The Cogs Decision

The first time I saw Andrew Cogliano play hockey, it looked |(to me) like the Oilers had another Butch Goring type on their hands. A Ralph Backstrom, Davey Keon type: undersized speed demon who could forecheck you to death, had a motor with one gear (overdrive) and enough offense to be considered a legit top 9 forward. A number of coaches and 4 years later, he may have arrived. Is it too late? 

To say that Tom Renney found something in Andrew Cogliano is an understatement. It’s all over #13’s stats. Consider for a moment his career PK time on ice per game by coach:

  • 07-08: 48 seconds under MacT
  • 08-09: 35 seconds under MacT
  • 09-10: 44 seconds under Quinn
  • 10-11: 2 minutes and 43 seconds under Renney

Now, it isn’t all about coach Renney. Craig MacTavish used Cogliano more than most rookies back in 2007, so he probably recognized that the kids’ footspeed would be a major PK asset if developed properly.

Let’s take a closer look, shall we? 

According to Gabrield Desjardins behind the net dot ca, Cogliano’s 4×5 numbers look like this:

  • Led Oiler centermen in TOI
  • Led Oiler centermen in CorsiRel by a wide margin
  • Toughest zone start among Oiler centermen

Cogliano has some things that make him less than ideal for the role of #1 PK center. He lost 126 of 220 own-zone faceoffs at 4×5 (Jordan Eberle was the only Oiler center to break even, 50/50 in 48 sorties).

Along with that information comes the anecdotal evidence that Renney sees something in this player. In late January, coach Renney gushed about his speedy center:

  • "I’m really happy with his game, I’m really happy with his growth as a two-way player. For the most part over the last four or five games they’ve gone out against the other team’s best line. That’s not easy to go out and put up points. "I’m really happy for Andrew and the growth of his game. What you’re seeing now, because he has a foundation of what to do off the puck and with it in transition, is points starting to come."

This quote (and others from February through the end of the season) are very important indicators. When the Edmonton Oilers are sitting in a room discussing 2011-12, Andrew Cogliano has an inside champion in coach Renney. What it means is this: Steve Tambellini’s list of trade assets is likely to include an incumbent center. The position needs help badly and is unlikely to be vastly improved next season (especially in the faceoff circle) if the club keeps Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner.

Here are some numbers to compare last year’s group:

5×5 points-per 60

  1. Sam Gagner 1.91
  2. Shawn Horcoff 1.47
  3. Andrew Cogliano 1.33
  4. Gilbert Brule 0.96
  5. Colin Fraser 0.48

Gagner’s number is the only quality total in the group, ranking him inside the league’s top 40 totals overall for centermen. This despite playing for an addled offensvie team.

5×5 Qual Comp

  1. Shawn Horcoff 0.57
  2. Gilbert Brule 0.23
  3. Andrew Cogliano 0.22
  4. Sam Gagner -0.13
  5. Colin Fraser -0.86

Renney ran Horcoff against the toughs as much as he could, but it looks like Andrew Cogliano was part of the secondary solution. There have been discussions about the accuracy of this year’s Qual Comp numbers, but they are the best available and by eye Fraser wasn’t being pushed into that role and Gagner’s line was the more offensive (implying that the coach would be trying to get 89’s line a favorable matchup). Either way, it represents an increase in difficulty for Cogliano and a good sign for his future.

What does it mean?

After watching Andew Cogliano these four seasons, I think most of us would be open to the idea of dealing him for a more effective 2-way player. The fact that Tom Renney is the head coach and likes what Cogliano brings means that the Edmonton Oilers are likely to look elsewhere to upgrade the position.

Since Sam Gagner has shown solid offensive ability and Shawn Horcoff’s contract and skill set mean he’s here for the duration, it makes sense that Colin Fraser and Gilbert Brule are probably on the outside looking in. The Oilers can add a quality center who can help on the faceoffs and special teams, and perhaps share EV minutes in the group. Andrew Cogliano may have played well enough to force the issue and change the off-season plans.

The most likely trade assets this year are the 19th overall pick (in order to trade up), defensemen Ladislav Smid, Taylor Chorney and Tom Gilbert; Ales Hemsky, Gilbert Brule and Colin Fraser. At this point, I don’t think Andrew Cogliano or Sam Gagner is on the list. 

And that my friends, is a surprise.  

