Left Wing and a Prayer

That’s Marc Tardif (#11) scoring and Reginald Houle (#14) observing for the Habs, maybe 1971. Montreal stole them both from the other clubs with a special rule that allowed them to reserve the two best French players in each draft season. Fricking Pollock.

Ask fans for the greatest LW in the history of the game and you’ll get answers like Ted Lindsay, Bobby Hull and Frank Mahovlich. I think the goofy kid in Washington will end up being better than the whole damn bunch if he can stay healthy.

In the fall of 2005, the Edmonton Oilers broke camp with a nice group of left-wingers: Smyth, Torres, Moreau, Todd Harvey. Last fall, the opening night lineup featured Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano, Ethan Moreau and Marc Pouliot. That’s a step down in terms of talent, grit and experience. The numbers are 5×5/60; 5×4/60; quality of competition; quality of linemate; +/- in endzone faceoffs and then 5×5/GF-GA ON.

  • Penner: 1.71/3.15/2nd level/toughest/-39/45-32
  • Nilsson: 1.22/4.59/2nd level/2nd level/-45/34-32
  • Moreau: 1.50/0.00/toughest/3rd level/+9/37-39
  • Reddox: 1.43/11.84/3rd level/3rd level/+15/16-22
  • Jacques: 2.28/0.00/2nd level/2nd level/EVEN/3-4
  • O’Sullivan: 1.69/2.05/2nd level/3rd level/EVEN/46-48

I placed O’Sullivan at the end because most of his season was spent on the left coast so we can’t compare directly. A few points:

  • Ethan Moreau had a good season by the numbers, folks. His penalties were galling and his comments were unique in terms of team leader, but he faced the toughest opposition without a lot of help and sawed it off.
  • Penner looks less impressive through this window. We know he was quality when placed on the Horcoff-Hemsky line and he must have been pushing uphill at that time. But he got a push in terms of faceoffs and softer opponents outside the 1line time and didn’t make enough of it based on these numbers. Strictly complementary as a player, 7th in the batting order type of player.
  • Nilsson had a perfect opportunity here based on the numbers. He did not take advantage of it. If you want to pick one player who is likely to have done extreme damage to his career in 08-09, this is your man.
  • Reddox has a long way to go but he’s in the game.
  • Jacques finally put some crooked numbers on the board and we can hope.
  • O’Sullivan didn’t have his best season but was not (based on these numbers) playing in an ideal 2line situation.

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53 Responses to "Left Wing and a Prayer"

  1. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    Left Wing or a Player?

  2. uni says:

    If Jacques ever proves to be one of those odd ducks that have the light go on late I'd be ecstatic. I'm still hoping with his career arc that he ends up being a Ponikarovsky type player with better wheels and more crash, bang, and offensive skill.

    Quinn was very patient with Poni and brought him along, here's hoping he can do the same thing with Jean only faster.

    I also have an unhealthy fantasy where Mikhnov comes to camp and gets molded by Quinn into a slightly less awkward skating more skilled Antropov (although I don't see him having the same grit) and O'Sullivan round into a Sullivan =). Ahh…fantasy is so much nicer than reality.

    Also to this day I still find the exposure of Sullivan to be the most inexcusable mistake of Quinn's tenure as Leafs GM. Trading McCauley, Boyes, and a 1st in the deep 2003 draft for Nolan was horrid, but at least he can say he was going for a cup (he later expressed that he learned a lesson and would not repeat this type of mistake mortgaging the future) but how do you leave a 20G 20A in 60GP young player unprotected?

  3. Asiaoil says:

    Last year at this time we had Penner, Torres, Moreau, Glencross and JFJ at LW. That's plenty big and tough but this June we are bemoaning a lack of size and grit in the lineup. Lowe screwed the pooch fantastically at this position last summer – and this along with failing to resign a vet 3rd line center and a season full of bizzare coaching moves on and off the ice cost us a playoff spot.

