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

Welcome to Oil Acumen. All Oilers, all the time... Occasionally other stuff.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

08/20/11 50.2 Can the Oilers Make the Playoffs? Part Three

Did you ever think you'd be looking back on a riot with longing? The way that fans celebrated the Oilers' march to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006 was not the city's finest hour, but the team was winning. Many die-hards would gladly trade a Vancouver-style riot for another trip to the Final. It's worth noting that fans got their act together for the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, and celebrations (and misery) never got out of hand. Perhaps next time the Oilers win a playoff round they can do it without risking damage to public property. But will it be next year, or will the people in the picture above be old and grey by the time it happens?

For the Oilers to have made the playoffs last season, they would have needed an improvement of 35 points, which is roughly 18 wins, or 15-17 wins with a few OT losses mixed in. Like all teams, the Oilers played 6 games against each of their division rivals, for a total of 24. That's more than a quarter of the season, and respresents a possible 48 points in the standings. Last year the Oilers won just 6 of those games, and lost 5 of them in overtime. They therefore pulled only 17 of a possible 48 points out of their division.

The long climb back to the playoffs is going to have to start with some improved results against division rivals, especially because they are essentially 4-point games when it comes to battling for position. So what chance do the Oilers have of beating up on the Northwest?

Not much.

Minnesota: The Wild won every game against the Oilers last year, and that trend probably won't abate much in 2011-12. The Hockey News projects them to finish 11th in the West, but they will be working with a much improved offense. Right wing should be an area of strength for Minnesota with the addition of Heatley and Setoguchi, but losing Burns will hurt the backend. The defense is not good, but it's no worse than Edmonton's. If the Oilers want to win they'll have to hope that their balanced offensive attack will carry them. Potential wins: 3 or less

Calgary: That first game against the Flames was the Oilers' only win over Calgary last year, even though they got close a couple more times. Two of Calgary's wins came in shootouts and one was a one-goal game. The Flames didn't make any major improvements in the off season, and trading away Regehr should give Ales Hemsky and/or Jordan Eberle more room to operate. If the Oilers can convert those three close losses into wins they will be in good shape against their arch-rivals. Potential wins: 3 or more

Vancouver: The Canucks are still the darling of the Western Conference, and they should have no trouble running roughshod over the Northwest Division. Aside from Vancouver the entire division is still either a few years away, or trending downward. The Oilers won two games against the Canucks late last year, despite an injury-riddled squad. If Vancouver is sitting in a comfortable lead late in the year, the Oilers might have a chance to surprise them again, but expect the Canucks to come out of the gate like gangbusters and annihilate their weaker opposition. Potential wins: 2 or less

Colorado: It'll all come down to goaltending and defense. Colorado lost Liles and Foote on their blueline and replaced them with Hejda and O'Brien. Erik Johnson is the wildcard on the backend. The Avs have good centers and a solid attack, but it won't mean much if Giguere and Varlamov aren't stellar in goal. The Oilers have more than kept pace with Colorado offensively, but the two teams may have similar struggles on defense and between the pipes. Last year the Oilers beat the Avalanche 3 times, and when they lost it was in the shootout (twice) or in overtime. Both teams were ravaged by injuries last year, so it will be interesting to see two healthy teams square off. Potential wins: 3 or more


To ask for the Oilers to win half of their divisional games is still asking for a lot at this point, but they will need exactly that if they want even a sniff of the post season. Even if that happened, it would only produce a bump of around 12 points in the standings. As we have seen, the Oilers need closer to a 35-point improvement. However, if the kids take a step forward and the Oilers take advantage of the division's weaker teams, it is possible that they could win even more in the Northwest. If that same improvement carries on against the rest of the league, the playoffs could be a possibility.

As with anything in sports, it could happen. It's just not overly likely.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

08/14/11 59.0 August Is Boring

For any halfway decent blogger the fact that there is nothing going on in the NHL is only a small obstacle to putting out articles. But of all months, August has got to be the slowest. The trouble is two fold, really:

1) There is nothing going on
2) Most everything worth talking about has been beaten to death by this point

It's for that reason that this particular blog has been on hiatus. Time has been needed to recharge the batteries of mental energy that are required to pluck stories worth reading out of thin air. That time has passed, and now we can all get ready for some new injections of sweet, sweet hockey information.

