The center position will be front and
cen, well front page if Shawn Horcoff is out for any length of time. The Nuge (how in hell did he miss that gaping net?) and Sam Gagner (pretty good season so far for a guy no one thinks is a 2line C) are taking care of the offensive business, but with Horcoff out who helps Eric Belanger (if he can walk today) with the heavy lifting?
All graphs and stats below are courtesy Gabriel Desjardins and his dynamic behind the net site. Amazing.
THE ZONE STARTS
- Anton Lander 60% offensive zone start
- RNH 53.7% " " "
- Sam Gagner 52.5% " " "
- Shawn Horcoff 39.1% " " "
- Eric Belanger 36.1% " " "
Ralph Krueger is giving the tough starts at center to Eric Belanger and Shawn Horcoff, and the offensive zone start push to RNH and Sam Gagner. I think we can place this under "duh" strategy, as the Oilers are set up perfectly to give the younger players the push and the older men the hard starts from scrimmage. I don’t know why Petrell shows up here but suspect Shawn Horcov has something to do with it.
If Horcoff and or Belanger are gone for any length of time, the Oilers need to be bringing in veteran players. Gagner and the Nuge may one day do the heavy lifting, but this team is set up for those two to score touchdowns. Steve Tambellini might look to Jason Arnott or to the trades that may be available, but there is no "in house" replacement for Horcoff or Belanger.
- Sam Gagner 2.50/60
- RNH 0.98/60
The Oilers haven’t gotten much 5×5 scoring from their 3rd and 4th lines, so Horcoff and Belanger having zero’s in this category shouldn’t come as a surprise. It does tell us that the guy replacing Horcoff and or Belanger won’t have to bring a lot of offense to the parade–if he does, that’s a bonus. What he really needs to be though, is low event in his own end.
Corisl Rel (this is taken from Dudes on Hockey) is "A way to compare players that neutralizes team effects, Corsi Rel is a player’s Corsi when they are on the ice versus when they are off. If a player has a Corsi/60 of 5.0 (meaning the team directs 5 more shots towards the opposing net than they surrender when the player is on the ice) but a Corsi/60 of 6.0 when the player is sitting on the bench, the player’s Corsi Rel is -1.0. Corsi Rel is always per 60 minutes of ice time."
- RNH 25.4
- Shawn Horcoff -0.5
- Anton Lander -3.5
- Sam Gagner -7.8
- Eric Belanger -21.7
Gagner’s Corsi Rel is heading in a good direction after a tough start and of course that line has a rookie so there’s going to be some struggles this season. Nuge is on the Hall line and that’s going to push the river (although Nuge had a tough time by my eye yesterday), and Horcoff is just fine. Belanger on the fourth has been a struggle but again he’s been with young players often, and his kids weren’t taken #1 overall.
It is early for quality of competition numbers, but there is some insight they can offer about how RK is running his bench. Toughest to easiest:
- Anton Lander .595
- Shawn Horcoff .382
- Eric Belanger .174
- RNH .152
- Sam Gagner -.168
Lander’s number is from just a couple of games, and the rest of the numbers are clustered together. I think this tells us that Krueger’s priorities lie away from line matching at this point in the season. He’s trying to get his offensive players into offensive situations and to get them on the ice as often as possible, and one of the results is a fairly even qual comp number for the four main centermen.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
If Horcoff is injured, the Oilers are going to need a quality veteran to replace him if they plan on getting anywhere this season. They might be able to use Anton Lander–a pretty fair penalty-killer already–in the Belanger role and elevate Belanger to Horcoff’s job in the short term, but if they’re serious about the second season the Oilers will need to make a move.
Horcoff is not on the IR, and knowing his history he’ll drag his ass onto the ice tomorrow night against the Canucks.
Just in time for the Rexall crowd to shower him with boos.