Cogliano versus O’Sullivan

Many years ago, the Montreal Expos decided they could cheat a little on defense by playing some of their hitters out of position. They used Hubie Brooks at shortstop even though he had little range and an erratic arm. They used Vance Law at second base even though he had no range at all. Both of them were third basemen with their former teams, but Tim Wallach was established at the hot corner.

So, for a time, the Expos had a third baseman playing every infield position but first base. Wallach was an excellent defensive third baseman (he may have won a gold glove when Schmidt retired, I don’t remember) and Andres Galarraga was outstanding at 1b.

They won a lot of games over a period of three or four years, and they were in some pennant races, but they booted the fall a fair amount too. I’d give tons of credit to Tim Raines and Buck Rodgers, who had one of the most incredible seasons in history in terms of saving scrap heap starters (Dennis Martinez, Pascual Perez, etc).

We’ve talked a lot about balance on this blog in the last couple of years. The Oilers off-season roster boasts the following forwards who are listed as being 6 feet or less and 200 pounds or fewer:

  • Ales Hemsky (6.0, 192)
  • Sam Gagner (5.11, 191)
  • Andrew Cogliano (5.10, 184)
  • Patrick O’Sullivan (5.11, 190)
  • Robert Nilsson (5.11, 185)
  • Liam Reddox (5.10, 180)

And these are just the guys who played in the NHL most of the season. Bubbling under are Gilbert Brule (5.10, 180), Rob Schremp (5.11, 200), Ryan Potulny (6.0, 190), Jordan Eberle (5.10, 174), Tyler Spurgeon (5.10, 188), Tim Sestito (5.11, 195). I understand that size isn’t a perfect reflection of a players grit, but just how many of these skilled, finesse types can you run out there every night?

I decided to break this down in terms of minutes. How many minutes did the Oilers devote last season to skilled, finesse players who were safely in the top 12?

  • Hemsky-1342
  • Gagner-1273
  • Cogliano-1181
  • Nilsson-972
  • O’Sullivan-348

I’ve excluded Reddox because he doesn’t fit the skill portion of the exercise. That’s 5,116 minutes devoted to players who are skilled but aren’t big men. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to ignore the fact that Hemsky doesn’t back down and that Gagner is a fiesty bugger. GM Tambellini has suggested this team needs more grit, and 5,000 minutes for these players is a nice place to start. Let’s look at the NW champion:

  • Pavol Demitra-1206
  • Kyle Wellwood-1021
  • Mason Raymond-987

You can argue Rick Rypien should be included, but I’m satisfied this is the group we should be taking about. That’s 3,214 minutes for the Canucks, meaning the Oilers are devoting a lot of at-bats to undersized players. It’s also very obvious (and I’ve railed about this many times before), but the Oilers devoted way too many minutes to inexperienced players over the last two seasons.

I think there’s a very good chance that Tambellini decides to keep Hemsky, Gagner and then one of Cogliano or O’Sullivan. I can’t see Nilsson on this team come the fall. So it comes down to Cogs versus POS:

Andrew Cogliano

  • Boxcars: 82gp, 18-20-38, 20pims
  • Shots: 116
  • Plus Minus: -6
  • Corsi: -4.4
  • GF/GA ON: 36-37
  • 5×5/60: 1.69
  • 5×4/60: 3.39
  • Quality of Competition: 3rd level
  • Quality of Teammates: 3rd level
  • FO %: 37.2% in 702 sorties
  • 09-10 Cap Hit: $.850M(nhlnumbers.com)

Patrick O’Sullivan

  • Boxcars: 81gp, 16-27-43, 28pims
  • Shots: 259
  • Plus Minus: -6
  • Corsi: 7.2
  • GF/GA ON: 46-48
  • 5×5/60: 1.69
  • 5×4/60: 2.05
  • Quality of Competition: 2nd level
  • Quality of Teammates: 3rd level
  • FO %: 41.4% in 99 sorties
  • 09-10 Cap Hit: $2.925M (nhlnumbers.com)

Some things really stand out here: O’Sullivan is a real shooter, something this roster needs badly. Cogliano can score goals and put up offense, and has done it without playing big minutes with exceptional veteran skill players (for the most part). They are similar players in many ways, O’Sullivan’s numbers suffered greatly after coming over to Edmonton and we need to factor that in too. I’d like them to retain both players, but honestly can’t see how the new coach will be able to use so many undersized finesse players. Cogliano’s salary and fame probably make him more attractive to another team in terms of trade.

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