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.
  • EasyOil

    I am against Brule as #1 Center or relying on him primarily as the scoring line center. His Sh% was way high. Also his results without Penner are terrible. So if we keep Penner with Horcoff, what will we do with Brule then? Right now Brule should be thought of as a complementary offensive player unless he proves otherwise

  • Lowetide

    If we’re talking about Brule as the “#1 C” on the tough minutes line, then I’m against it. He is coming off a season where he scored 15 even strength goals in 826 minutes of EV time. As a comparison, Patrick Kane scored 21 goals in 1298 minutes.

    So, Brule scored more often at EVs than Kane, on a per minute basis. Sustainable?

    He has a better chance of having a strong season if he’s on a line with less stress.

    • DSF

      So, which centre on the Oilers scored EV goals at a better rate than Brule?

      The answer is no one.

      Hasn’t the argument for Horcoff always been “he’s the best we’ve got, no one else is available, so he’s a defacto #1C?

      While I would never argue Brule is a legit #1C on any good team, he’s the “best we’ve got”.

      Your comment about his “better chance of having a strong season” is specious at best since playing on a line “with less stress” would apply to every player on the team. Unfortunately, the Oilers have to play other teams that have better players and finding “less stressful” situations is hardly a way to build a lineup.

      Putting players “in a position to succeed”, which I know is the first thing that popped into your mind, would involve sending 2/3rds of the roster to OKC but, since that’s not an option, how about finding out what these players are made of and put Horcoff in the less “stressful position” on the third line where he would be on any decent team in the league.

      • “Unfortunately, the Oilers have to play other teams that have better players and finding “less stressful” situations is hardly a way to build a lineup.

        Putting players “in a position to succeed”, which I know is the first thing that popped into your mind, would involve sending 2/3rds of the roster to OKC but, since that’s not an option, how about finding out what these players are made of and put Horcoff in the less “stressful position” on the third line where he would be on any decent team in the league.”

        Too funny. I can’t stop the belly laughs. Can you imagine a 12 man roster here, and a 28 man roster in OKC!

        I wonder if Hall would be thinking, “it’s okay, this way i have a chance to succeed. And visiting the heartland of US oil exploration”.

      • I’m a fan of Brule, but fact of the matter is, his quality of competition wasn’t exactly of the highest standard. Bumping that up into the top tier could prove difficult, or worse yet, confidence-killing. Having said that, it doesn’t hurt to give him a look early. I’m just curious if Brule’s long-term future is as a C or as a W. He seems Darcy Tucker ish to me, and Tucker started out as a C but eventually moved to the W full-time.

        Perhaps, the best option is to play Brule on the W with 2 strong linemates to help him reach the next level (Penner & Horcoff on the 2nd line?). Eventually, I think he’ll be capable of playing tougher minutes, but we’re not sure that time is now.

          • Worth a look… although I’d be awfully tempted to look at Hall-Penner-Hemsky when camp starts.

            If they can trot out 1-Penner, 2-Gagner, 3-Horcoff, 4-Fraser (with Gagner & Horcoff swapping depending on play/opponents/situations), there is some potential there.

    • Lofty

      Thats a fair argument but I still think Brule should get the first crack at it (again, thats if he’s still an oiler at the start of the season.)

      Your stats support the fact that he had a good year last year and worked well with the Oil’s #1 LW. Until Brule’s play drops off as suggested, should he not get the first opportunity to be the #1 guy?

      Seasons are long and unless you have an established #1 like Kane or Getzlaf a couple of players will get a chance to play on the first line (never mind injuries.) I think Brule should be given the liberty to loose the job rather than start the season on the third line and have to claw his way back up the line-up.

    • fuck off

      True but he built chemistry with Penner and has earned the chance. It might also make sense to mix up the top 2 lines forcing teams to pick one to focus on by making the lines Hall-Brule-Penner and Hemsky-Horcoff/Gagne-Eberle (3rd: Jones/Cogs?-Horcoff/Gagne-Paajarvi). Thus dividing the soft/hard minutes and making line match ups more of a problem for the other coach than for Renney.