  • Mitch

    Well, if we drafted a faceoff winning Couturier, that would help.
    However, even with Hoppy coming in, I think you may see the Oilers eventually slide Cogs to the wing to become our new Pisani, as some have mentioned above.
    If Gags and Hoppy learn to win faceoffs, you would look like this in 5 years:
    RNH
    Gags
    Horc
    Big UFA that wins faceoffs
    And that would not be too bad of a center position. A bit small, but so is that Sedin fellow, and he hasnt done too badly to date.

  • Mitch

    I wonder if a Gags/Cogs for Bogosian-type deal could get done. We have a glut of small speedy “centermen” and a shortage of big defenders. Even a lesser ranked defenseman than that. I hear Chicago has loads of cap sitting on their D, maybe they’d move us Hjalmarsson for that?

    Hall Gags Eberle
    MP Horc Hemmer
    Jones RNH Omark
    Hartik Omarra Cogs
    JFJ/Fraser/Mac/Brule/Van De Velde – glut of forwards

  • Shapeman

    Did nobody else notice that Gags was starting win a fair number of FO’s before he got hurt there. I remember doing my hockey pool and looking at the faceoffs stats for the last 5 or so games before he got hurt and being surprised he was over 50% for all of them. Should we expect this going into next year? Not realistically but it may be an upward arrow for Gagner for next year.

    P.S. Any thoughts LT?

  • OilFan

    I don’t think it should be Cogs or Gagner. If that is the case make them have a best of 5 faceoff challenge loser gets dealt. ~Plus Sam doesn’t want to play in Edmonton.~

  • CanaDave

    Horcoff also has a NMC in his contract, at least according to what I’ve just read about his contract on CapGeek.

    The part I like about this article the most is LT mentioning that Cogs has played for 3 head coaches in 4 NHL seasons. Same for Gagner, Smid, Gilbert, and the rest of the young core that’s around here and I really think that has been understated when talking about the development of all of these guys. Maybe if these young guys hadn’t had to spend most of their pro careers to this point having to learn new systems every year, their development would be further along, though that’s pure speculation on my part.

    Cogs definitely deserves another year to prove himself, unless Lander legitimately beats him out for a 3C spot in training camp. If not, Lander should be brought along just like Omark was last year and not rushed into a situation he’s not ready for. Cogs can (hopefully) only get better at taking FO’s with more NHL experience, and if he hasn’t shown improvement by the trade deadline or the end of next season and Renney doesn’t think Cogs could be a 2nd/3rd line Winger who is on the first team PK, that’s when I’d accept his being moved, once he’s been given a fair chance to succeed in a defined role.

  • Edmonton shouldn’t change their centers this year.

    Give Gagner & Cogliano every opportunity to provide Tambellini the clarity he needs to make a decision going forward.

    I don’t like the Oilers chances going up against Sedin/Kesler, Thornton,Couture/Pavelski, Toews/Sharp, Duchene/Stastny, Datsyuk/Zetterberg, ext ext

    Sam Gagner is a broke man’s #2 Center and moving him to RW with the Oilers isn’t a good option.

    Hemsky?, Eberle, Omark, Gagner = no hits via RW

    Sam Gagner will be a productive NHL’er I just see him as the odd guy out before 2012-13.

    Horcoff/Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Lander would be my centers by 2012-13.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      I think you are way overstating the importance of the center position.

      Now, of course having strength down the middle is great, and center is arguably the most important position, however it isn’t like the NHL is “best center wins”.

      Heck, look at your own list. One of the groupings that you listed that you didn’t like the Oilers chances against was the second worst team in the league.

      Also, Boston has some decent centers, but nothing spectacular.

      Build a good, deep, balanced team with a couple of stars mixed in and you’ll win hockey games.

      • (Only semi-related to what you were saying) I was just giving a quick look into the importance of centres to winning a Stanley Cup so I looked at Conn Smythe winners. In 45 years the award has gone to a Centre 16 times overall, more than any other position. Also, a C has won in each of the last 3 seasons. Interestingly, there have only been 2 occasions where the C WASNT drafted by the team he won it for (Nieuwendyk and Goring).

        It would seem that if the Oilers could target one position to be deep at in order to win a Cup, it should be Centre. Of course, that doesnt mean they shouldnt aim to be well balanced.

  • Chris.

    I’m watching the Boston-Tampa game right now… I just don’t see how Cogliano can ever become an effective shutdown player in the playoffs. Showing some jam as a little guy and winning a puck battle or two during the regular season is a far far cry from being able to shutdown elite players in the absolute WAR that is the playoffs. Cogliano just doesn’t have the tools.

    (Reddox to Cogliano) “Hey Cogs, you take Lucic, I’ll worry about Horton! Just take him to the Boards… Don’t even worry about the puck!”

