This is Ryan Whitney. Despite injury, he is in fact the Oilers first-half MVP. The Oilers have copious hope hidden under a cloud of win-loss misery. The mid-season report card offers us wonderful clues about the future. Some are staying, others not so much.
In doing a report card, the traditional A+-F route always seemed a little too school for me. Instead, I’d like to place dollar values on each player. If we started a hockey Rotoleague today and placed the cap for a single player at $100, that would represent an A+. An F would be less than $10. The dollar value given to each player is based on their season only and not their long term value. Anyway, without further explanation (that’s how I roll) here are the grades for the 10-11 Oilers.
- D Ryan Whitney $84. 35gp, 2-25-27 +13. Whitney is having an impact season on a last place team. It happens. According to Hockey-reference the Oilers are a -23 hockey team at this time. If the Oilers ran three pairings at equal minutes, that would mean the average Oiler blue has a -8 (or so) number. You know those Pierre Mcguire whammo monsters? Whitney’s a 3-wood better than them. Exceptional season.
- L Dustin Penner $75. 41gp, 12-15-27 -6. The big man continues to deliver offense no matter the linemates. Dustin Penner has a value contract at this time and some of us thought that was impossible the day Kevin Lowe signed him. The MacT rips are a distant bell, and most of us feel a sense of calm when we see #27 jump over the boards. A fine NHL player.
- R Ales Hemsky $75. 28gp, 9-15-24 +2. Hemsky would be in contention for the team MVP honors save for yet another injury. We are reaching a point now where there should be some concern about 83’s ability to stay healthy for an entire season. Missing 13 games in a lost season is one thing, but if the Oilers can’t rely on him then signing that long term (and expensive) contract has to give the management group some pause. I’d still attempt to sign him to a long term deal. He’s a very valuable hockey player.
- R Jordan Eberle $71. 37gp, 9-14-23 -4. Top Calder candidate from the Oilers, he was in a slump before the injury but remained a useful player. That’s an impressive sign of maturity at such a young age. Coach Renney must love the guy, he learns quickly and makes excellent decisions on the ice (and not just for a rookie, he makes the right play a lot. A LOT). If he gets anywhere near 50 points I think he’ll be a strong contender to win the Calder. Wide, wide range of skills.
SOLID AS A ROCK
- C Sam Gagner $67. 41gp, 10-16-26 -6. Sam Gagner is a perfect example of that clock in every fan’s head. When a player reaches the NHL (for our team or another) the clock starts ticking in terms of expectation. We "expect" a player to turn a corner after two or three years and when they don’t we get impatient. Completely human thing to do. Sam Gagner is 4 months younger than Logan Couture, but our brains are set up to be impressed by Couture and bewildered by Gagner. Sam Gagner is progressing and he is going to be a very good NHL player (barring injury) for a long time. He is smaller (5.11, 191) than you’d like from your #1 center and he does get knocked off the puck too much. However, Sam Gagner can make things happen and is having a solid year. He’s 21, folks. 21.
- D Tom Gilbert $66. 41gp, 5-8-13 -12. If we use the median plus minus discussed in the Whitney paragraph then we can assume Gilbert is a little below average (-4 from the median). He’s faced tough assignments (proof Qual comp via Desjardins here) and this blue is horribly overmatched every night. For those reasons and for his offense I rate him as the second best Oiler defenseman this season.
- L Taylor Hall $65. 41gp, 12-11-23 -8. Watching him adjust to the giant leap that is the NHL has been a pleasure. Last night, another NHL goalie was exposed to the rocket that is his wrist shot and all over the league there’s a growing scouting report on covering #4. He’s getting muscled out of plays along the wall and taking more than his share of crosschecks. That’s a tell, folks. He’s on the radar, game 40.
- C Shawn Horcoff $62. 24gp, 7-8-15 +4. Horcoff would be a team MVP candidate if he’d remained healthy. As it happened he missed almost half of the opening schedule (17 games) in what has to be something of a surprise. Horcoff has been extremely healthy since the lockout ended, playing in 90% of his team’s game since the lockout (heading into this season). His value is proven every night #10 is out of the lineup, as the enormous hole at center is the talk of the town at this time.
