Boyd Gordon: Third Line Centre

Any questions as to what Boyd Gordon’s role with the Edmonton Oilers in 2013-14 were answered by general manager Craig MacTavish during his media availability on Friday. “He’s going to fit in very nicely into that number three [centre] hole,” MacTavish said.

Lowetide wrote about Gordon last night, and his view is certainly worth reading. My perspective is slightly different.

Five Years: Gordon

Year GP CorsiRel QcRk. ZS PTS/60
2012-13 48 0.6 6th 32.6 1.18
2011-12 75 -13.3 3rd 39.8 1.27
2010-11 60 -8.3 2nd 42.7 0.76
2009-10 36 -2.3 15th 45.1 2.24
2008-09 63 -19.4 12th 43.1 1.21

The chart above shows Boyd Gordon’s statistical performance in four statistical categories over the last five years; they’ll be familiar to regular readers but here’s a brief explanation:

  • CorsiRel. "Corsi" is shorthand for shot attempts plus/minus – all the shots, missed shots, and blocked shots that a player was on the ice for 5-on-5 over an average one-hour period. The "Rel" part stands for relative – what we’re doing there is adjusting for team strength.
  • Quality of Competition rank. The player’s rank among active forwards on his team in Behind the Net’s Quality of Competition (we’re using the Corsi-based one, though the site also offers a goal-based one and the difference between the two is small). This gives us an idea of the kind of opponents Gordon typically played against. Note: for years where he played for multiple teams, this is less helpful so I have excluded it.
  • ZoneStarts. Taking offensive zone and defensive zone faceoffs, and expressing them as a percentage. If a player was on the ice for 70 offensive zone faceoffs and 30 defensive zone faceoffs, he would have a 70% offensive zone start, and we’d expect him to do better than a player with 30 offensive zone and 70 defensive zone faceoffs (30% zone start).
  • 5-on-5 Points/60. Just like regular points, only adjusted for an average hour of ice-time.

The five-year record shows Gordon’s evolution from a pretty run of the mill depth forward to a legitimate shutdown centre. 2010-11 was his final campaign with the Washington Capitals, and the year where he saw a steep increase in the caliber of his opposition – all of a sudden he was playing guys like Briere and Hartnell and Grabovski and Kessel and Kovalchuk with regularity. Phoenix – they seem to have a knack for finding this type of player – snatched him up at a very reasonable $1.325 million price point on a two-year contract.

Gordon’s numbers really took off during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, and some of it probably had to do with the addition of David Moss – Moss has a very strong record as a possession forward when healthy, and Gordon’s numbers were notably better with Moss on his wing than when playing without him. Competent help isn’t a luxury Gordon has generally had; scrolling through a list of common linemates over the last five seasons, they are many, varied, and largely unimpressive.

Five Years: Horcoff

Year GP CorsiRel QcRk. ZS PTS/60
2012-13 31 -4.4 8th 42.1 1.34
2011-12 81 -1.0 1st 43.9 1.04
2010-11 47 7.0 1st 50.6 1.47
2009-10 77 0.6 2nd 45.3 1.37
2008-09 80 7.8 1st 40.2 1.59

Horcoff did a hard job for a long time and never really got the credit he deserved for it in Edmonton – though of course he did get a contract. He had something of a down year in 2012-13; on balance he played tougher opposition than Gordon and managed better results, but the flip side of that is he also generally played with better players (save for that ugly, ugly 2009-10 season). Dallas general manager Jim Nill is betting that Horcoff can hold this form or something close to it in Texas; if he does the Stars almost certainly have the better third-line centre. Horcoff does turn 35 in September, so it may well be that the Oilers are getting out at the right time.

My View

The Edmonton Oilers didn’t get better in adding Boyd Gordon and subtracting Shawn Horcoff. What they did manage was to move out a player who had become emblematic of the wasted post-2006 years, reduce the cap hit spent on that slot in the depth chart, and secure a younger replacement who was likely the best option on the market.

Initially, I didn’t like the deal – the dollars seemed excessive – but after looking at the minutes Gordon has played over the last five years, and who has played them with him, it doesn’t seem so bad. The dollars are less than ideal, but they aren’t that bad for a good player and a needed one.

Recently around the Nation Network

At Leafs Nation, Cam Charron has a lot of praise for David Clarkson, before getting to what worries him:

So we’ll see what happens. I like Clarkson between ages 30 and 32 because he’s shown a lot of improvement past the age when a player’s prime usually ends, but I’m not confident that he’ll age like fine wine. Eventually, he won’t be a guy with an elevated shot rate that results in keeping his team above even in goals when he’s on the ice, and the Leafs have probably bought multiple years of "old David Clarkson".

Click the link to read more, or alternately, feel free check out some of my other pieces here:


  • I know Jones got some haters, but at least the signing is an NHL body, not some failed Finnish experiment or career 30 year old AHL vet or coaches kid. Makes me sad we missed out on Pouliot and Laperierre on bargain contracts, so I am hopeful Jones is on a 1-1.3. I think there are a couple fourth line bargains I`d take a flyer on to round out the bottom of the order. Only 3 more forward holes to fill, yippy.

    I wonder what it will take to bring the Jagrmeister to Edmonton.

  • OilersBrass

    I am uncertain about how Jones will rebound this season. If he comes back with the determination that he spoke of in his comments after resigning then the signing may be a good one. He needs to bring the physicality every night. He needs to bring the truculence. The anger.If not he will toiling in the minors pretty darn fast.Hope he returns to form. If he does it will be a value signing.

  • O.C.

    Good article Mr. JW…

    I believe very much that Gordon is a very good “defensive, young enough” player worth the contract. I am a “Shawn Horcoff the player” fan but not for that contract he got (not blaming him for that).

    Gordon represents top defence mostly so as for the young and gun kids to get going more offensively. He will help out the PK big time (now likely paired with Smyth & Jonsey too).

    The Oilers are now lacking three things IMO for this coming season… a top LW for the 2nd line, a strong gritty 4th line centre who can slot into the #3 line (when concerning injuries of others), and a tougher big 4th line enforcer.

    A better top faceoff two way 2nd line center is in that equation too…unless Gagner keeps proving that this last yr was one step of many going forward/upward..

    If the Oilers/Eakins can somehow get Ben Eager to get going and slug it out the right way on the 4th line, with a new centre and say,…RW Joensuu… or even Mike Brown (without allowing opposition scoring as much) then he this that Oilers’ needed effective and good player on a good line. Thats hoping come from me on Eager though.

    I would like to know more of this referred of good skating tougher decent size 4th line centre the Oilers got with Eakins blessing…Ryan Hamilton (just past Capt of the marlies)

    To get those three type players for the Oilers this summer…we have some very good assets to start trading now and those mainly are…

    future draft picks, then S. Gagner (if Contract too big), N.Schultz or Smid, Lander, Hartikainen, Rajala, Omark, Gernat, Musil, Davidson,…etc.

    One of Schultz and Smid will be gone, especially is Klefbom is the real gem that he is being talked of in many circles..

    Let the Oilers/MacT new strategy season begin!!!!