Cam Barker vs. Kurtis Foster

Kurtis Foster was the player tabbed last season to replace Sheldon Souray’s big shot on the power play. He had a largely forgettable year – the worst offensive season of his career – and there weren’t a lot of tears shed by fans when he was sent away to Anaheim over the summer.

Andy Sutton may be the player returned in that trade, but it is free agent acquisition Cam Barker who will be asked to fill the offensive specialist role vacated by Foster. Thus, it’s worth asking how he’s likely to perform in Foster’s absence.

Context

This is the portion of the article where I zip over to Behind the Net, pull up the percentage of starts each player had in the offensive zone, and run Quality of Competition numbers. Rather than put that all in chart form, though, I’ll summarize it: both players spend the vast majority of their time playing third-pairing opponents, and both players get a ton of ice-time in the offensive zone.

This is why Barker is the natural replacement for Foster in terms of ability: both have been used in offensive situations, both have a largely offensive skill-set, and both have been largely third-pairing defenders at even-strength over the last three seasons.

The Offensive Numbers

Bring on the charts!

Player Season EVG/60 EVA/60 EVPTS/60 PPG/60 PPA/60 PPPTS/60
Barker 2008-09 0.00 0.60 0.60 1.35 5.92 7.27
Barker 2009-10 0.07 0.70 0.77 1.68 1.68 3.36
Barker 2010-11 0.00 0.17 0.17 0.00 1.68 1.68
Barker Average 0.02 0.49 0.51 1.01 3.09 4.10
Foster 2007-08 0.34 0.42 0.76 1.25 1.67 2.92
Foster 2009-10 0.27 0.60 0.87 0.68 4.77 5.45
Foster 2010-11 0.18 0.37 0.55 1.13 1.80 2.93
Foster Average 0.26 0.46 0.73 1.02 2.75 3.77

There are a lot of numbers up there, but the key line to focus on is in bold – the averages.

The first three columns show even-strength scoring per 60 minutes of ice-time: goals, assists, and point totals. Both Barker and Foster had bad years this season – Barker was wretched, while Foster was just well below his career averages. Whether we ignore 2010-11 or add it into the averages, the result is roughly the same: Kurtis Foster has been, over his last three healthy season (2008-09, where Foster played just 10 games and put up outrageously good numbers, has been ignored here), a better offensive player at even-strength than Cam Barker.

The last three columns show power play scoring per 60 minutes of ice-time: goals, assists and point totals. Barker’s scoring on the man advantage has been in a death spiral the last three seasons, but 2010-11 was far and away his worst season. Of course, that stands in contrast to 2008-09, the season where he built his reputation as an offensive contributor on second assists, as Tyler Dellow points out:

[Barker’s] 2007-08 season was built on second assists to an unparalleled degree. Barker put up 4.04 2A/60 on the PP that year; the next best number in the four years that Gabe has this data available is Brian Rafalski’s 3.43 2A/60 last year. As I’ve mentioned before, second assists are sort of a lottery. Well, exactly like a lottery. It’s rare that the second assist makes the goal but some years your number comes up and you pile up a ton of them.

It’s reasonable to believe that Barker will not repeat the success he had in 2008-09 on the power play. That said, he wasn’t bad in 2009-10, and given that Foster had his own improbable run in 2009-10 I’d say there’s a good chance Barker can fill in on the power play with roughly the same level of ability, as their numbers are close enough.

Bottom line: based on their careers to date, Foster’s the better even-strength point producer, while both players have a comparable level of power play ability.

Bonus Chart!

Player Season Corsi Rel. Plus/Minus Team Plus/Minus
Barker 2008-09 -2.6 -6 48
Barker 2009-10 -2.1 5 30
Barker 2010-11 -3.7 -10 -27
Barker Average -2.8 -4 17
Foster 2007-08 7.8 0 5
Foster 2009-10 8.0 -5 -43
Foster 2010-11 2.0 -12 -76
Foster Average 5.9 -6 -38

I know there’s a large number of Corsi sceptics around these parts, so I won’t spend too much time harping on the number. All I’ll say is that Foster has generally seen pucks move in the right direction while he’s on the ice, and Barker has not.

Plus/minus is another interesting measure. Superficially, Barker’s numbers are superior, but when we take team into account we see that Foster’s actually posted the better numbers. Neither is anything to write home about, but it’s obviously far more impressive to go minus-6 on a minus-38 team than it is to go minus-4 on a plus-17 team.

