Do linemates help make the player?

Edmonton Oilers v Phoenix Coyotes

“He makes his linemates/teammates better.” That seems to be the newest saying when it comes to evaluating skilled players, and from where I sit it is the most misused phrase in the game.

How exactly can we evaluate if a player actually makes his teammates better?

Are increased point totals a fair standard? What about Plus/minus?

How much better can a player make his teammates? I don’t think you can make players better, you can give them a better chance to produce, but certain players will compliment one another very well, even if they don’t have the same skill set.

Dave Lumley scored a goal in 12 straight games playing with Gretzky, and that record still stands in Oilerville, but Gretzky couldn’t turn Lumley into a perennial goal scorer, outside of one 30-goal season.

People always talk about how Rob Brown only scored 49 goals because he played with Mario Lemieux, and while Lemieux was a major factor, you can’t underestimate how dynamic of an offensive player Brown was on his own.

He scored 212 points (a WHL record that will never be broken) in 1987 with Kamloops as a 19-year-old, and tallied 173 the year before when he was 18. To suggest Brown didn’t have any talent is absurd.


How many of you knew that Brown played defence his first two years in the WHL? Ken Hitchcock moved him up to forward his 3rd season, his draft year, and he tallied 173 points. He never played forward until he was 18, and three years later he scored 49 goals and 115 points in the NHL. That is extremely rare.

He had the offensive instincts to play with Lemieux, and succeed, like very few had, but why?

“I knew where he wanted me to be,” said Brown. “Some guys had more skill than I did, but they didn’t think the game like Mario. I could anticipate where to go, and more importantly where he wanted me to go. Guys like Mario will give any player more opportunities, but it still is up to you to produce.

“It is hard to create chances as a goal scorer if you don’t have a guy who can find you in the right spots. Very few goals scorers in the NHL can create goals on their own; they need a playmaker, just like the playmaker needs a goal scorer to finish plays”.

Brown was a goal scorer, which is remarkable considering he grew up playing defence and never practiced or learned a lot of the offensive tricks that most scorers develop in minor hockey. And of course he benefited by playing with Lemieux, and then Ron Francis in Hartford, but he also had the offensive instincts to know how to produce playing with those types of players.

I’ve heard and read a lot the past few weeks about players making their teammates better, and that’s becoming one of the big arguments between Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall, but is their any validity to it?

For years many Oiler fans stated that Ales Hemsky made Shawn Horcoff better, but then Jonathan Willis provided some insight stating that wasn’t the case. Hemsky’s numbers were in fact better with Horcoff than without.

No one would argue that Horcoff is more talented, but Hemsky produced better playing with Horcoff than he has with Sam Gagner, who most argue has more natural offensive instincts than Horcoff. Some offensive guys play well together, but some never click because their styles don’t match on the ice.

Suggesting that Hall doesn’t make his teammates better is off-base. He creates space for his teammates, but at the NHL he will probably need a good puck distributor to allow him to flaunt his goal-scoring prowess. Seguin, who became a better shooter this year, will most likely benefit more by being flanked by a scorer who can get open and finish when given the opportunity.

I think both of them will produce in the NHL, if they are put with linemates who compliment their respective games.

And that might be the biggest question that Stu MacGregor and Steve Tambellini need to ask themselves. When you look at the youth in the organization what type of player do they have more of: Playmakers or shooters?

I still say take the centre, but if they honestly believe that Sam Gagner might be a better fit with Taylor Hall, than Jordan Eberle or Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson would be with Seguin, then they have to look at that angle and act accordingly.

But I doubt either one of them will make their teammates that much better, rather, the Oilers will need to find players that compliment Hall and Seguin.

The great players will produce regardless of who they play with, and it is too early to tell if either Hall or Seguin will be great, but the Oilers need to ensure that whoever they pick has teammates/linemates who they can feed off to succeed.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    My favorite topic, great article by the way.