Some (Rare) Headlines For Now:

Scott Hannan
Scott Hannan signed a one year deal for a million bucks in Calgary. The Flames are a trainwreck. The whole purpose of trading Robyn Regehr, who was a lifelong Flame, was to free up cap space. Then after realizing that the team couldn't go into the season without a Regehr-type, Feaster signs Hannan. Calgary now has just one million dollars in cap space and is the fourth-highest spending team in the league. The roster is no better or worse than the one that missed the playoffs in consecutive years, and Chris Butler (acquired in the Regehr deal) is small consolation.

Hannan might have been a decent stop-gap addition to the Oilers at that price point, but the organization obviously feels that their defense is pretty much set. The problem with adding Hannan to the Oilers is that they already have 7 NHL defensemen under contract and Taylor Chorney has to clear waivers to go down to OKC. If management wants Jeff Petry to cut his teeth in the NHL next year, adding Hannan would only be a roadblock.

- Chris Drury is still without a job, which is somewhat surprising despite the horrible season he had last year. Drury had a terrible contract which made his decline stick out like a sore thumb, but he can still be somewhat useful. Ironically, it turned out to be a blessing that Buffalo couldn't afford to keep him, even though his loss hurt that team at the time.

- Speaking of Buffalo spending money, they are spending more money than any other team in the league right now. Wealthy owners that want to win will do that. It happened in Edmonton, it's happened in other places and it doesn't usually work out. Gobbling up UFAs just because they are there isn't the way to build a team. The Sabres are currently more than $3.5 million over the cap, which means something is going to have to give there soon. Ales Kotalik can always go down to the AHL and that will get Buffalo almost under the cap, but they might have to do more.


More Oilers stuff on the way. Enjoy the patient wait for training camp.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

08/09/11 58.5 Rookie Report Card: Teemu Hartikainen

Tempered enthusiasm is the order of the day. Teemu Hartikainen played extremely well in his brief stint with the Oilers. But how much of what he showed the coaches and fans was real NHL talent, and how much was smoke and mirrors? He was certainly good enough to earn a C+, and potentially the only thing keeping that grade from being higher is the number of games he played. Then again, more NHL games might have made his grade go the other way.

It's very hard to get a sense of just how good Hartikainen would have been over a full season, because he only played 12 games. By the middle of March there wasn't much of an NHL team left because of all the injuries, which is why Hartikainen got his chance. Not only did he get a chance to play in the NHL, but he also got significantly more playing time than he otherwise would have with superior wingers ahead of him on the depth chart.

Hartikainen averaged 17:24 of ice time in his 12 games, which is as much as Jordan Eberle averaged when he was in the lineup. He also averaged 2:35 of powerplay time per game. It's safe to say that on a healthy Oilers team, the young Finn would not have seen the ice nearly as much as this. He did earn his playing time by performing admirably for a young player, but the team also didn't really have any other option.

Not to stomp all over a fine showing by a young player, but Hartikainen scored one of his 3 goals and one of his 2 assists on the powerplay. To see him on the powerplay ahead of Hall, Eberle, Gagner, Horcoff, or Hemsky is a bit of a stretch; and those players were all out of the lineup by the time Hartikainen got called up.

We also don't really know how this player will perform when he is inevitably placed into a bottom-six role (at least on this team). Hartikainen didn't kill penalties at all, so we have no idea how effective he is at it in the NHL.

There are things that can't be measured in stats, though. Hartikainen seemed to work hard most shifts, and he was fairly noticeable in that regard. He certainly wanted to make the most of his callup and he did just that. Many fans seemed happy to see a player put in the effort for a team with zilch to play for, and that was also so devastated by injuries they could sometimes be more painful to watch than Calgary winning a playoff round. If you can remember that far back.