  4. Bar Qu says:

    I'm thinking a Madonna song here related to the Oil – like a little player.

    Although in all fairness, by the list of LW here, its probably the only forward position where the Oil are big enuff.

  5. doritogrande says:

    uni:

    Good ideas all around, but I think Mikhnov was a RW.

    Speaking of Ponikarovsky, I'd be all for making a run at his former linemate. No. Not the Swede.

    Nik Antropov solves a couple problems with our wingers. He was a PVP player when with the Leaves and he's got the big-body size we all want. Only problem is he's coming off a pretty good season, so he might be a little bit pricey. 3.5Mil on a two year contract anyone?

  6. DBO says:

    Say no to Antropov. Although if they do sign him ,you can bet Quinn had a big part, since he'd be the guy pushing for him.

    If you have Penner on the 2LW, you need a 1LW. Not sure if there is anyone who fits the tambellini mold (tough, gritty, goal scorer with size) available as a UFA. Assuming Hemsky and O'Sullivan are your two top line RW, and Penner plays on the 2LW, there is only 1 spot we can upgrade.

    Below is the top LW based on cap number from last year who are FA (from NHLNumbers)

    Gaborik, Marian 27 MIN L UFA 6.333 7.500
    Havlat, Martin 28 CHI L UFA 6.000 6.000
    Tanguay, Alex 29 MTL L UFA 5.250 5.375
    Cole, Erik 30 CAR L UFA 4.000 4.000
    Lehtinen, Jere 36 DAL L UFA 4.000 4.100
    Tkachuk, Keith 37 STL L UFA 4.000 4.500
    Sedin, Daniel 28 VAN L UFA 3.575 3.575
    Calder, Kyle 30 LAK L UFA 2.700 2.700
    Zherdev, Nikolai 24 NYR L RFA 2.500 3.250
    Fedotenko, Ruslan 30 PIT L UFA 2.250 2.250

    Disregard Cole, but there isn't much there that fits our need of size and goal scoring. There are some goal scorers, but they are the small skill guys. Looks like our 1 LW will have to come via trade.

  7. Black Gold says:

    My only thoughts on Antropov are there arent a lot of UFA forwards with size and skill. Whoever gets him will probably overpay.
    Good thing is if anyone knows what he's worth it's Quinn.

  8. Mr DeBakey says:

    Ales Kotalik

    Played LW on the Horcoff-Hemsky unit

    Will be again this fall.

    We're looking for Gagner's Wingman, are we not?

  9. Bar Qu says:

    Based on what we saw from Kotalik this past season, is he really an upgrade on Penner?

    If we are looking at trades, then I think the Oil should try for either Gagne, Hartnell or Clowe, who seem to all possess the skill set Tambellini outlined. And if there is a homerun mentality going on, then try for Kovalchuk. I think he could be had for picks. But maybe I'm wrong.

  10. speeds says:

    Tanguay and Gaborik would be nice additions, price dependent. I think Tanguay is likely to be the better deal – down production, coming off an injury. Gaborik would easily fit the bill of "gamebreaker" that the Oilers have seemingly been after since Pronger's departure. Not sure how much pull Lowe still has, but I can recall stories of OF trying to get into the top 3 of the 2000 draft in an attempt to get Gaborik. If that's true, there's some history suggesting they might like the player. He's of course an injury risk, but this is the same team that signed Souray and traded for Visnovsky, point being neither guy seemed like a threat to Doug Jarvis' record at the time of acquisition. They could potentially look at Gaborik's injury history as a chance to get a "gamebreaker" that might otherwise not come to Edmonton, who knows? I mean, I'm sure you'd like to look into it first, see what potential there is for future problems with his past injuries.

    And if the player didn't end up fitting with Hemsky and Horcoff, that's OK, it would give you two lines. What's wrong with that?

  11. Bar Qu says:

    Tanguay is smaller than most players on the Oil and more of a perimeter player too. His time in Calgary really took the shine off for me. All that time with Iginla and he really never put up the points.

