a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

07/12/11 51.0 So Long Cogliano

In the end, Andrew Cogliano was a good sport as always. In his exit interview with Bob Stauffer, Cogliano didn't sound bitter or perturbed at all; despite the fact that he had been on the trade block for the better part of two years. The first sign that this was coming was when Cogliano was part of the package that the Oilers put together for Dany Heatley. Since then it's been hard to say exactly where the undersized center fit on this Oilers team.

Cogliano credits Tom Renney and the Oilers' coaching staff for turning him into the two-way player that he is becoming. While Cogliano deserves some credit for buying in, his development is also a major pat on the back to the coaches. Renney and his staff took a player that came into the league with offense in mind and turned him into a much better defensive asset than he'd ever been before. If Cogliano is any indication, the Oilers are set when it comes to coaches, as the staff clearly should be able to get the most out of players who want to learn.

In many ways, Cogliano was over-qualified for a bottom six role. His most effective time was the early days he spent on the top two lines where his job was to produce offense. He wasn't relied upon too much for defense or even to win draws, which hid some of the blemishes in his game. Unfortunately, he's since been passed in that role by other mostly younger players.

And while Cogliano made strides in his defensive game, he was also under-qualified for a role in the bottom six. Of all Oilers centers, Cogliano was used the most per game on the penalty kill - even more than Shawn Horcoff or Colin Fraser. Only Liam Reddox had more average time on ice shorthanded among all Oilers forwards this past season. With Cogliano eating up an average of 2:43 seconds of shorthanded ice time per game, the Oilers PK finished 29th in the NHL. That finish is certainly not entirely Cogliano's fault (looking at you, Khabibulin), but he didn't make enough of an impact to swing it in another direction, despite a load of shorthanded ice time.

The fact of the matter is that Eric Belanger is a big upgrade over Cogliano as a role player at this moment, which is the reason that the latter was traded. The organization knows the team is going to be a little small up front, and it's making an effort to get bigger in the role playing forward positions. There's no way that the man they call Cogs was going to pass Nugent-Hopkins or even Gagner in the top six, so if he couldn't fit in the bottom six, he couldn't fit.

Having said all that, none of it means that Andrew Cogliano can't continue to grow and develop his game in Anaheim and round into a solid bottom six forward. He's nothing if not up to learning and honing a role that will keep him in the NHL, and that attitude could see him play for a long time. He is still good enough to play in the league, especially once he finds either the right home or the right role for him to have success.

For the Oilers' part, they got 146 points in four completely healthy NHL seasons out of their 25th overall pick in 2005. The fans got a memorable moment when Cogliano got into the Hockey Hall of Fame by scoring three straight overtime winners as a rookie. He's still the only player ever to do so; rookie or not. Stu McGregor gets another bullet for the 2013 draft - and probably a pretty good one. The Ducks made the playoffs this year thanks to a brilliant stretch run, but they haven't done much to show that they are going to get back there. If they lose Teemu Selanne to retirement, it will be that much less likely. If the Ducks miss, the pick the Oilers get will be in the 31- 44 range, which is a fine place to be making a second selection in round two.

Given the fact that the Oilers basically had nowhere for Cogliano to play this year, as well as the need to shed a contract and avoid arbitration, Steve Tambellini did well to scoop a second rounder for Cogliano. The right conditions must not have been in place for the Oilers to make a trade involving Cogliano last year, but the retirement of Todd Marchant opened up a need for the Ducks that an Oiler in limbo could fill. Only time will tell who wins this trade, but for now it's a situation where both sides are happy. If the Magnificent Bastard can work some more magic, it will work out just fine.

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