If it hadn't been for all the injuries, Haritkainen would almost certainly have gotten lost in the shuffle. Few would have noticed how he quietly put up 17-25-42 in 66 games in OKC as an AHL rookie. What the Oilers and their fans have discovered is that they have a gamer on their hands, who deserves credit for a good season. It's up to the fans to judge him based on the little they saw. How far Hartikainen progresses - and whether or not he can play his way into a deep Oilers top-six - will be up to him.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

08/07/11 58.4 Rookie Report Card: Jeff Petry

Jeff Petry is the first rookie to receive a grade here who wasn't a forward. Judging the quality of his season is a little more difficult, because his job isn't solely to go out and produce offense. The other trouble is that we don't quite know yet what Petry is going to be. His season was good enough to warrant a B-, so have a gander at the explanation.

Injecting Petry into the lineup didn't necessarily seem to make fans think: "Aha! That's what we were missing." He seems to be above average in a range of skills, which means that he isn't just a utility player like a Strudwick, but we don't know yet how good he'll be. He was impressive as anything for stretches though, which bodes well for him.

Petry's offense didn't miss much of a beat from college to the AHL. In his last year at Michigan State, he posted 4-25-29 in 38 games (0.76 p/g). During the 41 games he played in OKC this year, Petry had 7-17-24 (0.59 p/g). That's not a huge dropoff considering that Petry was playing in a new city with new teammates, under new coaches, and with different systems. It's sometimes harder to play defense in the AHL because things aren't as structured, but he acquitted himself well enough.

It was in the NHL that his production fell, where he managed just 1-4-5 in 35 games while averaging 20:22 of ice time per game, along with 2:11 of powerplay time per game. That's not necessarily a knock on Petry, but consider that a player like the much maligned Tom Gilbert - who also went the USHL and then college route - debuted with 6 points in 12 games in the NHL, followed by 33 points in 82 games the next year.

Looking on the positive side of things, Petry has good hockey sense, accompanied by a good combination of size (6'3", 196 lbs), skill and speed. More than anything, it was those tools that had many fans impressed with him this season. He has the ability to read plays and get to any area of the ice fairly quickly. When he gets there he's big enough to knock opponents off the puck, or skilled enough to check them with his stick.

Petry was given credit for 48 hits this year (roughly 1.4 hits per game) which means that over a full season he would have had around 112-115. That makes him a considerably more physical presence than Gilbert, who had 69 hits in 79 games. Petry would have clobbered more players than Ryan Whitney as well, who was on pace for 68 hits in a full year.

Petry also blocked 49 shots in those 35 NHL games this year, good for 1.4 blocks per game. He should therefore have had around 115 blocked shots in 82 games.

It's worth noting that Petry had more hits than Jason Strudwick (43), who played 8 more games than Petry did, and Petry blocked just as many shots on average. Petry did play five minutes more than Strudwick per game, but Petry was a rookie. Petry also had twice as many takeaways as Strudwick in eight fewer games, but he isn't close to the Oilers' other, more experienced defensemen in that regard just yet.

The point of this is that if Strudwick is good enough to be the Oilers' 7th defenseman, Petry is at least an upgrade in that area already. He certainly deserves the NHL more than Taylor Chorney, who had 4 points in 12 games, but was on pace for fewer hits, takeaways, shots and blocked shots than Petry.

Jeff Petry looks to have surpassed at least two more experienced defenders in the Oilers' depth chart from last season. There is no shortage of people who would like to see him get significant playing time this season, which means that he must have been doing things right out there much of the time. The only question now is whether Petry rounds into a legitimate top-3 defenseman, or if he's a tweener with a range of skills but never really being exceptional in any one thing. Next season, hopefully he'll show us.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

08/05/11 58.3 Rookie Report Card: Linus Omark

Just look at that excitement. Linus Omark's personality didn't always seem to translate to the liking of Oilers fans (or interviewers for that matter), but on the ice we all understand him. He looked like a keeper this season, even before he scored 5 goals in one AHL game. Omark played well enough in training camp to deserve a spot on the roster, but instead of pouting when he was cut, he lit up the American League and earned a call-up for the rest of the year. He also earned every bit of a B- grade.