    You’re exactly right, some players mesh well together but simply playing with elite linemates doesn’t always (or even often) mean an increase in production. You don’t have to look any further then arguably the best playmaker in the league (Crosby)and his ever changing carosel of wingers (and their pedestrian levels of production when playing with him compared to other points in their careers) to see it takes more then pairing scorer with playmaker(or simply playing with elite linemates) to make a long term difference in the point totals.

  • Harlie

    Who are some of our top prospects or potential prospects who could play out of position without risking stunting their development?

    Top lines consist (usually) of two players and a fill in guy… a tandem. It could be possible that Gags could play in the middle between the two also. Eberle is obviously a first line winger potential wise, as is Hall.

    I think the mystery of who the Oilers will take on draft day can be uncovered fairly easily. It all comes down to Eberle, can he play center? Does he want to play center? The Oiler’s will draft around Eberle, and his needs to compliment his game.

    Do you steal from Peter to pay Paul by drafting another natural winger?

      • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

        We are obviously drafting a forward, so I don’t see why you can’t make the connection that Eberle is our best prospect, and in a rebuilding mode you draft high end players to play with your existing prospects. Do you not think that Eberle won’t be a key component for our top line going forward, along with whoever we draft?

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          He may not have gotten the full idea of my original post.
          I meant to say… the Oiler’s will draft their first overall pick to play with Eberle. Not their whole draft around Eberle….hahaha

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            I suppose, but I’m as convinced as I’ll ever be that Eberle will pan out, based on his performances, accomplishment, and awards.

            In the case of John Tavaras… in one season we can’t say if he is a bust or not, but if the Islanders won the lottery they would have drafted Hall I could only assume.

          • Zamboni Driver

            Know who else was real good in the world juniors?

            Steve Rice.


            I think (hope) Eberle will be good, but a 5 ft 10, 180 lb 19 year old is not someone I want to build a team around just yet.

          • Zamboni Driver

            Try to at least scroll over the original post to see how the conversation has been distorted….

            The original statement was, in a nutshell, that the Oilers would make their FIRST PICK (not the whole damn draft) taking into account Eberle as a possible line-mate.

          • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

            do we really need to rehash the number of players who have lit it up in junior and gone on to do SFA in the pros?

            yes, things look very promising for eberle, and i really really really really really hope he turns into a good player.

            time will tell. suggesting the oilers build around eberle already is crazy talk

          • Zamboni Driver

            By the way the original statement was, in a nutshell, that the Oilers would make their first pick taking into account Eberle as a possible line-mate.

            WOW, am I the only one that has heard management talking about building a team through the draft. Given Edmonton’s unique problem of acquiring free agents, and keeping their homegrown happy, I think it comes down to common sense when you realize that Eberle will replace someone sooner than later.
            Hemmer will be on a different team in no less than 2 years. This whole line up will change, and nothing is a sure thing. You have to make you first pick based on projections, so why not project where that player plays, and with who going forward. The team has to build around the future for the future.

            Yes, Eberle might not pan out, but you may a well gamble that he will be a player and stay here after Hemsky, Penner or whoever is gone.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Odds are much better that this years pick will be the star rather then Eberle, if anything they’ll be building around Hall/Seguin, no basing which of the 2 they draft around Eberle.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            This is not so much about the drafting the better player as it is about needs and necessity….we’ve all heard how close the players. We’ve got Eberle sitting round on the wing, center…..idk. What spot do we need filled ?

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Every area needs to be filled or upgraded that is why I don’t see the need for just picking who you think we will need sooner. The other problem is how do we know who will develop and who won’t? We have a bunch of prospects in the system right now, maybe one breaks out next year that we aren’t expecting?

            I agree that taking Seguin is probably the smart pick because his talent is close to Hall and he is a center, but who is to say Hall doesn’t get converted back to center or Eberle continues to play well at center or Gagner takes the next and becomes a number 1 next year.

