Colin Fraser: A Worthwhile Experiment That Hasn’t Worked Out

I was glad when the Oilers brought Colin Fraser in. It was an acquisition that made sense on a few different levels. I’ll also be happy when they send him on down the line, something they should do at this year’s trade deadline if at all possible.

The third-line centre role is one that has been a weakness for the Oilers ever since Jarret Stoll and Marty Reasoner were sent away. Fans were strongly supportive of both moves; Stoll helped bring in Lubomir Visnovsky from Los Angeles despite questions about his health and offensive ability, while many resented the reliance of the coaching staff on Reasoner, dubbed ‘Marty Sakic’ after Craig MacTavish made the horrible mistake of cracking joke comparing Reasoner to the then-Avalanche star. Both players have gone on to fill important roles for their teams, with Stoll playing significant minutes on both special teams in L.A. (as well as providing faceoff wins, size and grit) and Reasoner providing a strong two-way presence in the Southeast Division (as well as winning faceoffs and spending a lot of time on the penalty kill).

(Digression: it’s worth noting other losses suffered by the third line in the same general time period. Raffi Torres, whose departure was once again generally approved of by fans, had served the team quite effectively in a checking role, while Fernando Pisani’s injury problems ate away at both his ice-time and his effectiveness during this same period.)

The Oilers tried to fill the hole created by the loss of those two centremen in a variety of ways. Sophomore forward Kyle Brodziak was given a year in the role, but disappointed and was sent away to Minnesota for a marginal return (he has since emerged as a strong two-way option and penalty-killer for the Wild). Fernando Pisani was moved to centre and asked to fill the gap, something he proved incapable of doing. Ryan Potulny was spotted into the role occasionally last season, but for the last year and a half it has been Andrew Cogliano who has been pigeon-holed for the role, despite clear defensive issues and an inability to win faceoffs. Unsurprisingly, that decision has hurt both the team and Cogliano.

When Colin Fraser was acquired from Chicago this summer in a reverse-Brodziak trade, it is easy to think that management pictured him sliding into the third line centre role. After all, Fraser was fresh off a Cup win in a fourth line role with the Blackhawks, and along the way he had been asked to kill penalties, win faceoffs and play a responsible defensive game. He had played a relatively strong season, recording 19 points in 70 games (with limited minutes) to go along with a plus-6 rating, was just 25 years of age, possessed both decent size and a track record of chippy play, and looked a lot like a player ready for more responsibility.

For a team built to go nowhere, taking a chance on a guy like Fraser was a justifiable risk, especially given how little he cost to acquire.

Just shy of the halfway point of the 2010-11 season, I think we can now safely say that this gamble has not worked out. Fraser has been a negligible contributor offensively, has bled shots against defensively, and recently has been relegated to playing immediately behind Ryan O’Marra on the major league depth chart. On a team looking to finally depart the wilderness, there isn’t any room for a player like Colin Fraser to play a significant role.

Of course, it’s plausible that there is no market out there for a player like Fraser, in which case the Oilers will be forced to keep him past the trade deadline, and into next season. In that case, the best scenario would see the Oilers reducing his role, consigning him to one of the spare forward positions on the roster – a role he played for the Blackhawks in last year’s playoffs. The important thing is that they find someone else to fill that third line centre position, and that they do it before next season comes around.

  • ebbandflow

    tell me how wishart is any better of a prospect than plante chorney or petry he IS a middling prospect in the same aspect as plante( needs to find a role)

  • ebbandflow

    not saying wishart wont carve a niche im just saying what seperates him from plante or any other d prospect i think people see first round prospect and automatically think STUD.. not the case at ALL

  • ebbandflow

    To get a middle first round prospect for a 41 year old goalie? That’s robbery. Lock up Garth Snow, he just robbed Stevie Y, first time in his career he can say he did that! Boo ya!
    Why didn’t we get a first rounder for Roli again? By the way, that is what we paid for Roli too, a first rounder. It worked out that time.
    So, we trade Brodz for a 6th, and then pay a 6th to get Fraser, so if we just didn’t trade Brodz away, our fourth line center position would be solved.
    By the way, GlenX, Brodz, Storts, best fourth line in the history of the Oilers franchise, so lets go and trade away two of the valuable members of that line, hey JW? Great idea, isn’t it? Maybe JW should be our GM, he’d be the first one to actually think before making a decision.

    • ebbandflow

      Glencross wasn’t traded. The Oilers let him go as he was a UFA and the Oilers were involved in the Hossa sweepstakes. It was a bad decision though. At age 28 Glencross is still young enough to be involved in a rebuilding club and Brodziak is also only 26. That line could have provided energy and depth that the Oilers haven’t had since Glencross left.