  12. speeds says:

    Don't forget better, he's also better than most players on the Oilers.

    He's not an ideal fit in terms of size, or maybe even style, but so what? He's a very good player who will likely be cheaper than he would normally be as a UFA. If you're going to spend money in that market, that's the sort of value you should be looking for.

  13. Bar Qu says:

    Just because it is a gold plated square peg doesn't mean it is any better fit for a round hole. Tanguay is a pass first guy and trying to fit him on a line with Hemsky (pass first personified) just doesn't seem wise. Maybe it helps Horcoff, but to me the skills Tanguay brings are not a fit for the first line needs.

    And that is not even getting into his 189lbs and unwillingness to go where the going is hard.

  14. Lowetide says:

    Gaborik is the guy I'd like to see here. Injuries are definitely a huge consideration but you don't get that player type unless there's an issue.

    Tanguay's a very good player too, but the Oilers already have a lot of guys who do what he does (although not as well, save Hemsky).

  15. speeds says:

    Bar Qu:

    I can buy the square peg/round hole bit if you're talking about VAN spending money and assets to acquire another top 5 goalie. But I don't think it works as well for forwards because there's no reason an acquired LW HAS to play with Hemsky. What would be so bad about giving Gagner a more proven offensive talent to play with, a guy with a history of a strong +/- as well.

  16. Dennis says:

    Moreau had a very lucky season.

    Granted, I'm down on the guy because of his salary and his loosening grip on reality (as evidenced by his postgame comments) but from counting scoring chances I will predict he's on the verge falling off the cliff plus/minus wise.

  17. Bar Qu says:

    I understand where you are coming from speeds, but what do you do with Penner then? Back to the first line? Put him with Pisani? His addition doesn't solve the burning question of who finishes for Hemsky.
    So, while I can agree in sentiment that a talent like Tanguay (who will go for a lot less than he did 2 years ago) would be great to have, I just can't see his place on the Oil. I like yours and LT's suggestion of Gaborik alot more, even if he is as likely to be on the IR as on the ice. If there is a gamble to make this off-season, that might be the one.

    Dennis, I think if you make Moreau a little more specialised in his work with a lot less icetime, you might not see the cratering that we all fear. Perhaps little or no PK time and a lot of checking responsibilities. Staples has pointed out a few times that he just seemed to be trying to do too much, which in my experience is a recipe for failure.

  18. speeds says:

    I think you see what happens with a new coach, but I don't have a problem with:

    Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky
    Tanguay-Gagner-O'Sullivan

    to start next season. You know you're first line is, at worst, respectable.

    You don't know what you're second line will do, but Gagner should be better next year, Tanguay on the 2nd line is great. Who knows how O'Sullivan meshes with those two, but he gets a lot of shots, not hard to imagine it working out OK.

  19. Traktor says:

    I love how Lowe is the idiot now after the majority here called Glenx lightning in a bottle and were praising Olcyyk for his new player/salary grid.

    I was actually one of the few that wanted to bring him back but of course I was also smart enough to understand that when Katz is sending out 90 million dollar offers that someone has to go.

    Torres only 20 points last year and made 2.25 million dollars and people still criticize the move. Beauty salary dump as far as I'm concerned.

  20. Kent W. says:

    Tanguay is smaller than most players on the Oil and more of a perimeter player too. His time in Calgary really took the shine off for me. All that time with Iginla and he really never put up the points.

    Tanguay was easily Calgary's 2nd best forward behind Iginla during his time here. He always played top level competition and always outscored them at ES. His counting numbers during his final season as a Flame were off because Keenan put him in a checking role with Conroy/Nolan so he could feed Iginla/Langkow/Huselius the softies as much as possible. Tanguay was still above 2 ESP/60 and a plus player that season anyways.

