Hell’s Gate, Fraser Canyon

This is Hell’s Gate, in the Fraser Canyon of British Columbia. The Canyon walls rise far above the River in this area, and it is one of the most interesting and beautiful areas of western Canada. It is usually a surprise for tourists when they view the physical beauty of the river and mountains, and then find out about the large toll the area has taken on locals dating back one century. Some say there are ghosts and "mysterious voices" in the area. In this way, its history of danger and slow progress mirror the Edmonton Oilers at center ice, 2006 summer through today. 

The Edmonton Oilers have had a gaping hole at center since G7, SCF ended and those wonderful players watched the wrong team embrace Stanley. Ticking off the names–Pronger, Peca, Smyth, Pisani, Roloson, Smith, Spacek, Horcoff, Stoll–the sheer number of quality centermen and defenders of the blue paint gives us an idea about just how far the current club needs to climb up a monster cliff before finding daylight.

Earlier this summer, Steve Tambellini made an astute move in acquiring C Colin Fraser from the Chicago Blackhawks for a depth pick. The question we have to ask (and especially in light of rumors that the Oildrop have been in discussions with another Hawk center, John Madden) is what will be his role in 10-11? Is he a 4line energy center? Is he the replacement for Stoll? For Reasoner? For Brodziak? Or he is the new Jim Dowd?  

  • Boxcars: 70gp, 7-12-19
  • Shots: 92
  • Plus Minus: +6
  • Corsi (Rel): -2.4 (8th among regulars)
  • GF-GA ON: 25-20 (at 5×5)
  • 5×5/60: 2.01 (6th among regulars)
  • 5×4/60: 0.00 (as you would expect)
  • Quality of Competition: 12th F (easiest)
  • Quality of Teammates: 9th F (third line calibre)
  • FO %: 48.8% in 445 faceoffs
  • Cap Hit: $825,000 times 2 seasons
  1. What do these numbers tell us? He had a good season in an ideal role. The Hawks used him behind Toews, Sharp and Madden, but there is some evidence that Madden struggled in his role (3rd toughest qualcomp, dregs as teammates) as his RelCoris is -11.1 (easily the worst on the Hawks). Chicago traded Fraser, let Madden walk and then dealt for Marty Reasoner, no doubt to better fill the Madden role. I think they might have been better off keeping Fraser, as the club found cap trouble mid-summer and dealt Reasoner with only Jeff Taffe coming back to fill the role.
  2. How Could these numbers be better? Hmm. You’d like a better faceoff percentage and his Corsi should be better (he faced the easiest competition available and had decent linemates), but he’s not going to be a dynamic offensive player and his 5×5/60 number (2.01) is really very good for his skills.
  3. Anything else in this area? Only that he has enough experience to be able to take on a larger role, which he certainly will be asked to on the Oilers. The Oilers don’t need Todd Marchant here, but they do need someone who isn’t going to let it bleed every shift he plays against better NHL players. Fraser could be the guy.
  4. Will Renney play him against tough opposition? At this point, Renney has no real choice. Fraser will be the 3C in terms of facing the toughs should they decide to use Sam Gagner on a secondary tough minutes line (likely with Penner). That will mean Fraser will face superior qualcomp (7-9F) in 2010-11.
  5. What about penalty killing? Oh yes, he’ll PK. Last season he was on for 1:26 a night a man short. At this point, a guess would be that Horcoff and Fraser will be the top 2 centers on the penalty-kill for 2010-11.  
  6. Is Fraser a better checking C option than John Madden? I don’t know. Madden’s poor relCorsi number includes a better save percentage behind him than Fraser (.902 for the former NJ Devil and .896 for Fraser). Madden didn’t play the toughs (Toews is a beauty, Sharp is pretty good too) and one would have assumed that was Quenneville’s projected role for him. So, he won a Stanley but didn’t make par. At this point I’d lean toward giving Fraser a chance to prove he can do it, that’s what a reasonable team in a rebuild would do (see Bill Torrey, NY Islanders).
  7. Who will be his linemates? Man they could use a Pisani on this roster. Of the current options, I’d go with Ryan Jones and one of Stortini or Cogliano but we’re making major assumptions here (not the least of which is that the light went on for Cogliano last spring) and the roster is a mess. Strudwick, MacIntyre and Jacques are also options, and of course there should be no kids on a tougher minutes line without Penner, Hemsky or Horcoff protecting them.
  • SurfacetoAirMissile

    Again with the “Man they could use a Pisani” comment! Lowetide, you’ve said it a ton on your blog, and I don’t disagree. Why don’t the Oilers sign him for a cheap year?

  • Lowetide

    hamtundra: The only conclusion I can think of is that the club has either agreed to bring him in as a training camp invite (unlikely) or they have another plan.