  • So Tampa could have signed Khabby when we did and got him for nothing, instead they trade a first rounder for old Roli? Brutal management. Brutal.
    That team has been cursed since they let Khabby go the first time. Never draft a goalie in the first round when you are GM, JW, because veteran goalies grow on trees. Literally.

    • ebbandflow

      lets not throw stevie y under the bus if rollie performs TAMPA wins the trade hands down…its what makes a succesful franchise when the time is rigth you pull the trigger and deliver… which stevie y did , what was tampas main prob(consensus is goaltending, well when you have ellis smith not too mention desjardins and helenius not to mention dustin well ROLLIE is the perfect fit…. would you guys give up PLANTE for say marty turco if we had the window to compete… yes every time and i hope the oilers would have the same foresight to make a deal (you do what you can while the opportunity is there)

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Gagner has performed fairly well in his young career and is hardly a bust/problem. The only other players from his draft year that have seem to adapt as well/better than him are Patrick Kane(1st overall), David Perron(26th overall), and Jamie Benn(129th overall). All three play for much better clubs and are surrounded by better talent. In Benn’s case he faces the top lines very rarely as he’s slotted on Dallas’s third line. Perron is surrounded by some very good talent and depth in St Louis. And Patrick Kane is Patrick Kane. Considering the weak squads that Gagner has played on he’s put up 3 respectable 40+ point campaigns.

    Now this season we’ve finally been able to see what he can do with some elite offensive players in Hall and Eberle. Give these three kids a couple more seasons and they should be a very good line. Gagner is 21… only 21. He has a quite a bit of time before he even hits his prime. The Oilers should be addressing weaknesses before letting go of valuable assets.

    In the 2011 off-season there are going to be a lot of UFA’s and since teams priorities are signing top talent a lot of bottom 6 forwards and depth dmen are going to be out there. The Oilers are better off letting their own RFA’s and UFA’s like Stortini, JFJ, etc. go and then looking at other young players. Ben Eager would be one guy I’d go after because he’s an enforcer who can actually give your team decent minutes and not be a complete liability. Cam Janssen, Ryan Carter, etc. are all available as well. So the Oilers have options in terms of the UFA route instead of trying to deal valuable assets away.

    • WRT the 2007 draft, FWIW, you could also argue that the Oilers might have been better off taking Logan Couture than Gagner. While Gagner is playing on a weaker team, the handling of the two shows how much better he could have been if he had gone to the AHL for a season or two to learn the game before coming to the show. Couture appears to be a lot further along in his development than Sam at this point. Unfortunately, now they can’t send him back to learn the d-side of the game.

      One thing I can’t stand seeing people throwing out is the whole “he’s only X years old” comment in defending any player whose development has stagnated. How come Cogliano or Brule are not cut the same amount of slack?

      You could see from day one that Hall, Eberle, and even Paagarvi were better than the other three young centers/wingers on the team. That is the gist of professional sports – it is the ultimate meat market. Every year there is another group of young players that is fighting for a roster spot with vets, and if they are bigger, faster, stronger, smarter, etc. they will supplant the smaller, weaker, slower, less hockey smart players on the team.

      • totally forgot to mention Logan Couture. Thanks for mentioning him. But I’d put him in the same category as David Perron and Jamie Benn in terms of the fact that he plays for a very strong squad in the sharks. They boast 2 legitimate 50 goal snipers and arguably the best set up man in the league, as well as one of the best puck moving dmen in the league. Logan Couture was developed at a much slower pace because the Sharks could afford to. They had a lot of talent on their squad already so it would have been near impossible for Couture to make the squad back in 2007. However Gagner was on a very weak 2007 Oilers squad and had just come off an amazing performance in the summit series.

        Also it’s not that i’m not cutting Brule/Cogs the same slack. I think at 23 they are both still young and developing. However Gagner has been the most consistent of the three and has 24pts thus far (9G 15A) and is third on the team in scoring.

        I agree that the trio has looked very good and definitely seem to have a higher ceiling than Gagner but the three of them are also much different players than Gagner. Hall and Paajarvi are very dynamic and noticeable players because of their size and speed. Eberle is a wicked offensive player who is a goal scorer/future sniper. Gagner’s scouting report in 2007 lists his greatest strength as his intelligence. He’s not as physically gifted as the trio this year. All I’m saying is that Gagner is still a useful player.

