Is Cogs still a good fit?

TORONTO, ON MARCH 13: Andrew Cogliano #13 of the Edmonton Oilers skates in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 13, 2010 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

After an eventful five days that included qualifying ten players, walking away from six players, signing four UFAs, a trade, a buy-out, waiving a captain and waiving and retaining a disgruntled employee how do the Oilers look?

The Oilers are much bigger and tougher than they were last week. Jason Strudwick, Steve MacIntyre, Jim Vandermeer are tough, while Kurtis Foster adds size and a heavy shot on the backend. These are all depth guys, although Foster should contribute the most.

Saying goodbye to Patrick O’Sullivan, Marc Pouliot, Ryan Potulny and Robert Nilsson was pure brilliance, regardless of who replaces them. They were dead weight and were never going to contribute enough to make this team competitive.

The time was right to say goodbye to Ethan Moreau, and it was a bonus that the Blue Jackets claimed him and saved the Oilers over a million in buyout money. No one claimed Sheldon Souray, which surprised nobody, and I won’t be surprised if Souray shows up at training camp. Dustin Penner wasn’t happy in April of 2009, but by October he was fine. Why can’t the same thing happen with Souray?

Colin Fraser signed a two-year deal, so that leaves nine of the ten qualified players yet to sign. Look for Gilbert Brule to file for arbitration. Liam Reddox and Jeff Deslauriers can also file, but I doubt they will since neither has a strong case, and the NHLPA prefers to only have players with strong cases go to arbitration.

Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano will be signed, but I see Gagner getting a longer term deal than Cogliano. Cogliano is a hard player to figure out. I see the NHL changing to three scoring lines, with one of them good enough to moonlight as a checking line, and one energy line. I think the days of a pure shut down line, with little offense to offer, are over.

Look at Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia. Their top-end guys: Datsyuk, Toews and Richards produce offence, but are good enough defensively to match up against the opposition’s top line.

With that philosophy in mind is there room for Cogliano?

As a rookie he scored 18 goals — only one on the PP but two SH — was +1, averaged 13:39 of icetime, had a ridiculous 18.4 shooting percentage, was a woeful 39.5% in the dot and tallied 45 points.

His sophomore year he potted 18 goals — four on the PP, zero SH — was -6, averaged 14:24 on the ice, had a solid 15.5 shooting %, was even worse in the dot at 37.2% and scored 38 points.

He dipped a bit in his second season, but nothing too dramatic.

Last year his stats plummeted.

He scored ten goals — one on the PP, zero SH — was -5, averaged 14:10 of icetime, had a woeful 7.2 shooting percentage, improved to 43% in the dot but only had 28 points.

His offensive numbers were down, but I think he actually competed much harder on loose pucks and in the corners. I’m not sure how much he improved in the dot because in 2009 he took 702 faceoffs, and last year he only took 379. He won 43% of them compared to 37% in 2009, but he might have been sheltered a bit more last year.

I’m not sure the Oilers know what they have in Cogliano just yet.

It’s obvious he isn’t great in the dot, but if he is given 40 or 50 games with offensive-minded players, could he produce more? Can he and Sam Gagner be the two offensive centres in 2010?

There is no debate that Shawn Horcoff is the best overall centre on the Oilers. Sam Gagner has better offensive instincts, but he doesn’t have Horcoff’s two-way game. JW and others have proven that Ales Hemsky produces better with Horcoff than any other centre, but with Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi Svenssonand, and Jordan Eberle entering the mix, can one of them combined with Gagner or Cogliano work with Hemsky?

Horcoff won’t give the Oilers the offence that a Datsyuk, Richards or Toews will, but he can play the tough minutes and if he has an MPS on one wing his offence should be okay. Which leads me back to Cogliano.

From day one, Gagner has been given more of an offensive role than Cogliano, because he is a better pure offensive player. But the numbers show he isn’t that much better of a goal scorer. Gagner has averaged 0.197 goals per game in three years, while Cogliano has averaged 0.186. Keep in mind that Cogliano has six PP goals in his career while Gagner has 16.