Through the rest of this series, I've looked at the shot totals from the Big Three rookies. Omark represents the first deviation from the others, in that he didn't put up a load of shots on goal. In fact, with 76 shots in 51 games, he was only on pace for 122 SOG in a full season. That would be a number similar to what Andrew Cogliano has averaged over his career thus far. However, Omark is clearly a more dynamic offensive threat than Cogliano.

That fact is illustrated by the way his point totals progressed. Below is the chart. As he played 51 games, I've divided his season into three 17-game segments.

Games 1-178 points0.47 Points per Game
Games 18-348 Points0.47 Points per Game
Games 35-5111 Points0.65 Points per Game

From March 17th to the end of the season Omark had 9 points in 12 games, including 5 in the last 5 games of the year. However, at least part of his improved numbers can be explained by his ice time. It was fairly infrequent for Omark to play more than 17 minutes per game when the team was healthy. After March 17th, by which time injuries had gutted the core, he was playing up to 20 or more minutes a night with regularity. Adding to the increased ice time would obviously be the fact that Omark was utilized as a go-to offensive player when the team's other options were all in the infirmary.

Still, he proved that he was a good option in a pinch. Five of his last 11 points down the stretch were scored against playoff teams, or the Flames who were battling to get in. He also had two points in the final game of the season against Colorado, when he had no particular reason to work hard other than to impress the coaches and fans.

There have been some comparisons made between Omark and Ales Hemsky, and what each brings to the table. They certainly have similar skill sets, but there's no way to know if Omark's ceiling as a player is anywhere near as high as that of Ales Hemsky. What we can do is go back and look at Hemsky's rookie season and compare it to Omark's. This comparison will be a little unfair, since Hemsky was 18 as a rookie and Omark is 24, but it's less unfair to Omark than trying to compare their two 24-year-old seasons.

Hemsky: 59 games played, 6-24-30 (0.51 points per game), plus-5. 50 SOG (0.85 shots per game). Averaged 12:04 minutes of ice time.

Omark: 51 games played, 5-22-27 (0.53 points per game), minus-16. 76 SOG (1.5 shots per game). Averaged 15:21 minutes of ice time.

The comparison is a lot closer than I first expected; right down to the goal-to-assist ratio. Omark had more shots than Hemsky, but he's also older and has played in professional leagues for some time, while Hemsky jumped right up from the QMJHL. Shot totals can sometimes be a function of the size and physical maturity of a player, since it requires them to get near the net. This might help explain the difference with the shots.

Omark also averaged significantly more playing time than Hemsky but had fewer points. On one hand, Hemsky was on a playoff team and therefore he should theoretically have had better linemates, while Omark's team was 30th. On the other hand, Hemsky wouldn't necessarily have been used in a key offensive role. And, after magically sprouting a third hand, we can recall that Omark was playing behind two very good right wingers for most of the year and didn't always enjoy a key role either.

It's impossible to predict exactly how good Omark will be, but the point of these numbers is to show that what you're seeing on the ice isn't a mirage. Hemsky and Omark are similar in more ways than simply their ability to dangle. The main difference is that Omark already seems to be more dogged and determined than Hemsky is to this day.

The organization obviously didn't feel secure enough in Linus Omark to trade Hemsky, despite the latter's injury history. However, Omark's rookie campaign was strong enough to suggest that if Hemsky is traded one day, the team might not have far to look for a replacement. It's always good to have options, and Omark definitely played himself into the mix.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

08/04/11 58.2 Rookie Report Card: Jordan Eberle

Can you believe he scored that goal against Calgary? Sure, goal of the year is nice, but against Calgary of all teams! Jordan Eberle has certainly been able to translate his flare for scoring big, clutch goals to the NHL. As far as rookie seasons go he performed admirably and deserves a B+.

Canada's young hero came on like gangbusters once he finally got to the NHL. His drive to get to the next level was clearly quite strong, and it bothered him not to have made the team in his first two cracks at it. That's exactly what you want to see out of young players. Having finally made the leap, Eberle didn't disappoint, tallying 15 points in his first 23 NHL games, and scoring the goal of the year for the entire league on opening night.

