The Summer Of Depth Players

WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 21: Alexandre Giroux #33 of the Washington Capitals handles the puck against the Buffalo Sabres during an NHL preseason hockey game on September 21, 2009 at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. The Sabres won 2-1. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)

It was a summer that didn’t lack for storylines – between Sheldon Souray’s uncertain status, Nikolai Khabibulin’s court case, and of course the selection of Taylor Hall, there was a lot to talk about. One item noticeable by its absence was the Oilers’ annual star free agent chase, as Steve Tambellini instead focused on tweaking his bottom six. With training camp nigh, it felt like a good time to review what the Oilers G.M. did.

The following chart shows all the depth players (with NHL time last year) Tambellini made a decision on – players either let go, acquired or re-signed by the Oilers. I’ve excluded the higher end guys and instead focused on the reserves – guys outside the top six forwards or top four defencemen:




Player Team Type NHL AHL Years GP G A PTS +/-
Andrew Cogliano EDM One-way 1.000   1 82 10 18 28 -5
Colin Fraser EDM One-way 0.825   2 70 7 12 19 6
J-F Jacques EDM One-way 0.615   1 49 4 7 11 -15
Mike Comrie PIT One-way 0.500   1 43 13 8 21 -9
Fernando Pisani CHI One-way 0.500   1 40 4 4 8 -16
Alexandre Giroux EDM One-way 0.500   1 9 1 2 3 3
Steve MacIntyre EDM One-way 0.500   1 22 0 1 1 -3
Ryan O’Marra EDM Two-way 0.700 0.070 1 3 0 1 1 0
Marc Pouliot T.B Two-way 0.550 0.105 1 35 7 7 14 -4
Gregory Stewart EDM Two-way 0.550 0.105 1 5 0 0 0 -3
Liam Reddox EDM Two-way 0.550 0.090 1 9 0 2 2 -2
Chris Minard DET Two-way 0.525 0.300 2 5 0 1 1 -3
Ryan Potulny CHI Two-way 0.500 0.105 1 64 15 17 32 -21
Ryan Stone CGY Two-way 0.500 0.105 1 27 0 6 6 2




Player Team Type NHL AHL Years GP G A PTS +/-
Jason Strudwick EDM One-way 0.725   1 72 0 6 6 -18
Shawn Belle EDM Two-way 0.600 0.105 1 2 0 0 0 -2
Dean Arsene STL Two-way 0.600 0.105 1 13 0 0 0 -3
Aaron Johnson NSH Two-way 0.550 0.105 1 41 4 6 10 -6
Theo Peckham EDM Two-way 0.550 0.065 1 15 0 1 1 -8

I don’t think I’m missing anyone, but if I am please let me know.

I’ve arranged the charts so that they’re ranked first by whether a one- or two-way deal was signed, than by NHL dollars, and then by AHL dollars, to show which players got the best contracts. My observations about this list:

  • The nature of this list (only showing depth players) doesn’t display it very well, but I think Steve Tambellini got good deals on both Andrew Cogliano and Colin Fraser, since either could reasonably outperform the contracts they signed. Cogliano in particular was a good deal, thanks to the intersection of the worst season of his career with the end of his contract.
  • Chris Minard’s deal with Detroit is essentially a minor league deal, and the closest comparable on this list is probably Alexandre Giroux (pictured), with the caveat that Giroux’s AHL results have been off the charts and Minard’s have only been very good. I like the gamble on Giroux for the money involved.
  • Jean-Francois Jacques should be counting his lucky stars. The other half of the Parise deal is just as much a ‘tweener as Potulny, Pouliot and Stone, falls into the same age range, has uglier scoring numbers and similar or scarier health issues, yet somehow those three have to audition for various NHL teams while Jacques has an NHL contract handed to him.
  • And since I mentioned the three ‘tweeners on two-way deals with other teams, is there some reason Steve Tambellini couldn’t have saved the contracts he gave to Stewart, O’Marra and Reddox (or Brad Moran, or Ben Ondrus) to those three? The deals are more or less the same, but Potulny, Pouliot and Stone are far better players. One quick example: last year, the first three guys scored 64 points in 198 AHL games (0.323 points/game) while the latter three scored 52 points in 116 NHL games (0.448 points/game). So not only did the Oilers’ rejects score at a 40% better clip, but they did it a full league above the three guys the Oilers elected to keep. I can’t come up with any kind of reasonable rationale to defend that comparison.
  • All in all, Tambellini made some decent moves up front, but teams like Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Chicago got more bang for their buck by signing players he let walk.
  • On defense, I don’t see why Strudwick isn’t getting the league minimum, and I’m not sure why Aaron Johnson was let go, given that he eventually signed a Shawn Belle-lite style deal.

