde wasn’t a highly-touted pick, so there’s less available on him. I can offer this from Redline Report: Despite his Moorhead side losing the state final for the second year in a row, centre Chris VandeVelde was really a "wow!" throughout the weekend. He had eight shots, a goal and an assist in the Spuds’ 4-1 semifinal win over Duluth East, and versus Holy Angels, he scored a goal and had two assists despite the Stars’ attempt to stifle him and his offensive mates. He has an incredibly long reach and is uncanny playing in traffic. When he got his skating legs going, he was nearly impossible to push off the puck, in an almost Keith Primeau–like fashion. Like Oshie, North Dakota has VandeVelde slated for the fall of 2006, and until then, he’ll skate for the Lincoln Stars.
  8. He played for the SPUDS? Bad name, good player.
  9. If he’s so good, why did the Oilers let him play 4 years in college? He continued to develop there, moving up their depth chart and taking on a larger role. NCAA players aren’t 17-year olds, some of his teammates this past season would have been 23 or 24 years old. I should also mention that he led the UND team in points in 09-10. UND plays in the best NCAA division and he would have been playing tough opposition every night.
  10. Why do you think he’ll make the Oilers this fall? I’m not certain he will. However, the Oilers have had a weakness in specific areas for years at center. Faceoffs, size, grit, ability to win battles. On top of that, the Oilers haven’t (thus far) addressed the weakness at center this summer.
  11. They added Colin Fraser. Which was a good move, but I’m not sure he’s going to be the answer in terms of faceoff and penalty-kill. He’s not a known quality to us, and his Chicago winning percentage a year ago (48.8) wasn’t in their top 4.
  12. Who did the Oilers use last year? Horcoff got the bulk of the load, with Potulny and Gagner both getting lots of work. Dustin Penner, Gilbert Brule and Andrew Cogliano also took over 250 faceoffs last season.
  13. Who had the best percentage from that group? Brule, followed by Penner and then Potulny and Gagner in a tie.
  14. Maybe they can run Brule or Penner at C? They might, although both had success on the wing last year so one would hope the Oilers might keep them where they’ve had success.
  15. How would you rank the C depth chart right now? Horcoff, Gagner, Brule, Fraser, Cogliano. Moran, O’Marra, Vande Velde, Kytnar.
  16. So you don’t really think he’ll make the team? I wouldn’t be surprised if Vande Velde breaks camp with the big club, and I think it is very likely he’ll see extended time in the NHL in 2010-11.
  17. How do you reach that conclusion? Opening night last season, the Oilers 4 centermen were Horcoff, Cogliano, Comrie, Gagner. Too small, not enough physical presence. Horcoff can win battles but Gagner is still learning the position and can’t be considered a physical player. Brule is rambunctious but undersized, Fraser brings a physical element but is listed at 188. That leaves Cogliano as the odd man out, and I don’t think he’ll play center on this team in 10-11. Horcoff is the only C over 200 pounds among the projected NHLers on the depth chart. VV would make 2.
  18. What about O’Marra? I know the organization signed him but O’Marra doesn’t bring enough offense to be considered a viable candidate.
  19. So it’s Vande Velde? Sooner or later. Hey, maybe Tambellini trades Cogliano for a bigger guy, kind of like the deal that was discussed during the regular season last year (Cogs for Peter Mueller). Failing that, Vande Velde and his playing style are going to be very attractive to the Oilers.
  20. How many games will VV play in the NHL this season? Shawn Horcoff played 49 as a rookie in 2000-01, but he had more offense to his game. I’ll say 30, unless the Oilers add an actual NHL player at the position before or during training camp.
  • Lowetide

    GSC: Horcoff is a veteran and until someone proves they can play those tougher minutes he is the best (really only) option.

    I’d like to see Brule succeed, but we don’t have a lot of evidence that he’ll be a tough minutes center. None, actually.

    • Enough of Horcoff already…he has proven he can’t play those tougher minutes…I agree with GSC….

      Pretty much the whole organization has been revamped this should include not playing a guy who can’t handle all of these minutes…

      Back to the early 80’s mentality…play the young uns and let them live and learn through the mistakes together…

        • GSC

          And the minutes that he received with Penner and Hemsky.

          He’s a player with a diminishing role on this team. If he’s such a good two-way player and can handle the tough competition, make him the shutdown centre on the 3rd line and be done with it.

          • DSF

            It remains to be seen where Horcoff is at as he soon starts the downside of his career if he hasn’t already…

            Are you saying he should be given all of these minutes (middle 6 and heavy PK) because you’re a Flames fan and know this would lead to more Oiler losses?