I’ve questioned if the Oilers can keep Cogliano and Gagner long-term and be successful. I don’t think they can, but there is a part of me that is curious to see if both were given a chance with offensive players how they’d fare. The Oilers don’t have any wingers who are pure checkers right now. Ryan Jones is more of an energy guy than a checker, while Zack Stortini, JF Jacques, and Steve MacIntyre don’t fit the bill.

Taylor Hall and Hemsky are destined to play together, but can Gagner keep up with them? Could Renney try Cogliano in the middle with them and put Gagner between Dustin Penner and Gilbert Brule/Eberle? Or is Cogliano a better fit with Penner, because Penner can take some of the draws. MPS skates well with a reputation of being a solid two-way player, so put him with Horcoff and either Eberle/Brule and have them as your offensive/checking line.

I’m positive the Oilers don’t know where and how to use Cogliano and that’s why his name has continually surfaced in trade rumours. But I don’t see the Oilers just giving him away. Why not keep him for one more year at a low cap hit; play him a lot so they can increase his trade value or, ideally, show the organization what type of player he can be?

I don’t think the first three seasons have been a clear indication of how good, inconsistent or indifferent he actually is.

How many more can Tambo add?

I still think the Oilers need a veteran 3rd line centre or winger with some size, grit and little offence, but can they bring him in to the mix and still play all the kids.

Penner, Hemsky, Hall, Horcoff, MPS and Eberle are signed. Gagner, Cogliano and Brule will get signed so that’s nine forwards. Toss in Fraser, Jones, Stortini, Jacques and MacIntyre and that is 14. Alex Giroux was signed yesterday and he’ll push for a spot, but is likely to start in Oklahoma City. (Keep in mind I said there was no way Ryan Stone would make the team out of camp last year.) The Oilers could re-sign Stone, because it’s questionable whether Jacques will be ready when camp starts.

If Tambellini brings in a veteran via free agency, he then has to make a deal and move out a top-nine forward or plan to have one of Eberle or MPS start in the minors. Maybe he rolls the dice and goes with three rookies in the top-nine and a question mark in Cogliano.

Could the Oilers start the season with what they have, or do they need a veteran?

Should they give Cogliano a shot with offensive guys, or is his inability to win a draw to big of a risk?

These are some of the main questions Tambellini and Tom Renney are contemplating as the free agent frenzy slows down and the Oilers start filling out "white board" lineups.

No Omark — how come?

Many have asked why Linus Omark won’t be at the development camp starting Tuesday. Omark is 23 and has played four and a half years of pro hockey in the SEL and KHL, so he doesn’t qualify. The Oilers consider him a pro player at this point.

The on-ice sessions start Tuesday from 10 a.m to noon and are open to the public at the Clareview Arena. You will see Hall, Eberle, MPS, Jeff Petry, Anton Lander, Teemu Hartikainen, Chris Vande Velde, all of the other ten draft picks from 2010 and a total of 18 forwards, seven D-men and three goalies.

  • Agreed. I think his very poor play in offensive situations last year and his AHL one-timer need to actually show they’ve improved before he gets a spot on either PP.

    If/When he gets his mojo back, he’s welcome to play on the powerplay.

  • SkinnyD

    He was having an all-star year, jackass.

    Hemsky doesn’t take faceoffs. He doesn’t kill penalties. He wasn’t the only person on a team filled with hurt AHLers being relied on regularly to do these things while playing with a hurt wing all year. Ever tried to take a face off or connect on a one-timer with a hurt shoulder? There’s no way Hemsky’s going to put up the same kind of bad numbers Horcoff did last year…you completely missed my point.

    Yup, Horcoff had a bad year last year, bad shoulder or not, and he should at least be on the 2nd unit PP – when healthy his one-timer is very good. But if you have a better option for #1C on this team I’m all ears. Gagner isn’t fast enough, and Hall isn’t ready. (FYI Horcs had 50 pts in 53 games prior to his injury, smart guy).

