Kurtis Foster did not get rave reviews for his play in 2010-11. He slid down the depth chart, falling behind rookies and castoffs like Theo Peckham, Jeff Petry and Jim Vandermeer in terms of ice-time. Even that overstates the case; in terms of even-strength ice-time Foster was used just a little more than Taylor Chorney and Jason Strudwick on a per-game basis.
Does this past season reflect Foster’s real value? I have some doubts.
Hockey commentary and analysis tends to emphasize recent results over prior history. It’s the reason a player like Andrew Cogliano gets just barely more than half the money that Gilbert Brule gets despite the fact that career-wise the former has been more impressive than the latter.
I’m not sure that this uneven weighting toward recent results always gives us the best picture of what a player is going to be like going forward. I’ve always operated under the assumption that it’s better to defer to a long-term track record than a single season sample, unless there is a reason (such as serious injury) to believe a player has significantly declined in a short period of time.
That’s why I still think that Kurtis Foster could play a valuable role, either for the Edmonton Oilers or for another club if they opt to trade him. His track record is significantly better than his results in 2010-11.
Foster’s Offensive Track Record
|Season||EV TOI||PP TOI||EV PTS||PP PTS||EVPTS/60||PPPTS/60|
The chart above shows a staggering drop in Foster’s offensive performance this season. His performance last season was a more than 50% drop-off from his average output over the preceding five seasons, and his power play offense dropped off by nearly one-third. While we might look at the power play number and chalk it up to the Oilers’ anaemic special teams, there is no similarly easy explanation for the drop in even-strength offense. Not only were the majority of Foster’s numbers recorded with the ultra-defensive Minnesota Wild, but he was given a lot of offensive zone starts this year with Edmonton.
Similarly, we can’t blame the decline in offense on Foster’s catastrophic injury in 2008-09, given that 2009-10 was the best offensive season of his career.
Obviously, offense isn’t the only part of Foster’s game that deserves scrutiny. He was at times problematic defensively this season, but I suspect teams will forgive that if he can provide above-average scoring punch on the power play and at even-strength.
Can Foster rebound? It’s difficult to know without understanding exactly why he struggled this season, but his career to date suggests that he is a much better offensive player than he showed this season, and I would guess that we will see a big spike in his scoring next season.