Big Decisions: Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene for Lubomir Visnovsky

More than a few fans of the Edmonton Oilers have been watching the Stanley Cup Finals with some envy. In Los Angeles, both Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene did an excellent job in specific roles, helping the Kings to their first ever Stanley Cup win. The Kings acquired the pair from Edmonton back in the summer of 2008 in exchange for Lubomir Visnovsky.

We’ve previously discussed the way that playing for a good team versus a bad team can shift perceptions of a useful role player – Colin Fraser seemed like a much better fourth-liner in Los Angeles than he did in Edmonton, and to some extent the same effect is happening here.

Prior to this season, Stoll and Greene had never made it out of the first round with the Kings. In the three years before this one, Los Angeles had won a total of four playoff games. Stoll had never come close to recapturing the 68-point form he’d had in Edmonton back in 2005-06 (in fact, this season he picked up six goals and 21 points, worse totals than his rookie year). Greene was improved from his time in Edmonton – where both his discipline and positioning had been questionable – and had rounded into a solid #5 defenseman who could also kill penalties, but even so he wasn’t entrusted with the toughest assignments; the Kings brought in Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell to take those.

It’s important not to overstate the contribution of the duo to this year’s championship.

Jarret Stoll remains a physical center who excels on the penalty kill, has good size, and can play a third line role. That’s what he did in L.A., behind Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards. He’s a good NHL player in that role, but he’s also extremely limited – especially offensively. Despite playing 17:06 per game, he finished ninth of the Kings’ top-nine forwards in scoring. At times this season, when the Kings were starving for offense, Stoll was part of the problem. Colin Fraser was more likely to pick up a point on any given even-strength shift. Adjusting for ice-time, Shawn Horcoff contributed 35% more offense than Stoll – and unlike Stoll, Horcoff played top opponents all season long.

I don’t mean to beat up on Stoll here – he’s a very good defensive forward – but it’s important not to misstate what he is. He’s a checking line forward who needs power play time to get points; at even-strength, his attention to defense means that goals are few and far between.

It’s a similar story with Matt Greene. He’s a useful number five defenseman – and I was very impressed with his work on the penalty kill – but the way his coach used him betrays his limitations. Take Game Six against New Jersey. Ilya Kovalchuk played almost 15 minutes of even-strength ice-time; Greene lined up against him for less than two. Alexei Ponikarovsky played just over 11; Greene saw him for six full minutes. It’s a pattern that held true all through the post-season for L.A. – Greene and his regular partner, Alec Martinez, consistently got the bottom-six players from the other team as regular opponents, and consistently spent less time in their own end than the other two defense pairings.

That’s not a slight on Greene; he’s a good third-pairing defenseman. But it’s important to remember that he wasn’t a top-four, Jason Smith-style shutdown option for the Kings. Those jobs went to superior players – Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell.

That’s why I think the Oilers made the right decision when they traded for Lubomir Visnovsky. They moved a pair of good support players for a highly-talented blue-liner. It was a trade that made sense at the time, and if they could trade a third-line centre and a third-pairing defender for a talent like Visnovsky today they’d be crazy not to do so.

Visnovsky is not only a top-four defenseman, he’s the exact sort of offensive threat the Oilers have been lacking since they dealt him to Anaheim. In his first year, he picked up 31 points in 50 games. He scored 45 the next year; in 2010-11 he led all NHL defensemen with 68 points. This year he was slowed by injury but still managed to record 27 points, six more than Stoll did. Despite playing for two lousy teams in Edmonton and Anaheim, he’s a plus-21 since leaving L.A.; Stoll and Greene combined are plus-14 despite making the playoffs in three of four seasons with the Kings.

That’s not to say the Kings made a mistake when they dealt Visnovsky. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine he would still be with the Kings today even had they kept him; his salary would have made him an extravagance on such a deep blue line.

But the Oilers made a move that benefitted their team when they pulled the trigger on that deal, sending away depth players – good depth players, but depth players all the same – to address a position of need, a position that still needs to be addressed in the worst way. It was the right call.

Post-script: This piece was written prior to my reading Craig MacTavish’s thoughts on the Visnovsky trade. I’m still not convinced; for all the virtues of both Stoll and Greene, Visnovsky was easily the best player in the deal and the kind of piece the Oilers have consistently needed since Pronger’s departure.

Previously in this series

  • DSF

    The problem with the the trade wasn’t the player but the timing.