            That is why I stick to drafting who you think is and will be best. There are far too many variables when it comes to prospects and the development of them.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            I like the sigh of relief theory…lol. I mentioned earlier that it would be nice to have Steve Y in Edmonton and turf the old management. I wonder if Darryl Katz has any ideas about this, or if his too busy being trapped in his room surrounded by pee jars, and toe nail clippings.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            I highly doubt that Katz has any intention of removing Lowe or Tambo from their positions anytime soon. If Tambo has made his plan clear to Katz about a rebuild I think that Katz will wait it out. Barring a major screw up I can’t see Tambo going anywhere anytime soon, it’s just a wish that fans want.

          • Chris.

            I’m wondering if Tambellini may be a good transitional GM but will need to be replaced after he resests the organizational framework by which the Oilers do business.

            Tambellini seems like just the right kind of uptight, overly conservative guy to set a new structure and process for the organization. He really seems committed to proper, patient player development; has attention to detail; is tight lipped; and actually seems committed to really shaking up outdated traditions…

            That said, based on his first 18 months: I’m not sure that Tambellini will be the right guy to run things in three years time… Tambellini’s “win now” moves were disasterous for this club.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            If Tambo is everything what you say in the second paragraph I see no reason to get rid of him. What else would you want in a GM?

            I’m really curious to see what he does over the next 6 months. I’ve like what he has done in 2010 already and think he has made some smart moves. Heatley and Bulin were mistakes, but if Heatley ended up here would it have been a mistake?

            Only knock I have on the guy is Bulin and that he didn’t address the grinder position, although he did try do it from within so I give him credit.

          • Chris.

            So far, I like Tambellini’s “rebuild” moves… but I hated most of his “win now” moves. What happens in three years time when the cupboards are restocked, when some good young players are entering their prime, and impactful roster moves need to be made to achieve balance?

            I wonder if Tambellini will turn the ship around only to run it into another iceberg.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            His only win now move has been Bulin, hasn’t it? I think the problem is when he came here he was expected to win and he made some drastic moves to try make this happen.

            Comrie might’ve been a win now move too, but I really don’t see this as a short-term or long-term problem. Signing guys to a 1.25mil contract that play the way he can don’t count as bad moves to me.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Heatley was a win now move. It started win him, and then the domino effect happened….we signed Bulin to entice Heatley to come here. Doh!!! Tambo didn’t care about culture last year, but this year it’s a priority. I guess Tambo thought Heatley must of had a good reason to quit his job and be a bad team-mate.

          • Chris.

            Cole for O’Sullivan… a prime buyout canadate IMO.

            2nd round pick for two months of Kotalik and no playoffs.

            Moving Brodziak at the draft.

            Rehabibulin for FOUR years.

            Penner, Cogliano, AND Smid for Heatley. (I wanted it; but hindsight has proven this move would have been disasterous).

            Comrie? (Isn’t it sad that a low cost UFA nobody else wanted proved to be an upgrade over so many of our “skilled” young players?)

            Tambo’s record of identifying the needs of a mature roster, and finding the right guys to bring about balance and improvement… not so great.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            I don’t mind the Cole trade because he wasn’t resigning here. O’Sullivan was a good guy to take in on a trade.

            Kotalik I agree was a bad move, but then again it was an acquistion to make a push for the playoffs.

            Brodziak while dumb wasn’t exactly a win now move. If anything it was moving a guy that refuses to listen to what he needs to work on for future prospects.

          • The trade was made but it wasnt allowed to go through because of Heatley.

            Yes its a bad move. Trade 3 roster players for 1 overpaid player with a history of demanding trades. Hmmm. Oilers lose their best Goal-scorer and its most stable defenseman along with Cogliano for 1 guy who wasnt that much better than Penner despite playing with Thornton and Marleau.

            Bad Move. How would our rebuilding status be now if we launched 3 players well under 30 for Heatley? What was the next best offer? Michalek and Cheechoo?

            Who was Tambellini bidding against when he decided on Penner, Cogliano, and Smid? Himself! This guy left the house with the Farm’s only cow and returned with Magic Beans.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Except when the deal was done Penner was useless and Smid had asked for a trade multiple times. Smid was also not thought to be as good as he was last year. Heatley was also coming off of 39, 41, 50 and 50 goals.