        • ebbandflow

          agree.. ebs is the silent assasin he has puck smarts that remind a guy of gretz (not saying he will ever live up too that) but he is by far the smartest hockey player i have watched wearing oiler silks in years

  • @ Team Couturier:

    the whole situation is not great asset management, but gambling on Ellis and Smith was (IMO) a justifiable risk. I also think picking up Roloson is justifiable if you believe your team has a shot at the Cup, and I don’t think Yzerman would be wrong to believe Tampa Bay’s a contender this season.

    I’m a big fan of careful asset management, but sometimes when the time is right, the manager just has to go for it.

  • ebbandflow

    chorney is not in the same class but tell me how wishart has been traded TWICE san jose then tampa now the islanders he is EXACTLY like plante value wise you gotta know wishart is overrated PLANTE and PETRY are def in his class

  • ebbandflow

    just like the year klowe knew prongs wanted out in january he stocked up and gave mact and prongs a team too work with ./…and like you said what did rollie do that year would you guys not give up that first rounder for the run to the cup that year i know i would every SINGLE TIME

  • @ ebbandflow:

    Wishart’s put up better offensive and defensive numbers than Plante at every level. He’s a #1 AHL defenceman, Plante still gets HS’d on occasion.

    They aren’t close.

    Edit to add: Not that I don’t like Plante, but Wishart’s results are simply better. And getting dealt for Boyle/Roloson isn’t really a crime.

    • @ Jonathan Willis – Regarding the original topic, the one thing you have to consider when looking at some of the 3rd and 4th line players that have been let go is their rumored “off-ice” issues. If the comments I heard from local media people in the past were true, then there were other factors that needed to be considered in having these players moved.

  • ebbandflow

    yep agree but belle and petiot and countless others have better numbers than plante does, doea that make them a better prospect.. dont get me wrong im not ripping on wishart just saying you gotta give up that prospect everytime if that goalie could even steal ONE game in the playoffs nvm a series

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    a) glad at first for 2 seconds.

    b) then realized he played a whopping 3 games in the playoffs (all of them i watched), and he basically got way too overhyped by CBC and others after having some aggressive forechecking in those games.

    thats that dudes story. theres no way in hell anyone cared about that dudes game before that. 62 hits, 27 blocked shots and a 48% faceoff number in the 2009 regular season really isnt giving anyone a boner here is it? his 2007 was far better in blocked shots but really, was that how long they targeted him for? doubt it.

    playoff hype shreds the Oilers into ‘bad’ deals (its not too bad, but bad enough)… again.

    note: in the playoffs he had 5 hits and a 37.5% in the dot. mistake signing.

  • ebbandflow

    If all of the above is as you say, and I think you are right, then when do we start knocking at the door of the real culprits of mediocrity and ineptness? Lowe, Tambellini and Katz(the man who has made the biggest promises of all).

    Draft picks sometimes may not pan out. Free agents and people THEY chose and signed as free agents or traded for are another matter. It begs the obvious question, ‘what the hell were you thinking Tambo’? Fraser is abolutely uselss. He is a pasty-faced newt who should be slogging beer in the stands.

  • ebbandflow

    Jonathan,
    It seems to me the Oil seem to go after players who have failed in other organizations. This trend of bringing players with bad reps goes back to the 80’s. Is that a reasonable observation? Their current line-up and their OKC roster has a fair number of players who have had multiple seasons to succeed in other organizations and now are in the Oiler system. Whoever makes the pro-scouting decisions needs to be looked at in my opinion.

    • ebbandflow

      it all harps back to klowes mantra( hes honestly the smartest man in the league…..)if a player does not fulfill or reach his potential with another organization klowe tries to prove he can bring out bigger and better things for that said player(i really dont even have to provide a list) and YES it may happen once in a blue moon and will work out a couple of times but more often than not there is a reason a organization gives up a player but klowe seems too think that NO matter what the oilers will bring out the best of that player

  • Jerk Store

    @knob

    Feel free to question some of K Lowe’s contracts or even some of Tambellini’s deals. I would point out ST had his hands tied a bit and deserves some credit for what he has done in terms of a rebuild – but we can agree to disagree. But unless you can dig through the cushions of Mom’s couch and come up with 200 mil please don’t be too hasty to run Katz out of town. He has shown he will spend $ and for the most part seems to keep his nose out of the day-to-day stuff. If you are unhappy with where we are, fine, but don’t blame Katz. Would you be happy if he kept signing cheques to Staios and Moreau and brought in a couple “veterans” like Jokinen and Redden? While it stings now I think we are on the right track.

  • @ Knobby:

    Most teams bring in guys who have failed in other organizations, because most organizations tend to keep guys who don’t fail. Detroit’s a fine example of this – Dan Cleary comes to mind immediately, and a few of us recall his days with the Oilers.

    I’m no fan of Oilers management, but I don’t have any problem at all with them giving Fraser a cameo.