I’m sure the caveat that some players don’t want to play in Edmonton is going to come up, but given that these guys have already played for the team I think it’s probably less of a factor.  What does everyone else think?

  • We really have to look at the “big” moves Tambo made this summer (Moreau, Nilsson, O’Sullivan, Souray) as the “low hanging fruit” – the moves that anyone in the universe could see had to be made (and full credit to him for making them).

    However, I still have yet to see anything Tambo has done to make me think he isn’t way over his head when it comes to the minor moves that are crucial to any contending team. I really think he has absolutely no idea how to properly build out the bottom half of a roster and is a completely atrocious judge of talent. Keeping JFJ, O’Marra, and Reddox over Pisani, Comrie, Stone, and Potulny? Really? In what bizzaro universe does that make any sense?

    Couple that with his clear lack of communication ability and horrendous bumbling of various staffing moves, and you leave me completely baffled as to how he still has a job in the NHL. Then again, the Oilers have a track record of keeping management types in positions of power far beyond their sell-by date, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised after all.

  • fuck off

    There is one major omission to your stats chart and that is AGE! If you add that column then we would hopefully have less foolish questions to tolerate.

    @Ambassador humantorch
    I’m honestly amazed that you even ask such a question as to why the Oilers did not keep Pisani(colitus victim), Comrie(rookie ice time consumption), Potulny(plays great, standing still!) None of these three have anything to do with a REBUILD. Comrie is the only one who’d be useful but isn’t a bottom 6 guy and would only take up ice time that is slotted for the development of blue chip prospects who are already beyound every other level of hockey. You know, development – rebuild (do I need to connect the dots)?
    Sure JFJ is a fridge on skates and isn’t more intelligible than just that but should something actually click in his pea-brain in regards to positioning, then he could be one hell of a player. O’Marra is a 1st round prospect who’s been steadily injured and thus the Oilers still have yet to see what they truly have in him. Thus: why give up on a question mark. And Reddox: did you forget how lazy everyone was on the team last year? Or the countless trite preachings about effort and compete level? Reddox is the answer to that, even if he doesn’t have the size or skill for the bigs, he will at least show everyone else what it takes to belong in a pro league.

  • Regarding Pouliot, Potulny, Stone:

    Maybe they are guys that the Oilers brass would like to keep in a perfect world, but likely won’t be on the NHL roster, or be in their future plans.

    So they give the guys a chance to try and catch on with another team, and sign depth guys that they think will clear waivers. If Pouliot, and and Potulny get signed and picked off waivers, where does that leave the farm team?

    You can only have so many AHL vets, and perhaps the Oilers feel guys like Moran, Giroux, Petiot, Belle, Gerber, Stewart etc. are better suited/more accepting of being AHL leaders then the aforementioned guys.

    Reddox, and O’Marra while being inferior players, don’t count as AHL veterans so it makes sense to keep them in the fold. Maybe it makes more sense to cut them loose and sign players with more perceived upside, but that is a different issue.

    Maybe they think Belle has an outside chance at being a player with more upside then Johnson.

    Lots of factors in play besides which players are the best players right now.

    • Crackenbury

      Your analogy is bang on. It’s all about roster space and who fits where, including a rebuilt farm team. Sometimes corsi numbers, boxcars and other various stats don’t tell the whole story. ST has done a fine job of planning the current rosters for both teams.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    JW: A couple of significant omissions from your forward list: Patrick O’Sullivan and Robert Nilsson. Or do you consider them “higher end” guys? Tambellini obviously didn’t.

  • How about Grit and willingness to go into hard areas? These are general hallmarks of your bottom 3 or 6 and something the guys Tambi let go lacked (for the most part).

    I do agree that keeping Potulny & Pouliot on a two-way would be desirable. But, did their exit interviews paint a picture that led to Tambi’s decisions? You have to think so, based on his Y/E comments.