    The Oiler brass should have been building a young defense not trading away two relatively young players for an aging puck mover.

    And, of course, they compounded the error when the traded Visnovsky for Whitney without due consideration for his medical history.

  • jooks

    The oil took a stab at getting an offensive dman at a time when they needed one and were relatively good at finding grinders/glueguys (based on previous history with klo running the show). Since then (coincidentally or not coincidentally after Tambo has been running the show) they’ve worked themselves into a position of being able to grab elite level players via the draft but seemingly inept at procuring grinders/glueguys, hence our continuous lament for guys like Stoll and Greene. Seems to me we should be employing the proper management who CAN find these guys effectively. Perhaps hiring Mac-T is a step in the right direction.

  • Thank you JW.

    This was my exact argument in the Mixed Bag comment section. It’s like you tapped into my mind here.

    To add something. This type of player, a Top 2 D who is adept at moving the puck, is exactly the type of player the Oilers are rumoured to be asking for in return for the 1st overall pick. And they already got him once in exchange for two 3rd line players.

  • Maybe I’m splitting hairs on the wording but the Oilers definately didn’t make the right decision on that trade.

    They made a good trade based on talent or on paper but it clearly was not the ‘right’ trade for this team.

    And to be clear I liked the deal at the time and I still like Lubo more than any player involved (I like all three) but it wasn’t a good deal for the organization.

    One detail that I go back to when thinking about that trade was Stoll’s concussion problems. At the time he was moved it looked like there was a very real chance he would never be the player he was 2 years earlier. In the end he fully recovered and I am glad for him that he did but it does change the circumstances of the time when you think back.

  • Jason Gregor

    Hey JW,

    I’m curious, does Visnovsky always play against other teams best players? I haven’t looked it up, but I’d like to know.

    He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever interviewed, but when I watched him I never felt like he controlled a game.

    Straight up he’s better than both, but when I look at intangibles of them, I think they do more small things to help a team.

    Turns out it was better for Oilers they didn’t keep those two, cause they wouldn’t have Hall or RNH most likely.

    • By the QualComp numbers, Visnovsky and Lydman got the tough competition last year, when he led all defensemen in scoring. This year, it looks like the Beauchemin pairing got that role, while Visnovsky was used more as an offensive defender on the second pairing.

      (The same thing applies to zone-starts. Last year, Visnovsky started way more in his own end; this year more in the offensive zone. I suspect that’s Boudreau’s approach to maximizing the benefit of Visnovsky’s skillset, but it could be related to injury or a simple belief that Beauchemin is a better option defensively. Or all three.)

      • Jason Gregor

        He also played lots with Perry on PP and EV, which didn’t hurt. He has huge ups and downs in his point totals…Goes three years as 30 or 40 guy, then spikes to 68, then back to 27. Strange..

        He’s clearly better player, but I’ve never seen him be a difference maker in playoffs, which is what you want from you #1 D.

        • Eddie Edmonton

          What exactly is strange? Most D-Man points come from second assists. I don’t understand what is so strange?

          Difference maker in the play-offs? I doubt you seen him in the play-offs and thought that. I doubt he’s been in more than 2-3 play-offs series. Which series and year are you refering to?

          Hockey is a team sport. Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan are the drivers for his team, not Lubo. How does the lack of success by the team fall on him?

          • Jason Gregor

            Eddie he hasn’t been in playoffs, thanks for proving my point that he doesn’t lead teams to victory.

            Also elite D-men don’t jump by 30 points one year and then go back down. Most stay fairly consistent.

            Go look at Pronger, Niedermayer and Lidstom…point total fairly even, rather than odd 30 point increases…

            And I did watch Visnovsky last year for Ducks…Wasn’t a guy who controlled play like many true #1s.

          • Niedermayer had a stretch that went 35-57-46-38.

            Lidstrom had a stretch where he went from 62, down to 38, and then back way up to 80.

            Prongers only 60+ season was bookended by 40+ point seasons.

            Frankly, I don’t know why you made this comparison. Nobody has argued that Visnovsky is as good as these guys anyways. We are arguing that he is more valuable than 3rd line/3rd pairing players.

          • Eddie Edmonton

            I’m not saying Lubo is a leader. I’m not even saying he is an elite #1 D-Man.
            You compare him to Lidstrom, Pronger and Niedermayer. Name me one person or a GM in the world that would trade you Lidstrom/Pronger/Niedermayer for Stoll and Greene?

