Measuring Up Against The Finalists: Edmonton Oilers Edition

A few days ago, we took a snapshot of the current edition of the Edmonton Oilers, and compared it to the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. We did this because the ultimate goal of any rebuilding program is a championship win, and it can be useful to compare just to see which areas the team needs to work on, and which areas can be regarded as relative strengths.

However, another team came within one win of the Stanley Cup, and that team is among those the Oilers will have to compete with to emerge from the Western Conference. Therefore, it probably makes sense to run a similar check against the Vancouver Canucks.

As previously, what I propose to do here is a limited comparison – a comparison of scoring by forwards and defensemen on each team, at both five-on-five and on the power play. This is naturally a limited picture, as scoring totals don’t take into account other things that a defensive ace like Ryan Kesler or Manny Malhotra does, and doesn’t take into account penalty-killing. I’ve chosen to minimize my focus on those areas, because they are difficult to quantify, but that does not mean they should be ignored altogether.

Additionally, I have (again) left out the goaltending comparison. Roberto Luongo had an inconsistent playoffs – superb against the Sharks and Predators, hit and miss against the Blackhawks and Bruins – but he’s still a far better goaltender than Nikolai Khabibulin as the latter nears the end of his career. Any playoff team needs at least a decent goaltending performance, and that’s something the Oilers will need to address at some point.

Players below are ranked by their place in the line-up (based on ice-time and games played) rather than by scoring totals.

Up The Middle

 

Vancouver EVPTS/60 PP PTS/60 Edmonton EVPTS/60 PP PTS/60
Henrik Sedin 2.78 7.04 Shawn Horcoff 1.47 4.99
Ryan Kesler 2.00 5.91 Sam Gagner 1.91 2.51
Maxim Lapierre 0.86 Andrew Cogliano 1.33
Manny Malhotra 1.48 Colin Fraser 0.48

As was the case with Boston, the gap between the Oilers and the Canucks at centre is highly noticeable.

Once again, neither Gagner nor Horcoff’s performance would have been good enough to place them on the top two lines in Vancouver, Andrew Cogliano is in close to the right place on the depth chart, and Colin Fraser is not an everyday player.

The difference in faceoff ability is also worth noting. The Oilers struggles in the circle are well documented, while Vancouver’s three primary centres all fared well – Henrik Sedin, at 52.0% was simply good, while Kesler (57.3%) and Malhotra (61.7%) put up elite numbers.

Bottom line: The Oilers are outclassed; they have three NHL-calibre centres, but their top-two lag behind the Canucks and the guy at the bottom had a miserable year.

On The Wings

 

Vancouver EVPTS/60 PP PTS/60 Edmonton EVPTS/60 PP PTS/60
Daniel Sedin 3.12 8.08 Ales Hemsky 2.88 3.47
Alex Burrows 2.76 0.84 Taylor Hall 1.78 3.27
Mason Raymond 2.06 3.77 Jordan Eberle 1.79 3.92
Chris Higgins 1.95 0.67 Magnus Paajarvi 1.36
Mikael Samuelsson 1.80 6.26 Linus Omark 1.78 3.35
Jannik Hansen 1.64 Ryan Jones 1.38
Raffi Torres 1.62 Gilbert Brule 0.96 1.17
Tanner Glass 0.95 Jean-Francois Jacques 0.85
Victor Oreskovich 1.43 Steve MacIntyre 0.50

A look at the Oilers’ roster makes it abundantly clear that their strength is on the wings, but aside from Ales Hemsky it seems clear they have some distance to go to match the Canucks.

Let’s start at the bottom. Gilbert Brule’s season wasn’t good enough. Jean-Francois Jacques doesn’t bring enough offense (or defense, though that’s another story) for the role he plays, and Steve MacIntyre’s abilities in one category are superb and in every other well below NHL-quality. Ryan Jones would probably be competing for the 12th/13th forward role on the Canucks’ roster. I suspect Magnus Paajarvi would have been a part-time AHL/NHL player, as his abilities this season wouldn’t earn him enough ice-time on a contender to be ideal for his development.