  • PabstBR55

    Seeing as how Tabellini isn’t exactly going out of his way to sign and retain talent that will help the club compete, perhaps this is all part of a strategy to give the young guns ample ice time and still lose consistently enough so that we draft high again.

    Tambellini has suggested that last year’s losing season is an opportunity to do things right or build a real winner, or something like that. Rather than sign Asham, Comrie, Potulny, or other guys to fill out the roster, the Oil seem poised to light the lamp a lot more than last year, but with the lack of depth players they will also surrender a ton of goals.

    “Theeeee Oiiilers Gooal. Scored by number four Tayyyylorrr Halll!!!”. Fun.

    “Vancouver Goal, this third of the night scored by Daniel Sedin.”

    At least losing 6-4 every night will be Good Times.

  • SumOil

    I too think that we would have been better off without JFJ, Greg Stewart and Ondrus. I am sure that Tambo cud have found guys like tht for AHL only contracts. This not only is more of a waste of dollars, but also waste of contract space. Bigger is not necessarily better if useless

  • Keeping Ryan O’Marra on the Oiler payroll makes zero sense to me, but that is trumped with Cogliano at 1 million dollars.

    Based on $ per game played I bet that Cogliano works out to be cheaper than JFJ’s 615k contract.

  • Cervantes

    I think there are various arguments for “AHL Vet status” and “playing time for the kids”.

    However, there are some decisions that still baffle. JFJ? By pretty much every metric, not only is he not an NHL player, but he actively brings down his line. That’s a judgement call though…. you think he can play, give him a shot, why not?

    Aaron Johnson, I can only assume had poor attitude. He was a solid player, a great pickup, and there can’t be any other reason for not signing him.

    The poor decision, for me, is handing out NHL contracts to AHL players. Sure, maybe Giroux insisted on one… but O’Marra? Stewart? There’s probably 4 or 5 NHL contracts handed out that are entirely unneccessary, and now we’re 2 away from our 50 limit. This really hamstrings us when it comes to waiver pickups, trades, etc, and was a big problem over the last few years. We finally get free, and he puts us right back in the same trap. For no reason.

  • Chaz

    JW: I agree with wondering about the decision to let Aaron Johnson go. I actually was really impressed when he joined the Oil last year. Thought he played with an edge, was very responsible and actually brought more offense that I was expecting. Have you heard of any reasoning from the Oilers in this regard?

  • Crackenbury

    I find the deafening silence from Souray’s agent to be very interesting. Tambo says he spoke several times last week with the agent about Souray not reporting. Agent unavailable for comment. More fireworks to come before the week is over.

  • Crackenbury

    Good criticism of the decisions to let those three ‘rejects’ walk, when compared with the AHL fodder that remained (reddox isnt exactly a comparable to those three tho)..

    but I didnt really like this line, “as Steve Tambellini instead focused on tweaking his bottom six”, outside of showing he didnt go for a home run FA…

    The bottom six got.. colin fraser.. outside of that?! Smac doesnt count for much.. cogs, an over flow top 6’er, i dont think really counts as Tambs doing anything..

    I really think that Tambs is getting credit for that list of ‘things to do this summer (to save the s**t show that has been the AHL affiliate)’ made by Daum (before being unceremoniously dismissed)…

    The bottom six is still porridge, boasting very few decent PK options… whom you would likely find on a ‘well-tweaked’ bottom six (imo)…

  • Crackenbury

    Great teams of yesteryear all had 4 lines that had distinctive personalities. Typically, you had 2 scoring lines, a checking line and an energy line. So when it comes to scoring stats, I’m not quite as intrigued as I would be if we were talking about the top two lines. You want some scoring on your 3rd line, but if the primary job of the 3rd line is checking, then that should be the primary qualifier for employment. Watch and see if these guys can do the job, then judge if we need to make changes. I personally look forward to seeing Colin Fraser. He’ll have a much bigger role in Edmonton.

  • Crackenbury

    Great teams of yesteryear all had 4 lines that had distinctive personalities. Typically, you had 2 scoring lines, a checking line and an energy line. So when it comes to scoring stats, I’m not quite as intrigued as I would be if we were talking about the top two lines. You want some scoring on your 3rd line, but if the primary job of the 3rd line is checking, then that should be the primary qualifier for employment. Watch and see if these guys can do the job, then judge if we need to make changes. I personally look forward to seeing Colin Fraser. He’ll have a much bigger role in Edmonton.