            Just so I understand: you’re blaming Lubos team lack of success on his point total? Nothing to do with the group that surrounds him, just his point total?

            Lubo is a #2 D-Man and should be on any team. Maybe he just never had a right team to win on, like Ray.

          • Jason Gregor

            He was paid like elite #1 and he never was one is my point.

            Bourque was main reason Bruins were competitive.

            OF course no one would trade Stoll/Greene for Lubo, which illustrates my point. Never was #1 D-man, but been paid like one for years. And he’s not a guy you build around. Better than Stoll and Greene individually, no question, but he history proves he doesn’t help his team win.

          • Eddie Edmonton

            Horcoff is paid like he is the #1 in the league. It is not Horcoffs fault, just like it isn’t Lubos fault what he gets paid. What GMs decided to pay them falls on them and not the players.

            Bourque made Bruins competative not champions. Avalanche made Bourque a champion.

            You misread my comment. I was saying that Lubo is not Pronger or Lidstrom due to the fact that neither one of the two players would be gotten for Stoll and Greene, Lubo was.

            I don’t think it is fair to judge a player by the success of their team, ex: Ilya and Thrashers.

          • Jason Gregor

            One team wins the Cup every year, so if a team loses the final, they aren’t good. As if.

            Bourque went to two finals, and had Bruins in playoffs every year, 19 of 21 seasons.

            Visnovsky missed playoffs 7 years in a row. He played most minutes on his team most of the those years. He had chance to influence game more than most, and he didn’t do enough to get them even into the playoffs.

            The reason Lubo was traded for them, and for Whitney is because he isn’t as valuable as people think. History shows it. He doesn’t help teams win consistently.

          • It still sounds like you are saying one of two things:

            1. #1 Defenseman should be able to take team to playoffs regardless of team; or

            2. #2 defensemen don’t help teams win games.

            I know this isn’t what you mean, but these are the implications of the arguments you are making.

            You can probably stop with all the “#1 D-men do this,” and “#1 D do that.” Whether he is a #1 or #2 is completely irrelevant to the question at hand. I am perfectly happy to accept that a team would be better if he was their #2 than if he was their #1, because it means they are a better team.

            It still doesn’t mean that as a #2 he is less valuable than pluggers.

          • EasyOil

            Just out of curiosity did you look at the games player in each of those season totals? I’m with you though I don’t view him as an elite level defenseman. For me he would be more of a #3 with lots of PP time.

  • If Whitney is healthy there is no question. On this team right now Stoll would be an upgrade on our 4th line centre and Green would be an upgrade on our 3rd deffensive pairing. 4th line centres and 3rd pairing defenseman are much easier to come by than a 1b/2a pairing defenseman. If Whitney regains his form and remains healthy he is one of our best defenseman, and those top pairing, minute munching defensemen are the main point of need on this team.

  • MJNation

    Let’s stop living in the past and move forward with the superstars of tomorrow. I loved Stoll We lost him. It’s the nature of the beast now. Life changed after the Greatest One EVER was traded

  • DSF

    Using only paper stats only tells one side of the story. Stoll and Greene were great leaders, and I know you think this has no value, but sorry you are wrong.

    Glue guys are key to winning, and the Oilers have none of them. Stoll would be a perfect fit here. Wins draws, good in own zone and would be heavy right handed shot on PP.

    You can say you’d rather have Visnovsky than Stoll and Greene cause he’s, in your eyes, the better player, but facts are facts. Oilers didn’t improve with Visnovsky on team.

    And 35 of his 63 points over two years came on PP with Oilers. He needed PP to score just like Stoll.

    Visnovsky doesn’t seem to help teams win. Which is biggest key in my books. If he was as dominant as some suggest his teams would have had more success, but when he’s your #1 D, teams haven’t won. What does that tell you?

    • Jason Gregor

      I’d agree on the “glue guys” part. To me that was biggest mistake Oilers made. They got rid of all their middle tier guys.

      Of course they needed high-end guys, so I understand why they made the deal, but they didn’t have enough good middle guys to replace Stoll and Greene.

      That is the problem when you have no depth, if you make a deal it is hard for to actually be better, since they improved one area, high-end skill, but then didn’t have anyone to take over for Stoll.

      Although they did have Brodziak, but of course they made awful decision and traded him instead of Pouliot. Ugh.