    “Yeah sure Red. I’d have Krejci too but my back is still sore from my game 7 shutdown performance against Joe Thornton! Dude almost beat me to the net off the draw twice till I was able to re-establish contain.”

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        No doubt.

        Mike Peca was considerd one of the best defensive forwards of his generation and he was almost the exact same size as Cogs.

        3 time Selke winner Datsyuk is only a bit bigger.

        • Chris.

          Maybe if Cogs played a little more like Peca the Oilers wouldn’t be in the NHL’s basement for two years running… And it’s not just his size: it’s strength, balance, decison making… If Minesota forwards are dishing Cogliano minuses on a Tueday in November with such ease: how will things look in May against elite franchises? IMO, Cogliano still has a really, really long way to go to be a key component of a championship team. Just saying other little guys have won the Selke doesn’t mean our little guy will. C’mon. You gotta up your game.

          • Chris.

            I wouldn’t suggest being small is an issue if the player was getting the job done. However, when a player is struggling, it’s fair game to speculate as to why. Maybe if Cogs had a longer reach he could cover more passing lanes. Maybe if he had more strength he’d win more draws. On the other hand, maybe if he read the play better his diminutive frame would be completely irrelevent… (As seems to be the gist of what your saying) but he doesn’t, and it isn’t.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ Chris. Hey I agree with your conclusion, that Cogs has a long way to go before he’ll be a solid contributor on a Cup contender. I just don’t think his size (lack of) has much to do with it.

    • Lowetide

      You missed my point but Indiana Jones references it above.

      The last winger to win the Conn Smythe was Claude Lemieux in 94/95.

      Since then, centres have won 7 times.

      This, despite the fact that there are twice as many wingers as centres.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    It is time for Cogliano to be gone, and replaced with a competent 3rd line centre, something which Cogliano is not.

    There is also no place for Colgiano on wing with Hall, Paajarvi, Hemsky, and Eberle, even if he could play wing, but he is an even worse at wing than at centre.

    There just isn’t a hockey player there as a component for a good hockey team.

    Please quit procrastinating on this decision, Tambo. A competent experience 3rd line centre to upgrade on Cogliano NOW.

  • Little Buttcheeks

    Cogliano is a gamer. He somehow survives the rapture that occurs to this team every season and plays 82 games. He also is the best PKer on our current roster. I would bring him back and hopefully convert him to the wing. I believe that he is better there as he doesn’t have to carry the puck up the ice as much (he overskates the little black thing whenever he has it for more than a few seconds). Add a third line center and maybe we can have an effective checking line for the first time since the cup run.

  • paul wodehouse

    LT… you say “…The most likely trade assets this year are the 19th overall pick (in order to trade up),defensemen Ladislav Smid…”

    …you go on to mention others that come in your cross-hairs for trading up, but why is Smid first? seemingly always Smid…he’s been on the trade block almost as many times in years as he’s been here and yet survives…is it because no one wants him? the package that includes him isn’t sweet enough? we got him as a raw type, year and a half as a pro…we’ve stuck with him, he’s actually Huddy coached for the most part and that’s not so bad…so what is the deal, why do we want to trade him out? especially when we may be wanting to move up to get ‘yet another’ centre…IMO he’s a solid dman, feisty, grittier as seasons go by (and ok i didn’t say smarter re: the Avery suckering thing) but certainly large enough to be, at worst, a #5 guy. So much time’s been invested in him yes? (almost 7years including what the Ducks put into him) and we seem to always put him up on the block. Don’t we want veteran presence there when the likes of Toubert Marincin and Petry actually ‘make it’?

    Whatever happened to NOT drafting a dman because they take so long to develop when we’ve really developed this kid for this long, unless we will NOT ever draft another dman…jus sayin’

    • Lowetide

      In an ideal world the Oilers could keep Smid. He’d be completely capable of establishing himself on the 2nd pairing (with, say Petry) and the Oilers would have a value contract and a position filled for years to come.

      However, improving the Oilers from 30th place means some assessment. Khabibulin must go, the blueline needs reworking and I think the C’s need a tweak or two. Plus a smart 2-way winger.

      Anyway, if you want to upgrade the top 4D from Whitney, Gilbert, Peckham and Smid, you have Jeff Petry as an option but nothing else in house.

      The Oilers could pick Adam Larsson, but I don’t know that they will. Beyond that, they’re going to have to enter the trade market. In order to get something of value you have to give up something of value.