    And those players in OKC – Gerber, Belle, Petiot, etc. – are a big part of the reason OKC’s season has been relatively successful.

  • longbottom/P.Biglow

    I’m giving ST a pass right now. I am still working on Lowe’s legacy as a G.M.. He takes over from a burned out Glen Sather in 2000 until 2008. good trades and deals Pronger, Samsinov, Peca, Oates, Penner

    Bad trades/deals Pronger, Horcoff, Pisani, Moreeau, Smyth, Comrie.

    It looks about even to me what went down hill for low was The Eig had his hands tied, the enviornment of players attitudes. Burkie Calling him out publicly. I think through it all it wasn’t all bad he was once considered a top execitive in the NHL. Pronger screwing him over. I would love to see a column on his legacy.

  • longbottom/P.Biglow

    Fraser was definatly worth the risk, I liked it at the time but his play has never come close to the play in Chicago. too bad hopefully we get a third rounder for him.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Congrats to Dwayne and Melissa Roloson, they’ll love Tampa this time of year.

    Steve dropped the ball on Roloson, we’d have been far better off giving Roli that 2 year @ 2.5 per….looks like he may even get another extension with Yzerman and comp.

    • Caveat Emptor

      There are many reasons why players choose to sign with a particular team, money being only one factor.

      I have very good information from an executive within the organization that Roloson was seeking 3 years and 4 million per from the Oilers. In other words, he was willing to sign here, but he wasn’t willing to sign here for the same dollars and term that he signed with the NYI.

      There were also other factors at play that I won’t post publically, but it would be fair to say he rubbed a lot of people the wrong way within the organization.

      I never liked the Khabby signing due to the term and I agree there were better options at the time (including drawing a line in the sand on a term of 3 years only with Khabby). However, what is sometimes discussed online regarding decisions made by NHL management is shortsighted. Just because player “X” signs for a certain money and term with one team doesn’t mean that holds true for all teams.

      The Oilers had to overpay thier own FA just as much as other team’s FA, which is one of the major reasons management finally decided to build from within.

      It will be interesting to track 27 and 83 to see if something has changed and we are able to retain without overcompensating players to stay (assuming they indeed sign one or both to another contract).

      • Quicksilver ballet

        According to Roloson, he wanted a 2 year deal so I wonder if that executive was doing the standard Oiler post-mistake justification.

        “I wanted to try and get a two-year deal, and it was one of the teams that offered a two-year deal,” he said. “That’s it. That’s why.” –
        He said from the beginning that he wanted a 2 year deal (just google Roloson 2 year contract and he’s quoted a dozen times, including saying he wanted one from Edmonton).

        He read the goalie market and clearly understood it far better than Oilers managment.

        • Caveat Emptor

          The source is good, although tight lipped now. The entire Oilers management is much more careful than they used to be.

          I am well aware of Roloson’s comments and I stand by my earlier comments. I am not comfortable saying more than that on a public board.

          That is all from me on this issue.

          • ebbandflow

            if we woulda signed rolie to a multi year we would all be calling for said executives head on a platter… the oils thinking with letting Dwayner walk was justifiable in every sense of the word.. you do NOT sign a 40 year old goalie to a multi year unless hes gonna be the backup sharing his knowledge… hindsight is 20/20

          • ebbandflow

            It would have been infinitely better than signing a slightly younger goaltender who had a significantly worse injury history to a longer term at more money.

            You are right, letting Roloson walk was justifiable.

            Signing Khabibulin in the first hours of free agency to the length and amount they did is not at all justifiable.

            The Oilers were better off signing Roloson to a 2 year deal @ $2.5 mil/season than they were signing Khabibulin to the deal they did. And that’s not revisionist history, that was pretty clear at the time.

          • ebbandflow

            I’m not doubting your access to a good source, but it still sounds like the same thing Oilers management has done in the past.

            They either downplay the individual after they leave or they put out something ridiculous to justify why they had to let them go.

            Why didn’t you sign Roloson?

            Oh, he was asking for .

            It’s good way to kill the topic.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    You win some and you lose some. Just like Jones, has it really hurt us in trying him out? With no plans on being a playoff team I don’t think these types of moves hurt us.

    It is however getting to the point where this team needs to go out and find some proven players to play here. Still do your experiments if you wish, but we need some really bottom 6 guys that can effectively play in their own zone and can kill penalties.

  • I can just imagine the screaming if ST had signed a 40 year old goalie for 2 years.

    Personally I think Craig Anderson would have been worth a look more so than Bulin for 4 years. But that’s just me.

    Its just that 4th year for Bulin that really stings.