- G Devan Dubnyk $57. 13gp, 2.78 .918. Dubnyk has been so impressive the entire OilersNation is wondering why he doesn’t play more. Dubnyk’s SP would rank him well inside the league’s top 20 if he’d played enough to qualify. As it is, his .918SP ranks 3rd among rookies who have played 10 or more games. He might be that elusive first round goalie selection who ends up being a quality starter.
- L Ryan Jones $55 41gp, 10-3-13 -5. Jones was basically the replacement for Curtis Glencross on the Oiler roster. His is a terrific value contract. Those 10 goals are all at even-strength (he leads the team, one in front of Hall) and the guy looks dangerous no matter who he is playing with every night. We have to come to grips with something here: hockey players–when they’re 26 years old–have no extra gear and their development time is done. So, in order for Jones to be a true 20-goal man, we have to establish this was his level of ability and that the problem had more to do with opportunity. There is evidence that he could score goals (60 in his final 84 NCAA games) and he ripped through the AHL (13 goals in 25 games) before making an NHL appearance. Ryan Jones might be an actual NHL player. I think he’s worth another contract.
- D Theo Peckham $51. 38gp, 2-5-7 -4. A large number of Oiler employees should take credit for Theo Peckham’s development into a most useful player, and a legion of hockey people who helped before his draft day. Peckham himself has worked long and hard to become the player he is today. Along with those three gifted forwards–and with Omark and others on the way–this season is also about a rugged blueliner who takes no prisoners and makes the simple play. The Oilers could use another, and another after that.
ALL’S FINE STILL
- W Magnus Pääjärvi $45. 39gp, 4-10-14 E. The fact that Hall and Eberle are having top drawer rookie seasons somewhat hinders our view of Pääjärvi. Seen through the eyes of the trio, the young Swede may appear to be behind the curve. I’d argue it’s more like caught in the middle. I think we get a better view about the three prospects when looking at their 5×5/points-per-60 minutes (Eberle 1.77; Hall 1.56; MP 1.34). He’s shown flashes of brilliance and an idea about how to play without the puck and should be considered a major part of the future. His dollar value is low because 14 points isn’t a lot of offense for 10 hours of NHL play. It should not be construed as a comment on his potential.
- D Jim Vandermeer $40. 26gp, 1-4-5 +1. Started very poorly but picked up his game and had a strong run before getting injured. A player like Jim Vandermeer has value to NHL teams because they can help break in the kids and offer some insurance for the coach every shift. I very much doubt Vandermeer will be an Oiler after the deadline and despite the injury and poor start I suspect Edmonton fans will be happy with the return.
- C Andrew Cogliano $35. 41gp, 4-9-13 -12. Andrew Cogliano turned pro in fall 2007; Tom Renney is his third NHL coach. It might be a blessing for the young speedster as the new coach seems to have found something in Cogliano that the others (certainly Quinn) missed. Cogliano is averaging 2 minutes a night on the PK for the first time in his career. His offense (or lack of, 1.23 5×5/60) is going to get him traded but Cogliano is a guy who is going to get chances with other teams.
NOT HAPPY NOW
- D Ladislav Smid $20 35gp, 0-5-5 -10. Facing mid-level competition and the same calibre teammates, Smid’s relCorsi/Competition numbers ranks 4/6 among the regulars (the original 7 minus Strudwick). He does not impact the game offensively and is becoming an increasing concern in terms of injury. I don’t know where the Oilers go from here with regard to Smid. He’s certainly young enough to have an NHL career.
- R Gilbert Brule $10. 34gp, 6-2-8 -7. The first goal of this Oiler season belonged to Gilbert Brule. Since then, it’s been a difficult time for the young man (he’s still only 24). Brule has a terrific one-timer and a heavy shot, plus he plays a physical game (74 hits on the season). The difficulty comes with all of the other aspects of the game. Brule is on his second organization and unless he can rip off a hot streak (Brule is injured currently) he might be on team number three next fall.