    When healthy, Horcoff and Hemsky ride each other’s coat tails…

  • Cowbell_Feva

    The only one who needs to give their collective head a shake is YOU Skinny D. The only reason Goony Ga Ga was in the Allstar game was because they wanted to have one representative from each team. I suppose you actually think Horcoff was the fastest skater in the NHL that year too, even though he got blown out of the water- yet somehow posted a faster time!

    To answer your question- IF Hemmer puts up a -29 and a mind boggling 36 pts- All while making $5.5, then your F#CKING right I would talk smack about him! (FYI Hemmer had 22 pts in 22 games prior to his injury)

    You still think Horcoff isn’t riding his coat tails-GIVE YOUR HEAD A SHAKE!

    GET HIM OFF THE PP AND OUT OF THE TOP 6!

  • SkinnyD

    I’d be willing to bet that Hemsky won’t fall to one of the leagues worst +/- players in the entire league this year…

    Have a look at post #62 by Archaeologuy that pretty much sums up Horcoff in more recent times…

    He mentions hoping desperately that Horcoff can get back to being a 50 point player….heck I’d be happy if he could get to 30pts and play a shutdown 3rd line checking center role and try to stay above -10 on the season…that would work for me.

  • SkinnyD

    I’d be willing to bet that Hemsky would be one of the league’s worst +/- players in the entire league if he’s playing with a shoulder at 70% on a team completely decimated by injuries, and taking defensive zone faceoffs with 5 other AHL-quality players in the zone with him like Horcoff. Just sayin’.

    I’m sure Arch hopes he’s a 70 point guy on the top line like the rest of us, but he’s a realist…we’d all be ecstatic if he got 50 pts and was even on the +/-.

  • Why do you think his +/- was so bad? He played the most friggin min against the best comp while having a shoddy D and even more shoddy goaltending.

    I’m not the guy for this article, but I want to see another “Look at Horcoff” piece from Willis or Lowetide.

    Horcoff was terrible last year. Everybody knows that. He knows that. Let’s move on.

  • SkinnyD

    You both need to give your collective heads a shake. Kevin Lowe didn’t get Horcoff into the All-Star game…he did that all by himself by playing unbelievably well. The shoulder injury he sustained that year takes at least a year and a half to recover from, so here we are. Are you going to be talking smack about Hemsky in the same vein at the end of this coming year? He has the exact same injury and missed over half of last year because of it.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    OK- First off kudos to CRASH for not being a biased Oiler fan. I love the Oil, but Horcoff has been riding Hemsky’s coat tails from the moment he became Edmonton’s “#1 Center”.

    I say “#1 Center” because on any other team he is a third liner at BEST. He played a whole season (give or take a few games) and finished -29! This tells you he is defensively responsible?!? We’re not talking a bad week,or bad month, a whole bloody year!

    He turns the puck over 80% of the time, never wins big face-offs(or many for that matter). He’s weak on his skates and gets knocked off the puck way too easily at an NHL level. He wins as many puck battles as Stortini does fights. (It happens every once in awhile). His confidence is in the toilet. All that and he has the disctinction of most overpaid player in the NHL.

    The only debate is whether he should be in Oklahoma or Edmonton!

  • I was paying close attention to it, last season. We’re not talking about the last 3 yrs, we’re talking about where we’re at now and moving forward I think Gagner and others have overtaken Horcoff…

    Horcoff’s last season was terrible and I believe there is a debate as to whether he can be called the best overall center the Oilers have….he was but I don’t think he is now…

    It is most certainly debatable.

    IMO things began changing last year and Horcoff’s season last year can’t be called on any level as him showing he plays well defensively…this could be an off year and this year will be better for Horcoff….I sure hope this year will be better but given last year…it is open for debate as to how good Horcoff is defensively at this point compared to other up and comers on the team.