            How can you determine a player to be given those kind of minutes who has been so dismal over the last 3 yrs and last year was one of the worst defensive players in the entire league as well as having one of the lowest faceoff % on the Oilers?

            Not sure how you can say “he should” anything

            I’m just hopeful with reduced minutes that he will be able to stay healthy and contribute in a checking role…

          • No. No I am not. And surely you’re not saying he shouldn’t be playing middle-6 minutes or heavy pk. In fact, just scroll up a bit and you pretty much agreed with that sentiment.

            All this talk about top 6/bottom 6, when I see it as top 3/middle 6/bottom 3. Horcoff is a middle 6 F. The only guys that have legitimately proven to fit in the top 3 are Hemsky & (perhaps) Penner.

            People seem to get hung up whether Horcoff should be on the 2nd line or the 3rd line. Fact is, if you see him as a shutdown checking C, he’ll likely see more minutes than the “2nd” line C because he’s playing against the other team’s top line (who happen to likely play the most minutes for the opposition).

            With the Oil, in the middle-6, I see a secondary scoring line with sheltered/easy minutes & a shutdown/checking line that can also provide secondary scoring while playing more difficult minutes. You count whichever one you want as the “2nd” line, but at the end of the game, Horcoff will still likely see more than “3rd” line minutes.

          • Saying that I think Horcoff should be playing a checking role doesn’t mean middle 6 minutes and definitely doesn’t necessarily mean heavy pk minutes…

            It’s possible if he plays well that I could go with middle six minutes but I want to see his minutes cut back…and for the Oilers sometimes to adopt the attack mentality instead of the defend mentality all the time which is the way it has been for multiple years now.

          • Lowetide

            No I don’t think Horcoff should play 1st line minutes….I think it’s possible he might earn middle six minutes (depending)….

            I’d have him playing 3rd line center taking some shutdown minutes and some PK and I would avoid playing him in any special teams minutes that involves offense.

          • Alright, I wasn’t sure what you meant by middle six…at first I thought you meant in the middle for minutes amongst the top six forwards but now I see what you are getting at…

            Yes to middle six minutes and I’m hopeful it will lead to him staying healthy and contributing in a more defensive role.

            Maybe less minutes will keep him fresh…

          • Who betta than Horcoff?

            My inner Flames fan says Jacques should be on the 1st line… oh wait, that was Pat Quinn.

            My inner Flames fan says Stortini should be on the 2nd line, Taylor Chorney should make the team & that Tom Gilbert should be captain.

            Horcoff’s our Langkow… under-appreciated & underestimated.

            He had a bad year (or two)… get over it. So did the rest of the squad (with AN exception or 2).

          • GSC

            Langkow is also paid $1 MIL less, isn’t the highest paid forward in Calgary, and isn’t expected to carry the torch offensively.

            Horcoff is the least understood Oiler…according to Lowetide. I think some of us, including me, understand Horcoff just fine. C’est la vie, to each their own.

          • You just said it – you don’t like Horcoff because he’s paid more than any Oiler F. Okay, I got an idea to fix it – pay Sam Gagner more than him, ~then it will all be good~

            Langkow would be the highest paid Oiler F… so would that make him a worse player in Edmonton (everything else aside). If Horcoff made a mil less than Langkow & wasn’t the highest paid player on the Oilers, that would stop him from getting hated on? Even though he’d still be the same player he is today. And who expects Horcoff to carry the load offensively… because whomever they are aren’t too smart.

          • GSC

            Those who still think Horcoff is a 1C should, therefore, expect him to carry the offensive load. That’s what 1st line, top flight centres do. They score.

            Points taken on Langkow, but the fact is he received his current contract extension at roughly the same time as Horcoff (Langkow’s current contract began in 08-09, while Horcoff’s began in 09-10). Langkow had 555 PTS in 868 games at the time of his new deal, good for roughly 0.64 PPG. Horcoff’s career numbers were 285 PTS in 480 games, good for roughly 0.59 PPG. Langkow is almost exactly two years older than Horcoff, but since the contract extensions has produced about the same amount as Horcoff (86 PTS for Langkow, 89 for Horcoff), has been a plus player, and has done so in 12 fewer games than Horcoff.

            Langkow had a better career PPG (still does, both have regressed at about the same rate since signing their respective deals), had put together 6 20+ goal seasons (compared to Horcoff’s two, and I won’t even take into account Langkow’s two 30-goal seasons), and has since been just as productive for less money. Statistically, Langkow was a better player than Horcoff when each received their respective extensions, and remains a better player today.

