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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.