At that rate - 0.65 points per game - Eberle would have had 53 points over an 82 game stretch. Unfortunately, not only did he not play 82 games, but he also didn't keep up the pace that he started at. Below is a chart that breaks down his point production. Since Eberle played 69 games, I've broken his season down into 23-game segments.

 Games 1-23   15 points 0.65 p/g 
 Games 24-46   16 points   0.70 p/g
 Games 47-69 12 points  0.52 p/g

Eberle missed 13 games with an ankle injury from January 3rd to February 2nd, but the injury doesn't seem to be the reason that his production slowed. In fact, he scored 8 points in the nine games after his month of convalescence. That nine game stretch is the last part of the second segment in the chart, where Eberle was at his most productive.

Much like this Hummer-Limo, the problem may simply have been that our man Eberle was getting burned out. He wasn't always noticeable as the end of the season neared, as players that had already had a long year no longer had anything to play for.
In fact, Eberle had a five game slump with no points from March 8th-17th. Tellingly, these were the first games after Taylor Hall got hurt, and Magnus Paajarvi slumped in that stretch as well. Losing Hall - not to mention all those games - must have taken a tole on Eberle's production.

Like most scorers Eberle was streaky last year, five times having spans of 3 or more games without a point. However, Eberle never went more than five games without registering a point, while fellow rookie Magnus Paajarvi had one abysmal 13 game cold streak, and another that spanned 9 games.

Despite all that, Eberle was on pace to fire 188 shots on goal if he had played 82 games, which is more than a larger, faster rookie in Paajarvi. This is perhaps a pat on the back to the organization for allowing the undersized winger the time to grow enough to be effective in the NHL, since Eberle was listed at 5'10" and 174 pounds in 2008 and is now 6 feet and 185 lbs.

Leading your team in scoring as a rookie is not an easy thing to do, but Jordan Eberle did it. Granted, it was an injury-ravaged squad, but the list of injuries included him. Over a full season he was on pace to score 21-30-51, which would have put him just a little behind what Hall was on pace for if he had played a full campaign.

Again, injuries - not only to him, but to his team mates - prevent his season from receiving a better grade because he wasn't always able to show what he can do. The good news is that he can hardly be faulted for that problem. He might not have been rookie of the year, but Jordan deserves honorable mention, if only for The Goal against Calgary. He showed glimpses of what he can become, and that is a deceptively deadly offensive weapon.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

08/03/11 58.1 Rookie Report Card: Magnus Paajarvi

Magnus put that cue to work this season. He may not have produced at the level of Hall or Eberle, or shown the flashes of brilliance that Omark sometimes did, but Paajavi had a fine season for a rookie. He shall be given a B grade for his year. I already wrote a glowing review of Paajarvi's rookie year, but we'll delve a little further into it this time around.

In reviewing Taylor Hall's rookie campaign we saw that he was able to amass a very large number of shots, and was on pace to have shot totals that only Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin, Couture and Grabner have had as rookies since the lockout. Magnus Paajarvi was no slouch in the shot department either. He hit the opposing net 180 times this year in 80 games, for a 2.25 shots-per-game average. It didn't always feel like he was shooting so much, but the numbers say Paajarvi was at least directing the puck in the right direction most of the time.

The average Oilers fan would be surprised to know that Paajarvi had at least 5 shots in a game nine times this year, including two games with 8 shots on goal and two games where he had six apiece. He hit the net at least 4 times in fifteen games this season. The only problem is the rate at which he converted all of those shots: 8.3%.

If Paajarvi was scoring at a rate similar to Taylor Hall - or 11.8% of the time - the Swede would have scored 21 goals this year. But he wasn't scoring at that rate, and he only put 15 pucks past opposing goaltenders. It's clear that he has the ability to get to the net and to get the puck to the net as well, but his off season will have to be spent figuring out a way to convert more of the chances that he created for himself. He may have had 8 shots in two separate games this past year, but he didn't score in either of those outings.