          • Langkow had 7 straight years of 20 or more goals before his Horc-like season last year.

            Horcoff has had 2 20 goal seasons in his entire career.

            Horcoff wishes he was more like Langkow. Heck, I wish he was our Langkow.

            The last thing Horcoff needs in his quest to become the player he once (and only ever once) was is the added pressure of being the Captain. He can be a leader in the room, he can be a good guy in the community. He can be those things the same way Ethan Moreau was those things BEFORE having the weight of the world sewn onto his chest.

            Sometimes its better to do nothing than to do something just for the sake of doing something. No Captain is better than Horc being the Captain because “who betta?”. It’s better for him and what’s better for him is what’s better for the team.

  • I am making this comment in total absence of all statistics, financial considerations, objective analysis, or comparisons with other Oilers. I LOVE watching Brule play! Anything we can do to get him more minutes at Centre would be fine in my books (unless he proves himself to be ineffectual after a while).

    He’s scary fast (which is lucky because of dumb turnovers). Hell, I just love watching him skate from a dead stop. He has absolutely no working knowledge of Physics. It matters not to him that he’s likely 15 lbs. underweight or that the end boards are harder than he is. Fearless. Great attitude. High energy, nearly every shift. I swear he thinks he will die if he doesn’t come out with the puck. (This is not to say he is our best Centre, he’s just the one I love to watch the most.

    Just sayin’

  • Lofty

    If you love him so much why don’t you marry him?
    So let me get this straight Fraser’s 48.8% in the NHL doesn’t impress you but a 54% in college does?
    As for the story from the Redline report I’m sure if you looked hard enough you would find numberous storys out of Red Deer showcasing Colin when he was a Rebel, or anybody who is a player/prospect when they played junior,college or whatever the case may be.

  • Regarding Horcoff: Let’s use the example of a best in seven series for a moment. Your No. 1 centre needs to be hitting on all cylinders during Game 1 or Game 2, at a minimum, or your team is virtually toast (unless you’re Montreal). If Game 3 or 4 is bad, kiss the playoffs good bye.

    I don’t mind giving Horcoff 4 games to demonstrate he is a No. 1 centre, and if not let’s put him into the lineup where he has the best chance of success.

    We could measure his performance using old & new stats and compare him to the best 29 centres out there.

  • It was the Fraser’s “not a known quality to us” that got me. He did play in four games in the regular season against the oilers in both of the last two seasons. And pushing around frat boys in the NCAA is a far cry from Fraser`s physical presence that he shown in the NHL and WHL despite not meeting lowtides 200 pound requirement.

  • @KenMcC
    Not always he did do that move where he cut to the middle at the blue line once in a while, unfortuanatly it usually resulted in an offside, a pass 50 feet out of anyones reach or recieving a big hit.

    • Perfect. Yes I remember now. But, to be fair, that played right into his gameplan. At every whistle Bucky had a fantastic new opportunity to get an opposing player to break his knuckles on Kelly’s forehead.

  • I’m not a gagner fan so what. If you read my comment I said I’m judging Brule as a oiler. I wish I could predict the future like some people but I can’t. To me Brule has better tool. Gagner is good at finding a open guy. Better hockey sense ? According to who ? I though this was on topic is the article about the center position ? I don’t take a players age and find some stats to prove he will be a great player. I watch and see. Brule has had a rough start with little help from the jackets. Has Gagner improved since his rookie year ? I’d say not much. I don’t want to get into this since then I’ll be labelled as a hater when Im not.

    I can say the same about Whitney. I’m not sold on him others may be. I’d like to see more before I judge him.

    Horcoff has proven he can and can’t play that role so I’m willing to give him a chance to prove it again.

    I’d like to see Brule and Cogs get more ice and show us what they have.

    Isn’t this article about a kid that is older than 20? does this mean he won’t be good.

  • Lowetide

    With regard to Gagner versus Brule, it is a difficult discussion because we don’t know their established level of ability. Gagner has played three NHL seasons, but at an extremely young age. Historically, that is a strong tell that he’ll have some impressive offensive seasons in the next 7 years. Here’s an item you might want to look at:

    http://www.behindthenethockey.com/2010/1/21/1261318/nhl-points-per-game-peak-age

    that discusses this issue at a more advanced level. Brule’s advanced age, the time it took him to get this far, and the fact that Gagner’s underlying numbers (2nd best Corsi among forwards this past season) are more impressive suggests this won’t be a fair fight.

    Brule may always be a better hitter than Gagner, and I can live with it.