            Not saying I’m 100% on board with that trade, but at the time the talk was about losing Cogs and Smid’s potential. Penner was a throw in according to most fans.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            I like all three guys and was torn on the trade, but getting a Heatley would’ve been great.

            At the time Peckham was looking like a replacement for Smid and Eberle/MPS/Omark were replacements for Cogs.

          • I’m not convinced that if the trade happened last summer that we wouldnt be looking at yet another trade request this summer from him. Then it would be us taking Michalek and Cheechoo.

            There’s a lot of risk for not that much more return than the guys that were shipped out.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Actually Heatley happened for about two and half months last summer after they signed the goalie and wasted their off season to sign the win now player in Dany Heatley. Duh!

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            So what were they to do with that time, because to be honest the guys that they needed to sign were still available when the Heatley fiasco ended. They just decided that they would fill the holes from within instead of signing a UFA.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Having a guy like Stevie Y would bring instant credibility to the franchise, and it may even help bring in free agents. Tambo gives off bad vibes that remind me of John Ferguson Jr. Why should this management have the right to take part in the rebuild ? They don’t deserve it.

          • I can’t understand why people want to hire a hockey player to fill a business position. A GM spot needs to be filled by someone with business acumen – not a guy that just retired from playing a few years ago. Has the Lowe experiment taught us anything?

            You get a lawyer or at least an MBA for a position like GM, and then surround them with people (like Yzerman or Lowe) with hockey knowledge to round out the skill set.

          • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

            all you need to understand is the average hockey fan is nothing more than a think they know spaz. (myself included)

            how many other professions can one simply watch on TV and become an “expert” without ever actually becoming a pro?

            for example:

            Golly Mike Holmes, i watch alot of DIY network, and i think you are framing this 2nd floor addition all wrong

            probably gets you a 2×4 to the pills.


            joe blow 7-11 gas jockey can sit his fat ass on the couch and, never having set foot in a pro locker room, know why the powerplay is broken AND how to fix it, know which players are good in the room and which arent, and know what schemes the coach should be using to get player A producing.

            dont get me wrong, i love talking about the game as much as the next guy, but honestly…


            a spaz

          • Gotta give him some credit for the Olympics, and his time spent learning from Holland in Detroit to be groomed for the position. This is crazy talk anyway, but the optics would look good, and maybe the press would stop using us a punching bag and start respecting us again. Again, this is all nonsense talk… kinda like Hitchcock coming here…lol.

          • Burke gets a free ride this year. The press is in denial and shock I think. You’d have to assume the media would have a hard time defending Burke if they lose another top five pick next year. They will eventually come to their senses….then again it’s Toronto.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Burke has been in office for a few months less then Tambo, so why should he get a pass? The leafs have very little future right now and that is with his bonus of being in a market where guys want to sign. IMO he has been worse then Tambo so far.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Pat Quinn and Tom Renney were suppose to bring credibility, they didn’t. Again free agents won’t come here until the team improves as a whole.

            As for Tambo, when are people going to get it through their heads that he isn’t going anywhere. Katz likes him and isn’t going to make a knee jerk reaction. What right does Stevie Y have to do a rebuild? He barely one the Olympics with a 150mil payroll. The guy hasn’t done squat at the NHL level yet people think he is the next coming of Jesus.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Picking based on the future is a mistake. Need to take the best guys available and worry about the future when it comes.

            We have no idea what our needs will be in 3+ years. Look 3-5 years ago, who would’ve thought we’d need a center in 2010. We had Stoll, Horcoff, Pouilot, Cogliano, Stortini(now a winger), Nilsson, O’Marra Brodziak, Schremp, Spurgeon etc. but yet in 07 we went ahead and drafted Gagner ahead of Voracek.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            “Picking based on the future is a mistake”

            It may very well be a mistake, but Edmonton is a very unique market as you know, and we may have to cling to hope a little more than the average team.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            I rather build around a group of players then one player. Be nice to be like Chicago or Washington or Pittsburgh, having a core of guys to build around.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Tavares was #1 overall and he had a heck of a rookie season, something Eberle has yet to do.