      My guess is Smid has solid value. That’s my reasoning behind suggesting him. You could trade Ryan Whitney instead, or one of the kids (Petry or Peckham) but imo Smid (and Gilbert) are more likely candidates.

      • D-Man

        Good points, Lowetide… But I can’t see us dealing Smid straight across for anything more than a 2nd round draft pick or one stellar AHL prospect. He doesn’t have enough ‘oomph’ to warrant a straight across trade to upgrade our top 4 defense. I’m guessing that if we do make any deal with Smid involved – it would include the 19th pick..

        Personally, I can’t see any team biting on Smid with his neck and back issues… If there is a deal to be made it will be the 19th pick and Gagner to move into the top 10 for this year’s draft… Or Hemsky for a top 10 pick… Otherwise, I can’t see Tambo having enough bullets in his gun to land anything else…

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Seems like the positive Oilers fan perspective often entails ‘Hey they’re small, limited in their range of abilities, and have shown only modest growth in four years, but they have good attitudes and they try hard’. This Is Not Equalling Cup.

    Small: Gagner Brule Cogs Eberle Omark Reddox

    Mid size and not overly physical: Horc, Hemmer, Pajaarvi, Fraser

    Mid size with potential to play a hard physical game: Hall, Hartikainen, Lander- one potential star who shouldn’t be going out of his way to get hurt, one guy who showed well in a brief stint, and a guy who has yet to set foot in North America

    Mid to ‘plus size’: Pitlick, Hamilton, VV- all mysteries right now when it comes to potential robust physical play in the NHL

    True plus size: Smac- other than punching, quite bad

    Gagner is a definite keeper for another year, Eberle is a no-brainer, Omark definitely earned a long look on the big club, Reddox goes to OKC…one of Brule and Cogs must go, and Brule will have little value with his injury/condition/whatever it is. This at C next year:

    Gags
    Horc
    Cogs
    Lander

    Equals 82 games of Pain.

    • justDOit

      I’ll admit that he’s not overly physical, but MPS is 6’3″, 200 lbs and still developing. Hardly a ‘mid-size’ guy, unless you compare him to Smac, who isn’t a hockey player.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        It’s hard to find clear cut info on the size of the average NHL forward, but this site has done some research as of Oct 2010:

        http://www.pensionplanpuppets.com/2010/10/15/1751273/sizing-up-the-nhl-by-height-weight-and-age

        Average NHL forward height: 6’1″
        Average NHL forward weight: 202lbs

        Before I saw any actual stats (you’re right it was off the top of my head), I was putting my ‘mid size’ zone in the 5.11-6.2 range for height, with 190-210 being about right for weight. Seeing these stats I was pretty close. I was actually being abit generous. As for the players I listed above, whose categorisation you might be calling into question:

        Pitlick 6’2″ 195
        Hamilton 6’2″ 206
        VV 6’2″ 190

        These guys should be considered mid size, not mid to plus

        Paajarvi: 6’3″ 200

        Paajarvi, if he gains 10-15 pounds, would creep into the bottom edge of plus size.

        Eberle is an inch taller than I thought, but would have to gain considerable weight to make mid size.

        JFJ would be considered barely plus size, and was not included as he is so awful.

        According to the website above, our average forward size is higher than the league average, but I’m sure if you took out JFJ, O’Marra (also not very good) and Smac it would drop to just below.

        So, TigerUnderGlass, I may have been out an inch here or 10 lbs there, but the central point stands: we can’t afford to carry this kind of roster, and small guys like Cogs may have to go rather than being micro-managed, retrained, and massaged into merely adequate workable roles. And when we let them go it won’t entirely be there fault- the way they’ve been developed is partly to blame.

  • paul wodehouse

    D-Man wrote:”…I’m guessing that if we do make any deal with Smid involved – it would include the 19th pick…”

    good guess, LT wrote it in the piece.

    • D-Man

      He mentioned both Smid and the draft pick as separate assets, not as a package… I’m somewhat surprised that he’s taken both Cogs and Gagner off the trade list.. As much as I agree that we need to find a better upgrade that Fraser or Brule as our number 4 center, I can’t see us making any improvements with both players on our roster.. Perhaps if Cogs could play on the wing; then yes – but even with RNH – we’d still be way too small down the middle…

  • D-Man

    Reddox, unlike Tambo could see he didn’t fit in. Reddox made his move, instead of waiting for Mr. Dithers to get around to the decision during the last cuts in training camp.

  • Muji 狗

    13’s not a real pivot – or at least he’s not a useful one – but I’d be willing to keep him as the third line RW just as long as he doesn’t cost too much and he’s actually a good PKer.