The other three kids – Hall, Eberle and Omark – are good enough for NHL duty on offense. Hall’s numbers here undersell the season he had (the drought to start the year hurts him) while Eberle’s defensive play is a plus. Even so, it’s a good bet that both kids would have been in a dog-fight for top-six minutes with guys like Raymond, Higgins and Samuelsson, probably winning most of the time but shuttled further down the lineup during bad games or cold stretches.

Hemsky alone would undoubtedly be a top-line player on Vancouver.

As for the power play numbers, the less said the better.

Bottom line: Hemsky’s an elite talent, and the Oilers have some good pieces that are making strides, but they don’t have the kind of two-way veteran presence the Canucks enjoyed.

The Back End

 

Vancouver EVPTS/60 PP PTS/60 Edmonton EVPTS/60 PP PTS/60
Kevin Bieksa 0.99 1.60 Ryan Whitney 1.58 2.91
Dan Hamhuis 0.82 4.22 Tom Gilbert 0.61 2.63
Alex Edler 0.95 5.82 Ladislav Smid 0.43
Christian Ehrhoff 0.82 5.86 Jeff Petry 0.21 1.67
Sami Salo 0.59 2.40 Theo Peckham 0.70
Aaron Rome 0.22 Jim Vandermeer 0.71
Andrew Alberts 0.75 Kurtis Foster 0.55 2.93

Vancouver’s defense is an interesting study in the by-committee approach – there’s no franchise defenseman in the group, but any of their top-four guys could handle top-pairing minutes if they needed to.

On the positive side, I think the bottom end of the Oilers’ depth chart has some nice comparable pieces – Vancouver’s playoff depth guys (Rome, Alberts, Tanev) weren’t especially impressive and of course Keith Ballard was scratched most of the time, so it’s possible to imagine a guy like Jim Vandermeer playing a depth role in that group.

Ryan Whitney’s even-strength offense stands out here, but the rest of the Oilers’ group is lacking. I think it is probably fair to say that Ladislav Smid would have slotted into the number six role on the Canucks’ blue-line, and it’s fair to ask if Gilbert would have been any higher than fifth; if the Oilers want a by-committee blue-line they need to add a bunch of guys and hope players like Petry, Peckham, or even Smid can improve a lot.

As with every other position, the power play numbers stick out like a sore thumb.

Bottom line: Whitney would fit in, and the bottom end is fine; all the Oilers need to do is add three or four more top-four guys to match the Canucks’ tremendous defensive depth.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Each of these have also highlighted how much Gagner struggled on the PP this year (and coincidently how strong he was offensively at evens).

    Seeing as how he’s been a solid PP producer in the past I’d say this is great news and bodes well for his odds of getting into the 60 point range this coming season.

  • Those PP numbers for Daniel Sedin are unreal.

    I wonder how much better coaching on the PP can influence a player’s production. Is it a lot, is it very little? I have no idea. What I mean to say is, is there any hope that those miserable numbers go up with a change in philosophy/instruction or do we just have to wait for development to take its course and hope for the best.

    • Ender

      As soon as I saw that article, I got soooo depressed. Not because I hate Captain Canada, but just because this topic has been beaten to death, beaten back to life, and then beaten to death again to the point that even thinking of it makes me physically nauseous. If I have to talk about Smytty coming ‘home’ one more time, I will need a new keyboard.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Ender: If you look on the right hand side, botton corner of your Iphone, there’s a small green button, it may comfort you to know if you press that button a full size barf bag will present itself…..hope this helps.

  • Dan the Man

    You can see why the Canucks had the number one PP in the league and you can also see why they struggled when their PP struggled in the final.

    The Canucks record in the NW division was 18-4-2, I’d be curious to see how their PP fared against the NW.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      I think Smyth would be a good mentor for Penner. Teach him how to play in front of the net.

      I want Smyth back, but I sure hope all is well in his personal life and he doesn’t want to come back because of a dying relative.

  • John Chambers

    I love it. It must be very depressing to be a Canucks fans right now. A bunch of their guys have just had career seasons and they came as close to the mountain as possible while failing to summit.

    Yeah they’ll win the division next year and probably the year after that, but after 25 playoff games are those guys going to have the mental toughness to post similar results next year, then climb through tough playoff rounds against the revitalized Hawks, Wings, and Sharks?