    • Every defenseman needs the power play to score.

      I get the value of glue guys, but let’s not pretend that L.A.’s championship came on the back of them either – Penner, Carter and Richards have all been tagged as ‘problem’ players by the media at points over the last couple of seasons, and all three were prominent players in the Kings’ run. Arguably all three were more prominent than Stoll or Greene. The idea that what happens in the room is more important than what happens on the ice is crazy; it matters but it’s clearly subordinate.

      As for ‘Visnovsky doesn’t help teams win’ remind me how many championships Ray Bourque had in Boston? Or how many championships Gretzky had post-Edmonton? Judging a player by team accomplishments is a terrible way to evaluate talent.

      • EasyOil

        Would you sign Jarret Stoll on July 1st? Not sure he’d want to come back to the Oilers, but from our point of view he’d represent a huge upgrade on Belanger surely.

        As for his offensive output, whilst I agree he needs the PP to score, it looks to me like he had a Belanger-type season – nothing went his way and historically he’s a much better scorer than this year shows. I haven’t looked at the deeper numbers, but I can’t imagine that Stoll’s ability on offence just vanished. What was his PP time the last 3 years when he had 40+ points?

        • Yeah, this year was especially bad offensively for Stoll.

          I wouldn’t sign him simply because I think on July 1 he’s going to be heavily valued thanks to this playoff run in L.A. – I expect he gets more money than he’s really worth as a free agent. If he isn’t, than maybe, but I bet he hits pay dirt.

      • Jason Gregor

        JW,

        Bourque led his team to two Cup finals, and lost to one of greatest teams ever. He won lots, just not the Cup.

        Visnovsky hasn’t made it past first round since rookie season. I wouldn’t compare him to Bourque.

        Same with Gretzky, lost in final.

        To me winning, isn’t just winning Cup, but having your team competitive year after year, which Bourque did.

        No one player can win by himself, but isn’t Visnovsky not close to Bourque.

        When you look at D-man making $5.5 million, outside of Bouwmeester, Lubo has least amount of success.

        Lidstrom, Niedermayer, Pronger, Keith and even Campbell got his team to playoffs this year.

        Over the years, Lubo never was a guy who impacted the game like others in his payscale. IMO.

        For the record, I think Vis is better straight up than Stoll or Greene, but I think he’s overrated.

        • Just to be clear – my intention wasn’t so much to compare Visnovsky to other guys, just to say that I hate the ‘this player is good because their team did THIS’ argument.

          Mario Lemieux made the playoffs once in his first six seasons; if he’d played for crappy teams his whole career he never would have won anything. Obviously he was the most important part of that Pittsburgh team, but no matter how good the individual if he plays for a bad team he isn’t going to go anywhere.

          • Jason Gregor

            Yes Jon, but he eventually made his teams competitive. Visnovsky never has. Not sure why you don’t see this. Compare him to other D-man in his pay scale and show me others who had as little success as him.

            Also Mario only missed playoffs in his first FOUR years, not six. He made playoffs in his 5th year, the year he scored 199 points.

            And I don’t hate the player, just pointing out that he hasn’t been a difference maker. Sometimes better players, don’t make teams better.

          • I actually said he made the playoffs once in six seasons.

            As for Visnovsky, I look at things like 2005-06 – he led the Kings (including the forwards) in scoring and finished plus-7 logging heavy minutes on a minus-31 team. I see an effort like that and I wonder ‘what more could he have done?’

            I understand where you’re coming from; I guess I just see him as a more useful piece than you do. I don’t think he’s a perfect #1 guy – in an ideal world, I think he’s a scoring defender who sits #2 on a team’s depth chart – but I do think he can be a valuable piece at the core of a contending team. The fact that he hasn’t, IMO, reflects more the teams he’s been on than his own level of ability.

          • Compare him to other D-man in his pay scale and show me others who had as little success as him.

            Are you ignoring me now 🙂 (smiley face denotes kidding around)

            Andrei Markov – 5.75 Myers, Tyler – 5.5 James Wisniewski – 5.5 Byfuglien (as a defenseman) – 5.2 Wade Redden – 6.5 Dion Phaneuf – 6.5

            We can probably expect to add Wideman and Garrison to the list as well.

            also:

            Also Mario only missed playoffs in his first FOUR years, not six

            huh?