    Ryan Jones, Colin Fraser and Zack Stortini might be the 3line. Seriously.

  • Jerk Store

    Love your articles LT, but not sure how this becomes L3. Assuming Hemsky,Penner, Horcoff, Gagner, Brule and Cogliano are ahead of these guys (Jones, Fraser, Stortini) that you have slated as a potential 3rd line, you have none of Hall, MPS and Eberle avoiding 4th line, the pressbox or the minors? Could be right, but I don’t sense that is the direction the Oil are going. Where do you see the three young guys in the lineup?

  • Lowetide

    Shaun: I mentioned the fudge and then took it out. Good call by you to bring it up.

    Jerk Store: At a guess I’d say these might be the lines:


    But that is a guess.

    • Crackenbury

      I’m not sure I understand why Fraser-Jones-Stortini is L3 while Cogliano-MPS-Eberle is L4. It may sound like the right thing to do on paper, but there is no way they play more minutes in an acutal game.

        • Crackenbury

          It’s my opinion. If I have a choice in playing skill or grunts I’ll take the skill. From all reports MPS is the most ready of all the rookies, he’s not going to sit playing L4 minutes for very long. Renney has also stated he plans on using Cogliano in a more offensive role this year where he can use his skill. Playing 7-8 minutes a night on L4 isn’t what he has in mind.

    • Jerk Store

      Thanks for clarifying. I actually don’t mind your lines. I would have to agree with Crackenberry about switching L3 and L4, but that is semantics. Nice thing about Edmonton is there are 1/2 million GMs.
      The more I look at this lineup, I just don’t seem to find a place where cogliano fits. I hate to say it because I like his speed, he has scored in limited opportunities, and he has been a stand-up guy even through the Heatley fiasco last year and ongoing trade talk. However, I don’t see him as a 1st or 2nd line center and he does not have the game to play 3rd or 4th line. Renney seems to be hinting he is going to give Cogliano a chance as a center in an offensive role. However, given the fact Gagner-Penner-Brule was at times very effective last year, that means you play Cogliano with Hemsky and Hall. That doesn’t exactly sound like a first line that is going to scare anyone. I am not sold as Horcoff as a 1st line guy, but if he is healthy he is likely serviceable in that spot. So piggy-backing on your lines I would submit the following:

      Hemsky-Horcoff-Hall (You gotta have the Triple H line – even if they suck, it sounds good)


      Eberle-Fraser-MPS (protects the kids a bit and still gives them some minutes / playing with Cogliano they would get sh*t kicked)


      extra forwards JFJ and SMac

      Like I said, I don’t necessarily like Cogliano on the 4th line and he won’t be happy, but I don’t see a spot in the lineup where he fits.

      Feel free to throw rocks.

  • EasyOil

    I am really hoping for Ryan Jones to surprise people this year. He seems to have the right tools and right attitude and if theres a time for him to make a name for himself its now – he has the potential to be a decent secondary scorer, somewhere between 10 and 15 goals and I think we can call him a solid acquistion considering we got him off waivers. The fact we got him for nothing, if he doesn’t do as well as I’m hoping, its not a huge loss.

    On another note LT, do you know if the Oilers/Barons plan on bringing back Rob Hisey? He seemed like he performed well for a time on that doomed Falcons squad, although that could have been a beginners luck hot stretch. Seemed like a skilled guy though, could provide some decent scoring and excitement for OKC?

  • Crackenbury

    OT, but that Herbal Magic ad should at the LEAST take you to their own BMI Calculator on their site (if they even have one). Idle curiosity turned into annoyance in one click of the mouse. Ambush ads are the worst.

    Back to your regularly scheduled Lowetide…

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I see you mention Fernando, I wonder if he has an offers on the table. Wouldn’t be opposed to throwing 600k at him, with the understanding that he could end up being a press box warmer.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I think Cogs will be traded before the season starts so I think the lines will be:

    Penner – Gagner – Hemsky
    Hall – Eberle – MPS
    Jones – Horcoff – Brule
    BigMac – Fraser – Stortini

    JFJ will be the extra. I don’t think that’s the permanent 4th line as BigMac will be exchanged with Jones and Brule for some shifts.

    D I think will look like this:

    Gilbert – Whitney
    Foster – Smid
    Vandermeer – Strudwick

    Extras will be Peckham, Chorney. Plante or Petry could crack the lineup with a great camp but I think they’ll play in Oklahoma this coming season. Souray I think will be traded/given away.


    Lowetide please Pisani is done as a Oiler. I don’t like to be negative man but with his help alone he should not be back.And his play has really dropped off.He made a few million bucks here and should retire living a pretty good life style