    The problem for Vancouver is that their numbers represent the pinnacle; kinetic energy about to sag in the wrong direction. Although the chasm is wide, it is at it’s widest. We, on the other hand, still have a long trip up the chair lift, and in time those numbers will intersect and at some point demonstrate the inverse.

  • VMR

    I’m all for bringing Smythe back, once he’s a free agent. I dont trade anything higher than a 3rd round pick for him or maybe a prospect on the level of Chorney or Brule.

    • Ender

      And that’s exactly why a trade right now doesn’t make sense. Ryan might want it, and a LOT of Nation citizens are going to want it but as TSN rightly points out, LA isn’t in a big hurry to get rid of Smyth. They’re going to be wanting something significant coming back the other way, and I think that Edmonton is unlikely to want to part with the asset LA will ask for.

      Lidstrom just announced he’s going to play again next year. Never mind that he’d never come here; let’s just imagine for the sake of argument that he would. Would you trade next year’s first-round pick or a guy like Gagner just to have Lidstrom for next season? Does it make sense to abandon the rebuild to bring in an aging talent before we’re really a legitimate contender? Heck, if you’ve got a bunch of cap-space you’re in a hurry to burn I hear you can have Jagr next season and he won’t even cost you an asset.

      Nation citizens can afford to base their opinions on emotion. I don’t think Lombardi or Tambellini are going to do that.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Tambellini should call Sheldon Souray and tell him he’ll be welcomed back in the dressing room come September. Steve’s probably still asking too much for Hemsky, we’ll be watching pretty much the same team this fall as Tambellini remains passive.

    Put this incident behind them and let the players know they’ll never be abandoned by this hockey club. Buying 44 out leaves a permanent scar on this organization.

    • D-Man

      Why would buying Souray out leave a scar? Teams are buying out players all the time… Buying Souray out would actually be a plus for the organization – Souray gets a good portion of his contract and has an opportunity to sign with another NHL club…

      Did you think trading POS for Vandermeer was a bad idea?? Phoenix bought him out.. Buying out Nilsson was a great move – no other NHL team wanted him (he’s in the KHL)… I’m not sure Columbus has resigned Moreau either…

      I also don’t think bringing back Souray would help this team either… I’d rather see Petry slide into his spot as a #2/#3 d-man and see how he does…

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Closing the book on this charade leaves players not playing here thinking the Oilers may not be there to support a player when things inevitably go wrong. When Fuhr lashed out at the fans and called some of them a bunch of jerks, Sather didn’t send him to Siberia. He talked to Grant and got it sorted out right away before it could get outta hand.

        You’re probably right, 44 is probably done here like dinner. Have to wonder if this happened today if Tambellini would handle it differently, maybe Steve’s matured a little with another year on the job.

        • D-Man

          You really can’t compare how Fuhr and Souray were handled… A different era – no such thing as a Salary cap and Gretz was the highest paid player at a paltry $2 to $4 million… Being a GM was alot different then… Sather developed a relationship with the players like they were his kids; no GM can do that in this day and age…

          You are right though… Although I do agree with what Tambo did – I wonder how he would of handled it knowing now what he should have known then…

  • Ender

    If the Oilers could bring in Smyth without giving away much, like a Brule then I think Smyth slots in perfect as the #2 LW/mentor player, he would be a welcomed addition to the locker room and gives Hemsky a LW to play with (they worked well with each other, Smyth going to the net any chance he got) as I don’t think Hall and Hemsky mesh well and Hall and Eberle look good together.

    Hall-Horcoff-Eberle
    Smyth-Gagner-Hemsky

    Would look good or if Gagner could pick it up a bit:

    Smyth-Horcoff-Hemsky taking on the toughs (reunite this line)

    Hall-Gagner-Eberle Lots of skill and young and wouldnt be facing the toughest opposition but it would depend if they could hold their own in their own end.

  • Ender

    Willis: If the Oilers take RNH which I am almost certain they will and he can hold is own (as in is a top 6 or 9 player and plays on the PP) but lacks the physical side at the moment to play center with consistency do you think it would be better for his development to play wing his first year or better to go back and play center at Red Deer? (If that made sense what I was asking.