The X-Factor

The wildcard here, of course, is progression from Barker. While neither of these players look like a world-beater, Barker is still relatively young (he turned 25 in April), and he was the third overall pick seven drafts ago. There’s at least a chance that means something, and that he can take a significant step forward that Foster didn’t.

In my opinion, it’s a shot in the dark. There’s a chance that Barker will be the better player this season, and that’s where the Oilers have put their money. History, however, suggests that both players will rebound, and that Kurtis Foster’s performance will be superior to that of Cam Barker.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    i would hope the best for both. barker of course because he is now an oiler, and foster because it would take me years (not just one) to get my head right after the tragedy he suffered.

  • I was hoping someone was going to put this comparison together. I would agree that being on the top PP unit on a strong Hawks team over inflated Barker’s numbers. Let’s hope that on team number 3 he figures out what needs to be done before he is playing in Europe next year.

    • Wax Man Riley

      Let’s also not forget that Foster played on a high scoring Tampa Bay team with a Rocket Richard trophy and almost 100pts each from Stamkos and St. Louis.

      I “saw him good”(Foster) last year and I was pulling for him, but he just never really looked to settle in. He looked slow and lost on the play.

      I would still rather have Barker (for the 6 games I’ve watched him play)

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      As you pointed out, it’s all about potential.

      Also, Foster might have had decent Corsi numbers, but he sure looked like garbage in his own zone.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        What did Ogden the orginal say before? Something about we have stats because people’s opinions are so different?

        With that being said. Barker has the better potential in the long-term and odds were that Foster wasn’t going to be here past this year anyway.

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          Tough to quantify defensive play my son.

          I know numbers like Corsi try to do just that, but I’d hardly call them an exact science.

          I don’t really know if Foster was poor defensively or not, but he sure looked like he was.

    • Toro

      The way I see it … You should put a puckmoving defenseman with a stay at home defenseman , we have Whitney, Gilbert, Petry as the puck movers , I consider Barkers role to be more of a defensive defenseman , give him so PP time to see if he can do anything with it but he would be on a real short leash … I’d sooner throw Hemmer on the point or the PP

      • Dyckster

        Seriously?

        Have a look at JW’s article again, more specifically the section where he compares Barker’s plus/minus to his teams overall +/-.

        Here, I’ll save you some trouble: Player+/- Team+/- Barker 2008-09 -6 48 Barker 2009-10 5 30

        Last year was likely a blip in the radar. He is clearly NOT a defensive defenseman

        Edit: Sorry about the shizty formatting

  • Lofty

    Do they not play the power play a little differently? I think of Foster as purely a shooter (who didn’t hit the net,) while Barker has more patience with the puck and acts more like a forward playing the point.

    I may be wrong but when I think of Barker I think of a DMan that holds onto the puck a little too long and therefore gives chances to the opposition. He’s young and he may be able to maker smarter decisions with the puck. Time will tell but I still like the gamble.

    If you would have told me Barker would be an Oiler after the 2009-2010 season I would have been thrilled. Now it can go one of two ways and the worst case scenario is letting him walk at the end of the year. Sign me up, let’s see if he can pull it together and be a PP specialist.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    JW,

    you can title and write articles regarding “how i spent my summer putting bags of poop on my neighbours doorstep”, i don’t care. as long as you mention “gagner, rnh, or any players and/or their relative” and i will read it and most likley write some assinine comment relative to it.

    keep ’em coming, good work.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    BRING OUT YOUR DEAD!…..BRING OUT YOUR DEAD!

    Hopefully Barker isn’t Foster 2010-2011 reincarnated. He needs to have 2 pretty good months of the season before they consider re-signing him.

    • Dan the Man

      Well I don’t think he could be much worse, I think from what I’ve seen of barker he plays a more physical game than Foster did. Anyone have any hit stats to compare these two?

  • positivebrontefan

    I would suggest you at least wait to see what the first year with the Oil produces before you start seeding the clouds. We haven’t seen the results of a training camp and pre-seasom let alone a full campaign.

    Barker isn’t going to rescue the entire D-squad of the Oil. I think everyone sees the weaknesses in all of the pairings. That can’t be laid at his feet in advance of season play.

  • OldSchool

    Speaking of second assists, didn’t most of Gilbert’s points in his big point year come on the second assist?

    I think it was just before he signed his big contract extension…. anyone know the number?

    • Dyckster

      Gilbert’s big year (45 points) came the season after he signed his big deal. He was signed to his current deal in April 2008, and his big season was 2008-2009.

      But his big year he set his best totals in both 1st assists (14) and 2nd assists (25). Those are at 5×5, 5×4 and 4×5.