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.



    • From your lips to the ears of the Gods JW.

      If the Oil contend for a playoff spot in 11-12 prepare for some excitement and potentially/most likely Wanye Manor being burned to the ground in celebration/protest.

      And also – great win Canada

    • Now you see, I totally agree with this point. My problem comes from the fact that going from the basement to a playoff position in one year is simply too far. I get it that we’re tanking rebuilding, but doesn’t that also mean striving for continuous improvement?

      Seems like our “plan” is to stink the place out for a couple of years, followed by a cup run. You’d think we would be using the time to stock up on valuable second-rung players while we had the chance. As it sits right now, we’ve got probably half a dozen positions that need to be addressed – Fraser being one of them.

  • Fraser was really the 5C in Chi-town. And he was only ever supposed to be 4th line here. No way management was thinking 3rd line while Cogliano was on the squad from a guy who had struggled to crack the top 12 in Hawkville.

  • @ ebbandflow:

    That third point strikes me as much less important than the first two. Since the lockout, really only the Ducks have won the Cup with that kind of goaltender. Ward was a rookie in 2005-06, the Red Wings and ‘Hawks have used replaceable goalies, and Fleury’s hardly a franchise netminder.

    • ebbandflow

      YEP YOU are right thats why i made it third haha …as bad as it sounds tampa just sewed up theyre goaltending with rollie for a middling prospect soo when the time comes too contend i have full confidence that there will be a tender on the market

  • 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

  • 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

  • I think Fraser has been ok. He’s obviously not here to produce offense so I don’t think it’s very fair to expect him to contribute that way. His line has only had like 9 goals scored against them all year, on a team that bleeds goals that is pretty good. My biggest problem with Fraser is how horrible he is in the face-off dot and his lack of a physical game. Still a decent 4th line center IMO.

  • ebbandflow

    I think we all believed that CF would only be a stop gap until our prospects would be ready to step in. I guess it depends on what we get for him at the deadline.

    I don’t think Pitlik or Ladner would be ready to step in next year so what does Tambo do? Try to sign a free agent…not sure how that would put us in a better position with our prospects.

  • Jerk Store

    Jonathan,
    I also thought he was a great signing mostly based on what I saw in Junior with the Rebels. He was a tough honest player and I thought he was an excellent leader. This is the guy who “staged” a fight with his teammates from the WJHC the first game back after winning, when the Rebs played the Getzlaf-led Hitmen. The reason: to send a message that while the WJHC was great it was over and the Rebs were his team. Where did that guy go? Hate to say it but he has shown precious little of the feistiness and push back I expected.

  • ebbandflow

    us as oil fans hold the blue collar players on a pedestal but honestly go through the rosters of the A you will find a stortini and fraser on every team.. we need to focus on the main points 1. number 1 center with size 2. stud dman 3. goalie who will carry this franchise.,… thats our 3 biggest needs everything else can be adressed through free agency trades etc, a player like cogs(25th overall) is someone you flip for a prospect…..anyone else wish the oil coulda got wishart for rollie at the time..wish lowe had the foresight tooo see this team was heading the wrong way…although dont blame him sutter and lowe were both victims of a cup run in a canadian market

  • ebbandflow

    and im pretty sure howard was a second o rthird rounder so that prescibes to the blueprint of drafting a steal in net(hoping roy is the answer) but we also know he could be a bust just AS much as he could be our franchise..

  • ebbandflow

    thats why they need to get more tenders in the system pitton might be a future #2 but i have a hard time buying into him or dubs until renney gives him a sniff…deslauriers might very well be the answer but i think that time has passed with this organization ..he very well might take a team to the playoffs

  • ebbandflow

    and john you wouldnt take fleury or ward on this team right now.i def would ..i would personally never use a first rounder on a tender but you cant argue with either teams success and ward single handedly won carolina a cup so i truly dont know whatthe recipe for success is when it comes to the blue paint. there is soo much proof in the pudding too suggest finding a franchise tender is easier than it looks ….next great undrafted goalie=conz hope the oil throw a two way offer his way

  • ebbandflow

    dont care what the scouts see or say conz has kept the swiss in everygame since hes played take a look a tswiss goalies its common knowledge its not just some flash in the pan… classic case of the robitaille syndrome( something to be said for just getting the job done}

  • Quicksilver ballet

    He must be thinking what the heck am i doing here by now. There’s barely a resemblance of a core of players/leaders we all know will be here more than a season or two down the road. Without this group of on ice leaders, players like Fraser are lost and wasting their time here. We’re atleast two years away from having any need for role players like Fraser.

    Outside of Eberle, Hall and Whitney everyone else is in question. Penner and/or Hemsky could very well be gone sooner rather than later. I would enjoy watching the play die on Gagners stick for another 4 yrs though, how many times are we going to have to watch him get knocked off the puck and have to pick himself up again? I’m blown away by his ability to pick himself up off the ice time after time after time.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Yes sir, the same Sam Gagner that’s tied for 108th place in NHL scoring.

        Third on the 28th place hockey club does have a nice ring to it though, was he the best player without a point during the 2007 world juniors with 0-0-0 in 6 gms played?

    • ebbandflow

      and its time we accept hemmer for what he is a complimentary player on a good team which by the time the kids are ready its exactly what he will be if all goes according to plan,(once again asset management comes into play if not)

  • ebbandflow

    whole heartedly agree with ur evaluation of gags but you gotta realize klowe invested a #6 pick on him and trust me he will have every chance to succeed….its the same thing with horcs were stuck with him and all we as oil fans can do is hope he finds his 30/30 form and play solid defensivly if we can get coutourier on a entry level contract then we have 5 centers with lander pitlick(may develop more as a winger)horcs and gags so dont worry about gags worst case he becomes a victim of asset management