    Oil_Loc8or: I had a list–and thought I’d posted it on my blog–but can’t find it. I’ll have a look at get back to you.

    • GSC

      A more advanced level? It’s just averages and it includes assumptions made by the author. Heck, the title itself says “Estimation.” I don’t see how it’s a more “advanced” discussion because of this reference. It’s someone else’s idea of averaging numbers and basing minor league point totals on a certain assumption. To me, all that does is raise more questions.

      As for the “underlying numbers,” Gagner’s Qual Comp is amongst the lowest on the club and his Qual Team is 3rd highest on the club. His Corsi was high, so what? Other stats that you continuously cite have Brule rated higher.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      You’re right, we never know who will get better with age. Their is lots of players that stay stagnet or even regress. However I would say with confidence that the majority of NHL players are better between say 22 – 30 then they were between 18 – 20.

      No one knows, but the odds are in Gagner’s favour.

  • Someone mentioned the “Cheddar”.

    Would it be so bad to go a year with no C, only A’s?

    LT, do you know how often teams do without a C, even for half a season or so? What are the pros and cons?

    Also, how often does a C get removed off of one player and passed to another (like Modano)?

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Is it just me or is all this endless debate about who should be our #1/#2/#3 centre, who is better than who going into next year, who should play with who is all pointless?

    I say wait until training camp. See who comes back healthy, see who “wants” it more. Find the players that gel together and run with it.

    Until then I don’t see the point in all these pissing matches as nobody knows whats going to be happening until TC is over and maybe even then 10-20 games into the season.

    Can’t we all just… get along?

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Good points, it should also be pretty clear that theirs going to be constant movement up and down the roster as well for essentially everyone outside of Hemsky and Big Mac.

    • Nesquik

      I agree with you too, if we could just get the group that keeps wanting to trot out Horcoff as the only choice for all of these so called “TOUGH” minutes you would see an end to it…

      But as long as they keep trotting it out you will see the backlash

      • Wanyes bastard child

        Im not for or against Horcoff and thats why I see all this debate (sorry dude, yours included) as a wee bit silly and pre-mature.

        IF Horcoff comes back healthy, does what he has shown he can do and IF Renny doesn’t play the living snot out of him like MacT and Quinn did then he could be our #1 centre. That being said, Horcoff also has to show that he can still be a #1 in the league, if he doesn’t have what it takes then I have no problem at all paying him at his contract to be a #3 shut down centre.

        IMO any one of the kids could out play him and take that role and only training camp and/or the first 10-20 games will tell that tale.

        The main thing im trying to get at here is, lets be Oilers fans first and player haters second. Didn’t a wise man once say “don’t hate the player, hate the game.”? I never post in these debates on which player should fit on which line, who should play where/together. I never try and do a fantasy line up for opening night and why is this?

        Because I am an Oilers fan through and through! For better or for worse im with this team. While I may not have all the hockey wisdom many posters do on other teams and other players, heck even our own team, I am a fan first and foremost. What I want to see from next year is the players best suited, most hungry, most willing to fill out all 4 forward lines, all three defence pairs and heavens to Betsy… some great goal tending no matter who it be!!!

        Bring on training camp, bring on the kids, bring on the healthy vets and bring us some sober starters because I can’t wait for this biyatch to begin!!!

        • fuck off

          I am on board with you, I am really looking forward to this season but am afraid of seasons past being repeated with yet the same personnel decisions as in the past…

          This past off season has given me hope that changes off the ice are going to translate to changes on it as well because if we end up going with the same ole, same ole as far as who is getting PP time and top minutes then we will end up with more of the same results and more of the same biyatching 🙂

          I can handle the losing and learning much much more if we are doing it with kids playing significant minutes along with some of our more skilled vets (ie: Hemsky, Penner)…

          I am like you, I am an Oiler fan through and through and don’t really hate any of the players in fact I am most of the time defending them on this site…even Horcoff I think can contribute and I definitely don’t hate him. I actually like the guy, I just want to see the team move in a different direction with regards to offense.

          Like I said I’m on board with you and can’t wait for this season…I’m really hoping it’s going to be fun going to the games this season.

  • Lowetide

    Ideally, when we’re talking about Corsi numbers, we’re dealing with EV strength (or better yet 5×5). Desjardins does all the work, God love him.

    For those who aren’t aware of Corsi number, the quick definition is here:

    Corsi number is the number of shots directed towards the net while the player is on the ice. So, you can have a plus number (shots directed at the other team’s net), a minus number (shots directed at your team’s net) or an overall number that subtracts one number from another.