Like Hall, Paajarvi's point production increased as the season wore on. The chart below illustrates this:

 Games 1-20  6 Points  0.30 Points per Game
 Games 21-40  9 Points  0.45 Points per Game
 Games 41-60  9 Points  0.45 Points per Game  
 Games 61-80   10 Points  0.50 Points per Game

The difference here is that Paajarvi's production didn't increase by the same leaps and bounds that Hall's did. Paajarvi obviously became more offensive as the season progressed, but it's an open question as to how much of that can be attributed to all of the injuries the team sustained. Prior to Hall's injury in particular, Paajarvi played 18 or more minutes in a game only three times (though he was close a few times). In those last 17 games after Hall got hurt, Paajarvi was on the ice for 18 or more minutes eight times.

Having said all that, it's still encouraging to see that Paajarvi's production was on the upswing over the course of the season, which implies that he was getting more comfortable as the year wore on. The injury bug contributed to his getting more ice time, but it also meant that the quality of his linemates would have been poorer. Therefore, to see him continue to produce and improve his production is a positive, even if he wasn't on the same level as Hall in that regard.


It will be interesting to see how Paajarvi's production is affected by his being more used to the North American game - not to mention living in North America. A reasonable prediction for the young Swede would see him improve to around 40-50 points, but any more than that would constitute a gigantic step forward from this past year. It's possible that he will one day produce more than that, but if he ends up as a 20-30-50 player each year that would be fine for the role the Oilers have in mind for him. Paajarvi's job is to produce secondary offense, and he should have no trouble doing that.

Paajarvi's improvement as a player hasn't been as pronounced as some others on the team, and fans can probably expect that to continue. But as long as there is some improvement in 2011-12, the Oilers will have a fine second line winger on their hands.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

08/02/11 58.0 Rookie Report Card: Taylor Hall

There's something about seeing Taylor Hall in a Spitfires uniform that just hasn't been captured in the images of him as an Oiler yet. During his time in Windsor, Hall was the go-to guy of all go-to guys and he looked the part, while in Edmonton he still has the appearance of a fresh faced rookie who is learning the ropes. And yet, there are indications among his stats that show just how good he is going to be. Taylor Hall receives an A- for his rookie season. Below is the explanation.

Perhaps the most telling of all of Hall's stats as a rookie is not the amount of goals he put up, or even the number of points. It's the number of shots. Hall fired 186 shots at the opposition in just 65 games this season (not including the numerous shots that missed or were blocked). He was on pace for 235 shots on goal over a stretch of 82 games, which puts him into some elite company.

Since the lockout, only five other rookies have hit the net with that many shots, even if we take into account the players who didn't appear in 82 games and calculate their pace. In 2005-06 there was Alex Ovechkin who had a staggering 425 shots on goal, and Sidney Crosby who had 278. The following year Evgeni Malkin had 242 shots as a rookie, but for three years after that no rookie matched or bettered 235 SOG. This past season Hall was surpassed by Logan Couture, who had 253 shots, and Michael Grabner was on pace for 246.

However, Hall was on pace to have more shots than Kopitar was (220) as a rookie in 2006-07, and more than Paul Stastny's 185. He would have put more rubber on net than Patrick Kane (191), Peter Mueller (201), and Jonathan Toews (on pace for 185 over 82 gms) in 2007-08. Hall pounded more pucks between posts than Steven Stamkos' 181, or Bobby Ryan (on pace for 223 over 82 gms) in 2008-09. And in 2009-10, Bergfors (217), Tavares (186), Duchene (180) and Van Riemsdyk (173) weren't even close. During a full, healthy season, Hall would have put more shots on goal than Jeff Skinner's 215 as well.

The importance of a player getting a pile of shots on goal should be obvious. Taylor Hall is a player with a passion for scoring and that shows in the amount of times he directs the puck toward the net. What's more, he has the talent and the drive to actually get a large number of shots. The Oilers can certainly use more players like him, since they have been pitiful in shots per game since 2006-07. The chart below illustrates the Oilers' woes in putting up shots:

YearOilers' Shots per Game (League Rank)

The Oilers were still second-last in shots per game last year even with Hall, but this team was devastated by injuries including an extended injury to number 4. Hall still led the Oilers in shots, despite missing the last 17 games of the season. If he can dial in his accuracy a little more, this player shouldn't have any trouble posting 35-45 goals on a consistent basis.