            Is Vancouver drafting around Hodgson? Is Nashville drafting around Wilson?

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            I can see the Oilers staff envisioning what their team will look like 3 years from now… and I bet Eberle and #1 pick not being on the top line, would be considered somewhat of a letdown given the high hopes for the players.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            I’d be curious to know if the Oilers expect Eberle to be a 1st liner or second liner in the future. I mean if the guy turns into a 25-30 goal scorer playing on the second line is it really that bad?

  • While it may be tough to choose one over the other, they both have the potential to be very good players for a long time. At first I leaned towards Hall because I see him as a more dynamic player. Lately though, I have been thinking the Oil need Seguin more.

    Seguin is the more well rounded player and is a scoring centre, which is something the Oil have not had for a long time. There is no denying Hall’s talent, just look at the year he had. Seguin impressed me more because he equaled Hall’s point production with a weaker supporting cast.

    I know that Hall had chemistry with Eberle going back to the World Juniors, and that would be great to see again. What I would like to see more than that is a line made up of Eberle-Seguin-MPS. With the rebuild under way, I say draft Seguin, give him Eberle & MPS third line minutes and time on the PP. Just think about how crazy good that line would be in a couple years!

  • MrCondor

    The problem is you can’t predict chemistry.

    When the Jokinen was first picked up by Calgary, every flames fan that I knew thought it was their ticket to the cup. In their first game together I recall that line scoring around 5 points. But we all know what’s happened since.

    I’ve been presenting the pro Seguin agruement for a while now, but now I’m really starting to second guess that. This year’s playoffs Hall has been truely outstanding – you can’t teach a guy to be a gamer when it counts.

    What if Seguin is a Joe Thorton? Mega high skill, would feed all the shooters on our team perfectly, but does anyone want him in the playoffs? Isn’t a cup the goal?

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Opportunity is knocking here with the Bruins going deep into the playoffs. Hemsky could be the dangled carrot to get this deal done. What a start to the rebuild having both Hall and Seguin, and probably a top five next year.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Love the idea too!
        But I do not understand why people keep throwing out Hemsky as the trade bait. Boston already has three of him in; Savard,Krejci and Bergeron!
        Yes, Hemsky has great set up skills but Boston has that and needs the finisher.

        While we are dreaming lets go big!

        Penner, Cogs, prospect + pick for #2 pick (might have to take back Ryder in this)

        Hemsky to Columbus for #4 pick + prospect.

        Three of the first four picks:) Only in Oilerville!

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Pipe dream Quicksilver…getting both players, but wouldn’t that be nice! HALL SEGUIN EBERLE….Team’s would leave our building crying every night!! mahaha

        • Quicksilver ballet

          It was a pipe dream that Bouwmeester would play hockey in Alberta earlier last summer as well, it was a pipe dream that Brian Burke would get both the Sedins…..someone rolled up their sleeves and got it done. These are unprecented times for ON…..and i’m expecting/praying the unexpected is upon us.

          • Jason Gregor

            I like your go getter attitude Quick, but we’re talking bout Tambo here. He hasn’t shown or done much of anything, but maybe we fire the whole staff in time to hire Stevie Y!! Now that’s a pipe dream!

          • Quicksilver ballet

            I was hoping Viscious still has a phone and whomever else is capable of speaking on the Oilers behalf.

            All hands on deck (Kevin, Steve, Rick and Mike)have to be working on something to better this club come draft day. Hopefully one out of those four could come through with something to improve our lot.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I’m not sure the chemistry between linemates is as important than the leadership qualities.Having a good line or two isn’t a success if you finish south of 8th place. If i could take a line from the Untouchables movie….. “what are you prepared to do” (to help your team win) We didn’t see many examples this year of players that were sick and tired of losing.

    There’s waiting pressure for the kids coming in here in the fall….i pray they can come here and turn around the fortunes of the Oilers one battle at a time.