            JW Wrote:

            Mario Lemieux made the playoffs once in his first six seasons;

          • Jason Gregor

            I sent a response earlier..WTH…

            Markov got to 2nd round of playoff four times.
            Redden went to Cup final.
            Myers has never made $5.5 million yet, contract kicks in this year, but nice try.

            Lubo made $5.6 when cap was $54 million, Wiz got his awful deal when cap was $64. He’s also only had it for one year.

            Byfuglien has only had one year at his contract. So a tad early to compare him to a guy who has done nothing for five years.

            So you want to put Phaneuf in category with Lubo that is fine, but Phaneuf has already made playoffs more than Lubo.

            If you can show me how Lubo is a difference maker I’d like to see it.

            He’s overrated.

          • Ooops, did I miss it or did it get lost? Sorry if I missed it.

            Redden was so successful he’s out of the league.

            Markov – a few second round appearances is hardly a massive success.

            Wiz, Buf, and Myers – Did you just move the goalposts? Doesn’t matter. All three were given the deals they were given because they were deemed to be worth the money.

          • Jason Gregor

            No, somehow it didn’t post…Wanye is dead.
            Myers hasn’t made the money yet, how can you say he’s in same boat. If he makes playoffs next year and wins around, he’s already ahead.

            You can’t compare a guy who has yet to make the actual money.

            And in four years, when Wiz and Buff have had five years at that coin, if they haven’t done squat I will put them in that category, but can’t say they are same as him.

            Also Wiz and Buff will kill penalties, and be physical down low. Lubo was never that guy. He’s one-dimensional.

          • So the question wasn’t, “who are guys with a similar cap hit and little success,” it was “who are guys who have had a similar cap hit for at least 5 years and don’t kill penalties or knock people down.”

            On a slightly different topic – why does everyone believe that Stoll and Greene were such big leaders on that team? I can’t say it isn’t true, because I have no idea, but most of the people saying it have no idea either.

            I can think of 7 or 8 guys who are more likely leadership candidates than either of them.

          • Jason Gregor

            I can tell you with certainty Stoll is a leader. Was in junior, and has always been a great team guy.

            Very well-liked by teammates, and when you see how he interacts with people outside the team you see he isn’t fake. Organizing team events, making them do things together off-ice, Stoll is usually one who initiates that.Greene has an “A” in LA. He’s a funny guy in room, lightens things up, and makes guys feel welcome. Players talked about Kopitar and Brown cause they were asked about them. Ask them about Greene and Stoll and you’d get similar response. Need numerous quality people in a room to be successful.

            Hard for many to believe the importance of those guys, but they help more than just on the ice.

            Oilers never replaced their personalities as much as their on-ice abilities.

          • Fair enough. Like I said, I have no way to know. Mostly I just think it’s funny how I’ve never heard anything about it until just now when LA wins the cup.

            I remember rumors to the opposite in Edmonton, with people saying Stoll drinks too much, Stoll fights with vets, Stoll kicks babies, etc.

            That was probably just the standard local media treatment on his way out though.

          • blueorangekoolaid

            Well, Greene’s got an A in LA, so he’s obviously a leader on that team. Usually when players get the leader rep and they’ve been around for as long as they have, it’s usually true, especially when they wear letters (Greene) or have worn letters in the past (Stoll)

          • Eddie Edmonton

            If Lubo is one-dimensional, and is only worth Stoll and Greene in a trade: what do you expect from him then?

            You’re the one that thinks of him as a failed elite D-Man. Most people see him for what he is, a good 2-3 D-Man.

            The money he makes is not his fault, just Like Horcoff.

            There is 19 players on a team any given night. How do you expect a #2 D-Man to make his team champions all by him self? Pronger couldn’t do it in Edmonton.

        • Visnovsky hasn’t made it past first round since rookie season.

          Do you believe this has nothing to do with playing for bad teams his whole career?

          An argument that a team would be better having him as their second best defenseman makes sense.

          The argument that since you want someone better as number one he should be traded for 2 3rd line/3rd pairing guys does not.

          When you look at D-man making $5.5 million, outside of Bouwmeester, Lubo has least amount of success.

          Other unsuccessful Defensemen with large cap hits next year include:

          Andrei Markov – 5.75
          Myers, Tyler – 5.5
          James Wisniewski – 5.5
          Byfuglien (as a defenseman) – 5.2
          Wade Redden – 6.5
          Dion Phaneuf – 6.5

          We can probably expect to add Wideman and Garrison to the list as well.