      Make sense?

          • fuck off

            Well as far as I can see it the 2010-11 Oilers are going to range from 25th to 14th/8th in the West. Considering those are the possibilities why not try Brule as the 1C since he can’t do much worse than last years debacle. Maybe Samwise would work better than Brule at the top C spot but we know who’s earned it and anyone of the Oiler’s considered Center men are all going to get eaten alive by the likes of Getzlaf, Thorton and almost every other team with a true #1C.

            Facts need to be faced and those are that the current Oilers don’t have a legit viable first line center. Until one develops or is picked up, the team is not going to be in contention for the Cup and might as well finish with a lottery pick if they are not going to be able to sneak into the dance. Besides for all the acclaim the Avs garnered this year they still lost out of the first round which is exactly NOT what the Oilers rebuilding process goal is intending to accomplish.

  • EasyOil


    I had my tongue firmly in cheek there with regards to comments about our C’s being the envy of the league, sorry if that didn’t come across 🙂

    But at the very least, I think our prospective centre corps is looking solid if unspectacular, and with Pitlick further down the road, I’m not too concerned about that area of the depth chart (as long as everything pans out development-wise for each of them).

    My main concern for the future would be a high level D-prospect, plus an AHL calibre goalie for this year’s Barons would be nice….

  • Wanyes bastard child

    On another note…

    Just listened to LT’s interview with Bob and I would like to say well done (Ballsy in some parts 😉 it was an intriguing listen for sure.

    As for the article with VV here, I agree with the posters saying we won’t see him in the show at the beginning of the year. That being said, it will be an interesting training camp. If VV can come in and play like he wants the job harder than most I can see the likes of Cogliano or even some of the big “three” coming in either without a job (Cogliano) or back in the A to start the year.

    Colour me cautiously optimistic for this year 🙂

  • To everyone:

    I know the internet seems tailor-made for pointless, petty sniping, but those who engage in it are crowding out the vast majority of commenters – the ones who want to talk about this hockey team and don’t have multiple axes to grind.

    In other words: if the only reason you comment is to take shots at people, feel free to leave and never come back.

    Have a great day, all.

  • EasyOil

    I’m definitely looking forward to seeing VV in the oilers lineup this year, but certainly not at on opening night. I think a Tom Gilbert approach would be best – let him play a majority of his first year out of NCAA in the AHL, followed by a post-deadline showing so we can see if he sinks or swims.

    No reason to rush him whatsoever, let him adjust to playing more than 30-something games in a season, and look forward to the days when Gagner is an elite first line centre, Horcoff and VV are our responsible two-way 2nd and 3rd line C’s and Lander is a defensive specialist 4th line C……….. ok so that last part is my pipe dream that they all realise their full potential 🙂 but imagine having a totally homegrown centre corps. Although one thing’s for certain – the leadership down the middle would be the envy of the league… :p

    • fuck off

      You’re echoing my post (comment #36) from here:

      I absolutely think Brule should get 1C consideration because of his performance last year which will be backed up by the results from his arbitration hearing.

      As for VV he certainly is an excellent option in the mix like most of the Oilers prospects and veteran AHL signings. Of course we also know hardly enough about Fraiser to judge how he’ll fit in to the 3scoring/1grinder line structure we’ll be expecting this fall.

  • Jerk Store

    I have two concerns with Vande Velde: a) His decision making his terrible. Why on earth did he hit a driver on 18 at Carnoustie in 1999 with a three shot lead, when a two-iron was clearly the correct play b)he is a Euro, worse yet from France.

    “Pauses for microwave to stop beeping and steel plate in head to cool down”

    I have two concerns with Penner at center: a) his skating, while above average for a big man may be a little suspect to play both zones all year b)due to his skating style he does not look like he is busting his hump. This occasionally looks bad on the wing – would be multiplied playing pivot. Let’s set the guy up to win. Let him take draws on a situational basis (his center is struggling or is overmatched on a forehand draw).