- R Zack Stortini $10. 27gp, 0-3-3 -3. One thing I’ll remember from this season: the look on Zack’s face opening night as he was introduced with the other healthy scratches. Stortini is in fact better than some of the other forwards, but you can’t impact the game from the pressbox. I don’t think he’ll be back a year from now.
- D Kurtis Foster $9. 39gp, 3-8-11 -8. So far, the Kurtis Foster bet is a bad one. He is not alone, but he has been a severe disappointment at a position of great need for the Oilers. Foster signed a two-year deal and the hope for both sides was for him to emerge as a solid top 4 option. The most damning thing I can say about Kurtis Foster is that his coach considers him the least trustworthy EV defender on the roster (save Taylor Chorney was has played in one game).
- C Colin Fraser $9. 41gp, 2-1-3 -2. speeds has mentioned a few times that he thought the Fraser signing was a good bet and I agree with that point. Fraser did play 4line minutes with Chicago a year ago and is young enough to move up the depth chart. It should have been a good match but it wasn’t, owing to all kinds of issues (including performance, teammates, etc). Fraser has an entire half season to improve and his most important areas of focus should be PK and the FO circle. He gets a failing mark at this time.
- L JF Jacques $5. 19gp, 2-0-2 -1. There was a time when I thought the big Coke Machine would have a career but he doesn’t have enough skill at this point in time to be a factor. All those back problems have made Jacques a one dimensional (stick optional) player and unless he’s still recovering from the back then he’s unlikely to have a career in the NHL.
- R Steve MacIntyre $4. 11gp, 0-1-1 E. It’s tough to pick on a guy who plays 4 minutes a game but MacIntyre is not an NHL player. He is more than qualified for the role he’s been given and I’ll leave it there.
- D Jason Strudwick $4. 20gp, 0-0-0 -8. It’s been a helluva run for Strudwick. Many players with greater natural talent have been left behind over the years and he’s carved out a niche for himself in the big leagues. Another lost step suggests he’s near the end, and a plethora of HS’s with so many rookies is an overwhelming tell.
- G Nikolai Khabibulin $1. 28gp, 3.47 .894. A poor first half combined with injury makes NK a shaky bet moving forward. Among NHL regulars, he ranks 40th of 46 NHL goalies in SP. I know the contract rolls on, but he looks done based on performance.
JURY IS STILL OUT, BUT WE’RE HOPEFUL
- L Linus Omark Incomplete. 12gp, 1-5-6 -3. Showed outstanding skill and worked hard. I hope he gets all 41 games in the second half to show what he can do at the NHL level..
- C Ryan O’Marra Incomplete. 9gp, 1-2-3 E. Had a solid 9 games in the NHL in this season’s first half. I remain doubtful that he can put up enough offense to play in the top 9F of a successful team, but he showed some things while with the big club.
- L Liam Reddox Incomplete. 4gp, 0-2-2 -1. The biggest tell so far is that the coach is already using him for 2.5 minutes a night on the PK. He’s averaging a couple of shifts a game and doing what he always does: forecheck like a demon and play balls out.
- D Jeff Petry Incomplete 6gp, 0-1-1 -1. Big defender with size and wheels? Yes, please. Petry has impressed in his first look-see and I don’t know that the organization can afford to send him back to the AHL. Defensemen ALWAYS get sent back, so that’s an early tell if he remains with the big club.
- D Shawn Belle Incomplete. 5gp, 0-0-0 -2. Belle played well during his time with the Oilers but struggled in his final game before being sent down. That may mean we don’t see him again this season.
- G Martin Gerber Incomplete 2gp, 1.50 .950. Lordy he played well (winning twice) while with the Oilers. He’s earned another shot although it may not come.
- D Taylor Chorney Incomplete. 1gp, 0-0-0 -1. Credit to him, he played well enough in the AHL to earn a callup to the show. Seemed to have more jam along the boards and in front of the net and can move the puck well.