    He has some annoying tendencies: doesn't crash and bang much, tends to overpass – but he improves everyone around him 5on5 and consistently scores more than the bad guys. I hate that Keenan drove him out of town.

  21. Traktor says:

    Bar Qu:

    What are you feeding your kids? That looks like a cow paddy.

  22. Lowetide says:

    The Oilers keep hanging around the dance waiting for the Hossa's and end up sending away useful pieces. We don't know if Tambellini will do this, but the rumblings are there.

    Penner isn't useless, he can (as we've talked about) be effective on the 1line with Horcoff and Hemsky. The problem is cost, with Hemsky's beauty contract being eaten away by Penner.

    If the Oilers choose to stay with Penner/O'Sullivan up front that's a lot of money invested on the wing and likely means we're looking at Kotalik instead of a higher priced player.

  23. Traktor says:

    Last time I ever mention the name Horcoff for at least a month.

    I just want to know 1 thing..

    The majority of Horc boosters said he didn't have much chance 5×5.

    With his defensive responsibilities there's probably some truth to that.

    What I don't understand though is why you'll insisted Hemsky play with Horcoff if that was the case?

    If Horc was doomed from the get-go why not throw Fernie and Chopper on his line instead of dragging down Hemsky?

    Hopefully Quinn is smarter than this.

  24. Bar Qu says:

    Traktor,

    I am very proud of that pic – first dump out of the diaper and it was man-sized!

    speeds, you are slowly winning me over (and no Kent, I don't agree with you on Tanguay – overpaid and underproducing), but I still don't think he comes to Edmonton. Too much like what is already there for him to be a viable UFA pick-up. Gaborik sounds better, though picking from Philly's cap crunch sell-off might yield a better player. I think Gagne-Gagner-O'Sullivan would be a beauty line and might even be a 1B who could play PVP if the first line is slumping.

  25. Lowetide says:

    Traktor: MacT did make some mention of this once upon a time, I think it was a TC interview where he talked about him being a checking center as opposed to a top line guy.

    It's a good point, but my argument would be the Oilers would have been better served by having a Mike Peca on the roster as opposed to finding another Comrie (as an example).

  26. RiversQ says:

    Traktor will never get it.

    As for Tanguay, he'd be excellent. The Oilers must focus on quality 5V5 forwards that get results – that has to be priority one. Whether they could shop at Mr. Big & Tall has to be 2nd priority IMO.

    If you can get Tanguay for $4.5MM cap hit or less on a 3-4 yr deal you have to jump on it IMO.

    Gaborik would be stellar as well.

    I think they need one top sixer for sure and the position doesn't matter at all. LW,C, or RW – you could shuffle things around to accommodate any of them.

  27. DBO says:

    Traktor: agree on horcoff. I think he's a good 1st line centre, but also believe he's an awesome 2nd line centre. I still believe we need some upgrades, but i would sooner see Horcoff with Penner and Pisani, and slide Gagner to the 1st line and have him with Hemsky and either O'Sullivan or an upgrade.

    O'Sullivan-Gagner-Hemsky
    Penner-Horcoff-Pisani

    the 2nd line has size, some grit, some goal scoring and would probably outscore most lines. they could play against anybody, and are essentially our 1st checking line who will see a ton of ice since they would play agaist the other teams best line most times. And if you believe that Quinn won't be a line matching coach based on his comments, then maybe you go with:

    Pisani-Gagner-Hemsky
    Penner-Horcoff-O'Sullivan

    brings a bit more size to the first line, Pisani has some goal scoring ability and would be the defensively responsible one on that line.

  28. RiversQ says:

    Lowetide said…

    Tanguay's a very good player too, but the Oilers already have a lot of guys who do what he does (although not as well, save Hemsky).

    Could you explain that LT? I have a tough time thinking of a single Oiler forward that can replicate Tanguay's 5V5 contribution.