    • Ducey

      I have two concerns with Vande Velde: a) His decision making his terrible. Why on earth did he hit a driver on 18 at Carnoustie in 1999 with a three shot lead, when a two-iron was clearly the correct play b)he is a Euro, worse yet from France.

      ~Wrong guy. Our Chris VandeVelde just had to withdraw from the Tour de France. I hope he is ready for camp~

  • Lowetide

    I’m not sure that he has the jump in his step (yet) to make the jump. His skating in average good. He’ll be in OK to start the year and there is a snowballs chance in hell he makes it at any other position. T Hark looked far superior in every way during the summer camp that just passed. He’s a guy i’m super pumped about. He’s known as a goal scorer who drives the net with average skating. And his skating looked VERY strong as i watched him and during the intersquad game his vision and passing skills were without question top 3 that day. Maybe even as high as 2. He’s a guy to watch and i think sinks VV’s chance at making the club at wing, this year, next year and going forward.

  • Lowetide

    Racki: I think moving Penner to C makes a lot of sense if the organization wants to give the three kids a chance. The C’s could be Penner, Gagner, Horcoff, Fraser or some such.

    I’d be hesitant to do it, though. The Oilers are going to need a power versus power line and that would be the one Penner is on. THAT line needs to be on every night.

  • Saw some of Vande Velde last year on Big10… the color / pbp guys gushed over him quite a bit. I have always had question marks about the college guys (although there certainly are some pretty fantastic college players in the NHL), but Vande Velde was a guy on my radar too for making our NHL lineup soon. As we all know, we’re not exactly strong at center, so that should help his chances and put some pressure on our current centremen. None of them are in danger of losing their jobs, but may be moved to a win slot in favor of VV, however.

    Anyways, I can see him being this year’s Stone/JFJ/Potulny experiment, winding up even as high as #2C.

    Btw, what about considering Dustin Penner at C? Would that nerf him too much or tire him out too much, you think? He is a pretty good draw-man, even though he doesn’t take many, and he’s one of our best two-way forwards.. very responsible defensively. Just a random thought. Maybe they could slowly transition him into that position and see how he does. It might tire him out to do that over 82 games though.

  • GSC

    When it comes to Vande Velde, I “saw him good” a few years ago before his time with North Dakota. I can tell you one thing for sure, he’s a helluva lot better than J-F Jacques (which isn’t saying much, but still).

    BTW, this post was edited by a moderator, but said moderator refrained from stating as such.

  • Dan the Man

    I met Vande Velde at an Edmonton Capitals game this year and he is pretty solid. He looked more like 220 lbs than 207.

    It would be a pleasant surprise if he works out.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I like this kid, depending on the piss and vinegar ingrediant i don’t see why he wouldn’t have second line center possibities within a two years.

    • Maggie the Monkey

      My impression is that VV’s NHL ceiling is closer to an elite 3rd line centre, like John Madden or Rob Nierdermayer (in his prime). I’ll be happy if you’re right, though.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        Hopefully the Oilers will begin developing their young players for assigned roles. The last few years I’ve noticed that we seem to default everyone as a second-liner; not good enough to be a top-line producer, but celebrated or lamented based on their (in)ability to score.

        VV seems like the kind of player who could be taught to compete like Dave Bolland. He will never achieve a 60-point season, but with his skill set he could have the makings of a valued role player.

  • Maggie the Monkey

    Was a Cogliano for Mueller trade discussed as a serious possibility last season? I missed that rumour somehow, and would have been more excited by it than I was by the picture of on yesterday’s posting. I’m going to pray that it was Phoenix who killed the idea so that I can maintain some sense of optimism about the competency of Tambellini and co. Hell, I would have urged them to toss in either of the latter two 2nd round picks to make it happen.

  • Is Chris Vande Velde this year’s version of JF Jaques?

    Hasn’t shown anything at the NHL level but will get an honest shot at making the squad based on his physical attributes…

    Guess it sorta depends on Brule’s ruling.

    I like this post LT