Hall took a little time to get adjusted to the NHL, but once he found his game he should have been in the conversation for the piece of hardward pictured above, which goes to the league's top rookie.

In his first 20 games Hall had 9 points; in his next 20 he had 14 points; and in his last 25 games he had 19 points. His points per game average went from 0.45 p/g in the first 20 games to 0.7 p/g in the next 20, to 0.76 p/g in the final 25. Even if his p/g average merely stayed at 0.76 after game 65, Hall would have been on pace for another 13 points before season's end, bringing his overall total to 55. He probably wouldn't have had much trouble at least nearing 30 goals as a rookie.

All of these numbers show two things:

1) Hall did with his rookie season what rookies should do: he learned to adapt to the NHL
2) He is already a dominant force at age 19 and is having little trouble translating his game to the next level

If he can continue his upward trajectory going into next season, Hall should be a tremendous weapon for the Oilers' arsenal.

Hall's injury is the only thing that spoiled an otherwise impressive rookie campaign, but it's hard to dock him too many points for standing up for himself. Aside from a totally healthy season out of Hall, Oilers fans and management couldn't have asked for much more.

Monday, 1 August 2011

08/01/11 57.0 Cogliano VS. Lander

Anton Lander

Andrew Cogliano has been traded away, at least partially because the Oilers have a number of quality centers on the rise. One of them is Anton Lander. Another part of the reason that Cogs finds himself in California is that he was going to be playing a bottom-six role for the Oilers, which is probably the same type of role that the organization has in mind for Lander. Let's look at how they stack up.

If we assume based on Desjardins' numbers that the Swedish Elite League is 78% as tough to score in as the NHL, then Anton Lander projects to score around 14-20-34 in an 82 game NHL season. That compares strongly with Cogliano's 11-24-35 in 82 games last year.

The difference is that Lander is a $900,000 NHL cap hit for the next three years, and his salary is only $67,500 if he plays in Oklahoma City. Cogliano, meanwhile, carries a $2,390,000 cap hit for the next three years with a salary that increases from $2.15 million to $2.35 million to $2.67 million. That's a huge difference in compensation for players that should be able to produce at around the same level.

Naturally, there are still plenty of people who will point to Cogliano's first two years in the NHL and his back-to-back 18 goal seasons. "He was an offensive diamond in the rough!" those people cry. That might be true, but it probably isn't.

Over those first two years Cogliano had shooting percentages of 18.4% and 15.5%. These are ridicuously inflated numbers. As a rookie Cogliano scored those 18 goals on just 98 total shots on goal - the lowest total of his career. For whatever reason, he got a high percentage of his shots past opposing goaltenders for the first two years of his career. In the last two years, Cogliano's shooting percentage has plummeted to 7.2% and 8.5%. He had a career high in shots (139) in 2009-10 and a career low in goals with ten.

If we take Cogliano's average shooting percentage over his career (11.8%) and multiply it by the average number of shots he gets per season (120.5), we see that Cogliano would have scored around 14 goals per year over that span. That is probably closer to how his career projects than simply looking at his first two years or his last two.

Todd Marchant

If the idea is for Cogliano to replace Todd Marchant in Anaheim, it means that Cogliano won't be getting much more opportunity than he did in Edmonton to produce offense. Here is the average time each spent on the ice per game over the last four seasons:

YearTodd MarchantAndrew Cogliano

Of course, Cogliano could one day replace Saku Koivu on the Ducks' second line, which will probably inject some life into his numbers. The fact that he'll have some better linemates and will be used in more offensive situations shouldn't hurt him, at least. But again, Cogliano is probably a downgrade in a second line role from what the Oilers have in Sam Gagner.

By trading Cogliano, the Oilers opened the door for a player like Anton Lander to make the leap to the NHL. If he does, there's every chance that he can be just as effective as Cogliano in a checking role, while chipping in a little offense. And he'll do it for a heck of a lot cheaper than Cogliano will; at least for the next three seasons. Acquiring a second round pick only makes the deal that much better.