  29. mjsh says:

    Tanguay is too soft

  30. Lowetide says:

    RQ: I'm not going to delve deeply into it, and since you've mentioned 5×5 I'd suspect you're aware of each players 5×5 numbers going back several seasons. If you wish to share, great. If not, I'll take Hemsky and his overall play (including PP) and state again I'd be happy with Tanguay joing the team.

  31. RiversQ says:

    I think Traktor's hangup is really just on the term "1st liner."

    I think most of us just talk about a "1st liner" as being the three forwards that play the most at ES.

    Maybe we should just declare that from now on, "1st Liner" means the guys that play 2nd most ES minutes?

  32. Mr DeBakey says:

    Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky
    Tanguay-Gagner-O'Sullivan

    .
    .
    I like Tanguay a lot
    But we're more likely to end up with

    Kotalik-Horcoff-Hemsky
    Malone-Gagner-Cogliano
    Penner-Halpern-Pisani

    Bigger, Tougher, Betterer

  33. Bar Qu says:

    DBO

    I like your first set of line combos, but your second set looks like MacT-redux. If Reddox doesn't work on the first line, what makes you think Pisani would? I think the Italian Stallion is better at shut down than lighting it up and is thus much more suited to 3rd line work with Moreau. Though I do see times where a Penner-Horc-Pisani would be a formidable line to play against (shut-down and PVP).

  34. Bar Qu says:

    Is Malone really available? I didn't look closely at him because I though Tampa was happy with him.

  35. RiversQ says:

    Fair enough LT/Cranky Pants.

    I'd say Horc and Hemsky are the only two and the Oilers don't have nearly enough of what Tanguay can bring. One problem with Tanguay is he's historically mediocre on the PP.

  36. quain says:

    I think the idea that Tanguay would be a bad fit because he's too small/"soft" is hilarious. Tanguay is actually good, regardless of his size. The problem with this team is everyone is small and everyone pretty much sucks. Going from 5'10 and shitty to 6'5 and awesome would be great, but I would take 5'10 and awesome in a heartbeat over 90% of what we have.

  37. RiversQ says:

    Malone? Ugh.

    I don't think the Oilers need a guy worse than Penner on a similar deal. And he's definitely worse than Penner.

  38. dstaples says:

    It's Moreau's penalty kill numbers that are a cause for concern.

    Or was he lucky at even strength but unlucky on the kill?

    My take is he can still get the job done OK at even strength, but he's lost the agility needed to effectively kill penalties.

    Perhaps all his injuries have slowed him down enough to make the difference here.

    At even strength, he goes hard to the net and hits. His passing was terrible last season, but maybe that was partly due to the bad hand.

    He's strong on the defensive wall, but often wanders in the defensive zone, trying to do too much.

    I know some folks would like Moreau off the team, and I've heard a number question his leadership, but he's still an OK player. If he doesn't turn it around quick, though, on the kill, it will be a big moment for Quinn: Will the coach take him out of a role he is not cut out for any more?

  39. dstaples says:

    Traktor: I honestly think Horc's offensive game has been limited playing with Hemsky. Horc is a conscientious player, a smart guy, and he's tailored his game to Hemsky, and has tried to turn himself into mainly a shooter in the offensive zone, as opposed to a guy who carries the puck. Both Hemsky and Horcoff would be better served if Horcoff carried it more, Hemsky less.

    It would make them both less predictable.

  40. Lowetide says:

    My guess is that Moreau's reputation as a blood and guts guy gets him at least a season to prove he's lost a step. I'd bet money Quinn loves him.

  41. Traktor says:

    Rivers:

    Call it whatever you want to call it.

    But when you're down two goals going into the third who are you going to call?

    Are you going to call the guy who scored 3 goals in the final 24 games of the season?

    I'd happily pay Horc 4 million to eat minutes on the third line and anything over 40 points would be a bonus.

    The problem is we're playing Ichiro Suzuki 4th in the order.

  42. Traktor says:

    Staples: I pretty much agree.

