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.