    I prefer CorsiRel, as listed here:

    http://behindthenet.ca/2009/new_5_on_5.php?sort=26&section=corsi&mingp=&mintoi=&team=EDM&pos=F

    Gagner’s relCorsi, considering age (and even allowing for easier minutes that he played) is solid.

  • Lowetide

    Ken McC: In regard to captains, I think teams have gone extended periods (Montreal just did) without a captain.

    Horcoff’s role will decrease as these kids prove more able to take on responsibility. I don’t see any evidence Brule is that man, and Gagner is going to be a better offensive player. I don’t think he’ll have Horcoff’s secondary skills.

    Shawn Horcoff remains the least understood hockey player on the current Oilers. QualComp, Zone Start, both MacT and Quinn have done everything short of having a sniper hidden in the clock tower.

    Why did they do it? They had no choice. Still don’t.

  • Dan the Man

    Is it just me or does anyone else think that Hall will get a shot a centre next year?

    I could see it happening in pre-season and then based on how things went maybe regular season too.

    • I think that the Oilers will do the exact opposite and keep him on the wing even if the depth chart gets decimated and the next best option is playing in Oklahoma. I think they are going to give him the best chance to succeed, and conventional wisdom suggests that he is better winger than centre.

    • Lowetide

      I have a feeling they’ll experiment with it, especially if other options fail..

      I have a feeling Hall is going to be good enough to succeed no matter what position he plays.

  • Lowetide

    Nesquik: Shooting percentage, Save Percentage.

    PDO number is a team’s Even strength shooting percentage plus their even strength save percentage. It is experessed by Desjardins in four digit terms, with the median being 1000.

    A high PDO isn’t always a good thing. Stortini’s PDO (1034) means he played in somewhat ideal circumstances. In his case, the save percenage when he was on the ice (.937) was truly exceptional and unlikely to repeat.

    On the other hand, the Oilers save percentage when Shawn Horcoff was on the ice (.893) is extremely likely to trend toward the median next season.

    It’s like when an average pitcher starts a season 7-0. Jeff Fassero used to do that all the time for the Expos. Or when you play poker with someone who doesn’t know the rules and they win three hands to start the game.

    Hope that covers everything, someone please correct me if I’m wrong on this stuff. 🙂

    I should give an example. Sam Gagner’s SP when he was on the ice was .901, which we express as 901PDO. We add the shooting percentage (7.94) as 79.4 and the PDO for Gagner is 901+79=980.

  • Ender

    Dan the Man wrote:

    Is it just me or does anyone else think that Hall will get a shot a centre next year? I could see it happening in pre-season and then based on how things went maybe regular season too.

    Archaeologuy wrote:

    I think that the Oilers will do the exact opposite and keep him on the wing even if the depth chart gets decimated and the next best option is playing in Oklahoma. I think they are going to give him the best chance to succeed, and conventional wisdom suggests that he is better winger than centre.

    Crash wrote:

    I have a feeling they’ll experiment with it, especially if other options fail.. I have a feeling Hall is going to be good enough to succeed no matter what position he plays.

    I’m with Arch on this. If the Oilers were determined to draft someone who would play centre out of the gate, they’d have drafted Seguin and been done with it. The fact that they chose Hall means they decided to go the ‘BPA’ route and I think they are of the opinion that an exceptional winger (who can play centre if necessary) was a better pickup than a good straight-up centreman. They want Hall to succeed here. Hall is built entirely out of confidence and Elmer’s glue. Take away the confidence . . .

    While I’m not suggesting that Hall and Brule are comparables, I will suggest that Brule is the textbook example of how to destroy a blue-chip’s confidence and permanently stunt his NHL development. I can’t see the Oilers in a hurry to pull Hall out of his comfort zone and head down that path.

    Besides, as LT pointed out, the Oilers have more options at centre on the depth chart than some of us expected. While Hall might do okay there, there’s no reason to think he would do significantly better as an NHL centreman than some of the players we’ve already got lining up for that position. Hall is a first and foremost a winger. That’s where he’s had his greatest success and that’s where the Oilers will want to start him out. If there should come a day where he’s racking up the points and the Oilers find themselves with too many wingers and not enough centres, maybe then they ask him if he wants to take a crack at it. That’s an experiment to try from a position of strength, though, and not right off the bat.

  • Ender

    1. Pat Quinn wasn’t huge on matching lines.

    2. Horcoff supposedly faced “The Vaunt” every night.

    If Horcoff faced Everest every night it was because the opposing coaches did there best to match their best against Horcoff because they knew that would bring the biggest return.

    Looking at Horcoff’s pathetic +/- the opposing coaches were right.