    Horc could probably be a 40 or 50 assist guy if he was the main feature on a line. He's probably our 2nd best play-maker after Hemsky.

  43. R O says:

    But when you're down two goals going into the third who are you going to call?

    If you're down two goals going into the third often enough that it becomes the difference between comfortably making the playoffs and missing in the last week… you've got other problems.

    The key to hockey has never been scoring, but out-scoring.

    As a Flames fan, I have to say that Horcoff is a fine player and we'll gladly take him off your hands.

  44. Traktor says:

    DBO: As long as Horcoff and Pisani play together I'm happy. Its a crime that they haven't spent more time together over the years.

  45. DBO says:

    On Horcoff: i think MacT mentoned it before that both him and Hemsky like to carry the puck, so having 2 of them on the same line kind of cancels out one of their strengths. Moving horcoff to 2nd line and having him be the passer may work really well. Like i mentioned in the line combo's, Horc with Pisani and Penner/O'Sullivan gives you two guys who can score some (for our team anyways they are "scorers") and a good passer in horcoff. Let gagner play with Hemsky and add a finisher on that line. Add a solid 3rd line centre with size and faceoff capability, and see what we have. Someone mentioned Malone (terrible deal, but exactly what tambellini wants) and Haplern. If Gilbert got you those two it would look nice, but handicap us in the salary cap for too many years.

  46. Bruce says:

    Tanguay is a pass first guy and trying to fit him on a line with Hemsky (pass first personified) just doesn't seem wise.

    Bar Qu: I disagree with your characterization of Hemsky as a "pass-first" player. He is a carry the puck first kind of guy. He generally is more likely to pass it rather than shoot it, but passing it is not the first thing he does. He is not what I call a one-touch passer, that's for sure.

  47. Black Gold says:

    If Tanguay is so strong 5×5 whats the thoughts on signing him and playing him w/ Horc and POS pvp, and Hemmer Gags and Penner vs lessers?

    Personally, I like the idea of Havlat in an Oil uniform as much as Gaborik. Of course Havlat and his injury problems are insurable and Gaborik and his injury problems aren't. Hopefully that takes a few teams out of the Gaborik bidding war.

  48. R O says:

    Personally, I like the idea of Havlat in an Oil uniform as much as Gaborik.

    As per Havlat's Twitter, he wants to remain a Blackhawk to the end of his career.

  49. RiversQ says:

    Traktor: If you're down by two going into the third you're usually screwed. I'd rather have a team that gets into that situation a lot less than look for a mythical player that scores third period goals.

  50. Traktor says:

    "If you're down by two going into the third you're usually screwed."

    If your top center only had 3 goals in the final 24 games of the season you're usually screwed as well.

    "I'd rather have a team that gets into that situation a lot less than look for a mythical player that scores third period goals."

    What about a player that can score 1st period or 2nd period goals?

    Or did you expect success when Andrew Cogliano is your 2nd leading forward goal-scorer?

  51. RiversQ says:

    Traktor: We agree this team is poorly constructed. The disagreement is about how to fix it.

  52. Dennis says:

    BQ: but if you lessen 18's role, then his salary really comes into question, doesn't it?

    LT: at first blush, yes, 18 should be a Quinn guy. But if Pat or anyone are doing their homework, they read the MacT exit quotes from 18 and 24, they look at their TOI and roles and they start to wonder about loyalty.

    Regarding the big picture, it's probably crazy not to try and improve but if we're making minor moves then I'd just put 19 with 10-83 and then go 27-89-13 as the second line. Then you fuck around with the bottom six and bring in a faceoff man and a couple of PKers and you hope that you improve by virtue of the kids maturation and some new ST schematics.

  53. Chase says:

    He isn't your typical player because of his size, but he definitely surprises many people! Do you really think he could be better than Ted Lindsay, Bobby Hull and Frank Mahovlich? We'll have to see about that. I heard Bobby Hull is playing in the legends challenge in the fall.

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