In an article published December 17th on the Oilers website, Gordon talks about being ready to return to the regular lineup.
Gordon: “I’ve had a good couple days skating with the guys and things feel
pretty good, so I’m excited to get back playing. Sometimes your body gets a bit run down, and it was one
of those situations where I needed to take some time to get (my back)
better and close to 100%. It’s felt good the last couple skates and held
up pretty well. ” Source
How important is Gordon? Pretty damned important. Although described often by many as a ‘fourth line center’ let’s have a look at how much he plays and his faceoff totals:
- Time-on-ice per game: 13:33 (No. 3 among Oilers centers)
- PK TOI per game: 2:36 (No. 1 among Oilers centers)
- Faceoffs (total): 538 (No. 2 among Oilers centers)
- Faceoff %: 56.1 (No. 1 among Oilers centers)
It’s a lonely spot on the Oilers depth chart—responsible center who can win faceoffs and battle the other team physically—and a role Craig MacTavish (as coach) once had in abundance. Here are the 2005-06 Oilers centers and their totals:
As you can see, Edmonton enjoyed tremendous depth at the position a decade ago, but have been running teenagers and minor-league hopefuls through the position in recent seasons—with predictable results. Here’s this season’s group:
That really drives home the issue for the Oilers this season. There’s simply not enough here to compete against the rest of the NHL on a nightly basis.
THE BOXCARS & UNDERLYING NUMBERS
This is where we see Gordon’s exceptional value to the team. His punishing zone starts give the other centers a chance to start their shifts (sans on the fly changes) in a very good spot. He STILL beats two of the current center’s in 5×5 points per 60, which is astounding.
Gordon’s presence on the roster is enormous. I think you can argue (and could have done it last season, too) that Gordon is a strong candidate for team MVP.
It doesn’t mean the Oilers should be content with their depth at the position.
This is a sensational graph, showing Dallas Eakins’ use of his centers. RNH and Arco getting terrific zone starts while also facing tough competition (coaching staffs are going to make life difficult for good players) and Leon Draisaitl in the rocking chair for rookies—soft parade and 80% zone starts.
Boyd Gordon? He’s in the Shawshank portion of the graph, crawling through five-hundred yards of foulness I can’t even imagine.
Welcome back, Boyd Gordon. You were missed.