Oilers at Leafs, G25 ’10-’11

That’s Dave Keon, maybe 1967-68 season. The Oakland goalie is Charlie Hodge (the old Habs goalie who became a successful scout) and Larry Cahan (famous for his involvement in the Bill Masterton hit).

I’ve mentioned Dave Keon hundreds of times on this blog. Keon was a perfect player, the ultimate argument against needing size to play a strong 2-way game. He was a splendid penalty-killer, a quality scorer and durable. I can’t imagine a Leafs fan my age  having an unkind word about Keon as a player. I can still recall his penalty killing: he’d rub out the right defender who had just passed the puck, and often do the same to the other guy (he was so fast) to the delight of the crowd. He was all about the pressure and the forecheck, but he could also anticipate extremely well. Dave Keon was born to intercept, and he did it for many, many years.

Last night during the tsn broadcast, Pierre McGuire stressed several times that Andrew Cogliano is a responsible defensive player. This is untrue. I can see why anyone might believe he could be and in fact Tom Renney has talked about it a few times this season. Cogliano does have some tremendous tools that could make him into a quality 2-way player, but he isn’t there yet.

  • Renney: “He certainly hasn’t ever taken a day off. He’s also a guy now who is processing the game as quickly as he can skate it. That’s important because some people can’t do that. Anybody who comes out of junior or their amateur experience in college and has put up big numbers expects to do that in the NHL. Sometimes, it takes a little longer. He’ll find his level. The big thing for him is the investment he’s put into being a good two-way player and the effort he puts into that.”

I think Renney’s patience and Cogliano’s maturing may well deliver a good 2-way player from the Keon, Ralph Backstrom, Butch Goring family. I thought Cogliano would be that player by now, but there appears to be some acceptance this season that maybe wasn’t there before. It’s a terrific sign. He’s not there yet, but he’s on the right road and going the right away. Cogliano is certainly smart enough to play that kind of game.

Last night was a fun game for Oiler fans. I enjoyed it as much as any game this season, outside G1 which was an incredible debut for the kids. Tonight’s tilt could be amazing too, but we need to remember that young teams often careen between great and poor performances. There is a feeling about this team, though. They’re gaining confidence every game and good things are going to happen.

It’s a little like Cogliano’s progress away from the puck. You can see good things happening, just not in a straight line.  Hey, they’re kids. That’s what they do. It’s a part of the process. Patience.

I wrote a post over at ON awhile back about Sam Gagner. Those who have read my thoughts on 89 previously wouldn’t be surprised by my views, but it did seem to send a ripple through parts of the blogosphere. Specifically David Staples (a decent and rational man) seemed to take issue with my views (his post is here) and with Gagner’s defensive play:

  • What do I see in terms of Gagner’s defensive play? That he appeared to improve a bit from age 19 to 20, but has taken a step back so far this year at age 21. As a 19-year-old in 2008-09, he made mistakes that contributed to 1.47 goals against per 60 minutes of even strength play. Last year, he improved to making just 1.24 goal-causing errors per 60 minutes. But this year he’s been part of the blood bath in the Oilers’ own zone, making 1.78 errors per 60. He’s done so while often playing with two of the Oil’s best defensive wingers, Hemsky and Dustin Penner.

The mistakes David refers to are “errors” which he measures on each goal. I think we’re going to have to decide which of the measures we’re going to use from here on out. Kind of a modern “VHS versus Beta” discussion. I believe counting only the events that surround goals misses most of the game and in fact punishes those who play against the best opposition too severely. I’ve always used relCorsi run through toughness of opposition, as it’s easily explained, understood and reflective of reality.

I think David Staples is a fine person and a great writer. My interaction with him has always been positive and I wish him no ill will. I don’t think “errors” moves the conversation forward in a rational way. What am I missing?

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