This is Ralph Backstrom. When I was a kid he was the 3rd line center for Montreal, behind HOFers Jean Beliveau and Henri Richard. The Habs were deep down the middle, and by the mid-70s they had turned over the names but remained strong at C (Jacques Lemaire, Peter Mahovlich, Doug Risebrough by 1974) forever.
Edmonton’s Oilers have a quality NHL center in Shawn Horcoff and then several candidates who have one or more issues in terms of 08-09.
Jarrett Stoll has a wayward noggin, Andrew Cogliano is a little shy on experience and size, Sam Gagner is also undersized but an enormous talent, Kyle Brodziak appears to be the new Rem Murray, Marty Reasoner is a UFA and left his good knee somewhere along the boards awhile back, Marc Pouliot can’t seem to find fourth gear, Rob Schremp apparently doesn’t have one and on it goes.
I think the key players at center are Horcoff, Cogliano and Brodziak. If Horcoff can do the heavy lifting, then Stoll becomes expendable. If Cogliano can post good numbers as the center on the soft parade line then Stoll becomes expendable. If Brodziak can center the checking line and pop a few while staying in the black in the plus minus then Stoll becomes expendable. Gagner may play center or the wing, but his role and Stoll’s are not really related. Pouliot and Schremp have yet to establish themselves and Reasoner hasn’t been invited into the conversation at this time.
A lot of Oilers fans are saying that Jarret Stoll’s health is a big question mark for next season. It seems to me that Stoll’s EV/60 number (.76, same as Souray) erases the question mark.
Despite the issues facing all behind Horcoff, they are better options for 08-09 than Jarret Stoll. He may find his career and once again establish himself as an NHL regular, but the price required for the Edmonton Oilers to retain his services is too dear. Better to endure the inexperience of Brodziak and Pouliot, better to wait for the development of Cogliano and Gagner, better to sign Reasoner and hope he can hang on for another year, better to rely on Shawn Horcoff.
The Edmonton Oilers can’t afford to sign Jarret Stoll and be wrong.