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:


  • Honestly, I’m hoping for not a big trade that brings a big 2 line center only because I can’t see it being done without 1 of our great young assets going. Not sure if it can be done without going that route. MacT still has his work cut out for him.
    Maybe hiring Eakins will be the difference, get the boys to play competitive right to the end of the 3rd, and 2 top lines destroy everyone 4 on 4 and the shoot out. The way I see it, we will gain the much needed points with pure skill in the non regulation period. Just got to get us there every night.

  • I see Gordon in a fourth line spot between Smyth and Acton.Ithink MacT wants some bang for his buck on the 3rd line and will try to increase the size and skill on his 3rd line. I like Gordon. I like Ference his fitness regime+Eakins philosophy. Also the guy does not have 2 bum feet like some other guy we let go. He plays physical unlike current roster dmen we have(coughPotter,N,Shultz). I like his compete. I can see a compliance buyout being used on a guy the OIlers receive in a trade with Philly. Meszaros is the guy they want to dump.They don’t want to use a regular buyout on him because they don’t have the cap space. The Oilers could use either on a guy like him and have the cap space. The cost would be high to Holmgren. If he decides that B.Shenn is expendable he also saves another 3.7 on the cap. he could conceivably trade to the OIlers B.Shenn and Meszaros for future considerations. The Oilers have been on B Shenns case since he was in LA. It will be fun to see what happens in the next few weeks. Does Pheonix come calling on Hemsky? Or the Rangers?

  • I like Gordon as a shut down type player, but if MacT wants a bottom six that can contribute offensively then he needs to keep finding more players. 10 goals would be a career high for Gordon and 20ish points is pretty reasonable to expect, but not much beyond that.

  • Well, so much for landing Grabovski. I figured Gordon as a great 4C for us, and was hoping to land Grabo as the 2/3 C to push Gags. Grabo is the same size as horc, utbut a better option in almost every regard except maybe choice of words when speaking to the media. Plus he BITES!!

    • a lg dubl dubl

      I’m with you that MacT should still be looking hard at Grabovski for the 2C role. Not only would this put some pressure on Sam (as we can probably sign Grabo for $4-$4.5MM), it would allow us to move Samwise to 2LW, and would give us options other than Smytty for times when someone else goes down. Depth at C is not a bad thing…

      Fun Grabovski facts:
      – won more than 50% of his draws last year
      – last year was a travesty on the stat sheet otherwise, but Burke was interviewed last night and disclosed that he had some sort of illness at the start of the year, plus we all know (from the horse’s mouth) that Grabo wasn’t happy with his role on the 3rd/4th line.
      – the 2 seasons prior (in a scoring role) Grabo scored 51 pts (would have been good for 4th on the Oilers), and 58 the year before that (would have led all Oilers, by a wide margin)
      – we don’t give up anything to acquire him (except some of Mr. Katz’s hard-earned dough)
      – born in Potsdam, Germany, site of the famous meetings between Churchill, Stalin and Truman that, in many ways, kicked off the cold war. So he’s got that going for him.

      There is also the Eakins connection – if we end up signing him we can have some pretty good assurance that he’s a player. Not seeing many reasons why we wouldn’t be hard after this guy (other than our favorite old chestnut the lack of size…)

      • Edsez

        I’m with you that Grabovski would be a quality pick up and he’s certainly worth than the $7 mil my pipe dreams are made of (few posts up)

        if Grabovski signs for $4-4.5 at any term more than 1 year he actually will increase his income as a result of the buyout (Lecavalier is ahead a few mil as well).

        He should be thanking the Leafs

        • Quicksilver ballet

          No doubt. If I ever get that kind of a windfall I’m cashing in the chips and moving to Thailand to live like the King of Siam the rest of my days. But that’s because I won’t still be in the prime of my career, with the ability to make a pile more.

          If I were any of these guys I wouldn’t be doing straight math like you are doing, I’m saying “OK, maybe I wasn’t worth my old contract, but I’m worth something close to it. Plus my old boss just signed the second-coming of Matt Stajan for stupid money yesterday and I’m better than him, so I can probably still get at least 80% of what I was making last week.

          On the GM side they are probably doing similar math – this guy is worth X, but because he got a windfall he will probably take a bit of a discount. All of which for Grabo would seem to point to that $4-$4.5 number. Less would be better but I don’t think that’s likely. Although I was also one who said it was extremely unlikely we would get anything more than a used equipment bag for Horcoff unless we took on salary, so MacT may again surprise…

    • Edsez

      “Well, so much for landing Grabovski.”

      I’m not deadset against still taking a look at him. The buyout, meltdown and chip on his shoulder might get a team making the right pitch a discounted contract and a highly-motivated, skilled player.

      he’s still getting $14.3 mil from his buyout (he had 4 yrs and $21mil in actual salary remaing on his contract) ……. he’d be worth the risk of the $7 mil he’s losing over 3 years

  • oliveoilers

    What is a third line centre? What is a third line?

    I look at it this way:

    1st: Power line: offensive zone starts, tough comp
    2nd: Offense First: offensive zone start, easier comp
    3rd: Defence first: Defensive zone start, tough comp
    4th: role players: Defensive zone start, easy comp.. players add value through some sort of specialist role (ideally PK or place for young players to learn the craft… alternative is the face puncher role)

    If that’s the case then Gordon is for sure a 3rd line center, in the Manny Malhotra mood. Patrice Bergeron played this role for a long time aswell.

    To me, the 3rd line probably plays as many minutes as the second, sometimes more.

    If we could define what we mean when we say _ line, it will help the conversation immensely.

  • Dream_Theater

    I see that Richard Cloutier is reporting a huge trade between the Oil and Flyers… So you know that’s never gonna happen. Who is that ass clown anyways? Also love the Gordon pick up, hopefully he earns that 3M per and not just a replacement for Horcoffs crap contract.

    • oilredemption

      Cloutier is fiction…I think he`s like the rest of dreaming of that big trade.

      I think Coburn to Oilers is an old rumour and has run its course. Philly is not in as bad of cap shape as people think. They got 24 contracts and can bury some, or put the Rake on LTIR. I think there is a deal to be made for Schenn or Couturier because their depth at Center is astonishing. Giroux, VL, Couturier, Schenn and probably others. Right now they should be able to get top value for an ELC contract for either Schenn or Couturier. The argument against is that they are cheep now, and next year would be the year to deal one of them. I think Holmgren sees ultimately no point having 4 offensive centers. I think the opposite is true of Philly and they are looking for defence, and probably a top four. They got the assets to get one. Would Smid, MPS net you Schenn or Couturier and a second. I dunno. All I know is my rumours seem more plausible then Hockeybuzz.

  • oliveoilers

    JW your “My View” is spot on. He is a critical piece needed if this team is going to progress. Slight overpay but he’s young enough to go far with this core and Cap going up most likely will alleviate that concern. MacT just needs to fill in a few blanks around him in order to give him the best chance to succeed.

  • oliveoilers

    good article JW. Inspired by some moaning minnies? A few journalists are calling MacT the ‘Magician’ for managing to slip out of that Horcoff contract, so it’s not as if we’re getting bad press! Yes, we will overpay until it becomes fashionable to come to a winning environment for a fair price. We just need to suck it up buttercup until then. And those of you looking for the ‘blockbuster’ deals – they would actually involve giving one or more tangible assets up. We don’t get our trades for nuthin’, our UFA’s for free.