Reasonable Expectations Review: Forwards 09-10

I’m tempted to suggest that the Oilers are an experiment gone terribly wrong at forward, but that would imply planning and a template. The fact is that the Edmonton Oilers appear to have gathered a bunch of guys with little regard to things like duplicate skills, range of skills, situation skills.

The result is a bunch of small players (more small players than I can recall in decades, maybe the original Oakland Seals had this many small forwards) and most of them still trying to establish themselves in the show. Small, same spot in the development curve, most of them ideal for the 5-7 slot in the batting order despite being best-suited to play first base defensively.

Lordy. What a mess.

  • Hemsky: Predicted- 75gp, 24-66-90 (1.20)
  • Hemsky: Actual- 22gp, 7-15-22 (1.00)

The projection isn’t far off but of course the injury ended his season. Hemsky has missed almost 40 games now and is still tied for 6th in scoring among Oiler forwards. He was playing mid-level competition with good linemates when he went down, which would have been close to ideal for 83. I doubt Quinn returns for another year and if Renney takes over one expects Hemsky will be on the tough minutes unit again. A largely misunderstood player among the Oiler fanbase.

  • Horcoff: Predicted- 71gp, 18-29-47 (.662)
  • Horocff: Actual- 56gp, 9-14-23 (.411)

A small change for Horcoff this season, just to add to the degree of difficulty. He’s still facing the toughest opponent game in-game out, but he no longer gets the best teammates (6th among forwards). I hope you’ve read this blog long enough to know that excuse making is not the order of the day, but Horcoff has played in incredibly poor luck this year. Just awful. He’s also been injured for much of the season and to my eye has lost a step. Still, his Corsi relative to quality of opponent leads the team and I remain a believer. Tough sledding, though.

  • Penner: Predicted- 80gp, 20-21-41 (.513)
  • Penner: Actual- 61gp, 24-23-47 (.770)

You’re not going to read this many times during this post, but Penner exceeded expectations by the season’s halfway point. Unfortunately he hasn’t done too much since then, but he remains the best Oiler for 09-10 overall. Penner’s splits with/without Hemsky (25gp, 13-13-26 +10 the night Hemmer went down, 36gp, 11-10-21 -8 since) suggest he misses the skilled winger but his most recent 20 games (5-4-9 -10) have reminded us of the indifferent player that so galled MacT. The Big P is becoming the big riddle again.

  • O’Sullivan: Predicted- 78gp, 28-28-56 (.717)
  • O’Sullivan: Actual- 60gp, 10-20-30 (.500)

There’s a concern here. O’Sullivan has been slipping for awhile now (before he was dealt here) and things aren’t getting better. In the RE for the fall I wrote “players get traded for a reason and O’Sullivan was off the pace of his previous season.” In 07-08 he had 16 EV goals, this season he’s at 6. I’d hold onto him because there’s no physical reason for this (age, injury) so it must be confidence and that can be turned around. Having said that, the Oilers lead the league in undersized skill men up front and we’re on 100 games now with a fading pulse. Too bad.

  • Gagner: Predicted- 78gp, 20-40-60 (.769)
  • Gagner: Actual- 56gp, 14-21-35 (.625)

Not far off the pace and the kid usually closes well. He’s got all kinds of positive arrows this year and by eye is looking more confident seemingly every game, especially since landing at center full time. His shooting is much better (not dangerous, but not flutter either) and he appears quicker. Gagner remains a cerebral player whose passing skills in close are ridiculous. He’s playing with better linemates this season and the future appears bright, with possible wingers for 10-11 including Penner, Hall and Hemsky.

  • Nilsson: Predicted- 70gp, 11-19-30 (.429)
  • Nilsson: Actual- 43gp, 6-14-20 (.465)

Nilsson has covered the bet but still can’t please the coach. Facing the soft parade with good linemates he can’t seem to grab the NHL job that has been waiting for him since 2005. In the last two seasons, facing less than average opposition with good linemates, Nilsson’s 5×5/60 offense has been 1.22 (08-09) and 1.36 (09-10). I don’t think he’ll return but have said it before and he’s still here.

  • Cogliano: Predicted- 82gp, 22-25-47 (.573)
  • Cogliano: Actual- 61gp, 5-8-13 (.213)

Cogliano’s season is contained Dylan’s song “Ballad of a Thin Man (“something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?”) and at this point I’m out of possible answers. Can he be so stubborn that he won’t learn (as implied by Jim Matheson recently) the finer points of the game? Is he so addled that he doesn’t know those things will keep him in the league longer? I think the team has decided to send him away because they’ve given up on him. It’s very early in the game to do it, especially considering the patience shown with Robert Nilsson.

  • Pisani: Predicted- 60gp, 14-14-28 (.467)
  • Pisani: Actual- 22gp, 2-0-2 (.091)

Despite the plethora of bad seasons on this roster, very few players up front have long term health concerns or aging to worry over. Fernando Pisani is a player whose health and age suggest his skills may be eroding. He’s certainly worth a draft pick at the deadline for penalty killing purposes, and I think the Oilers should consider bringing him back on a value contract. His Corsi relative to competition is solid and Desjardins tells us he is still facing the vaunt when healthy.

  • Moreau: Predicted- 65gp, 12-11-23 (.354)
  • Moreau: Actual- 60gp, 6-7-13 (.217)

Moreau is still facing the tougher competition and although the results aren’t great a case can be made that he can help another team in a more defined role. I’m somewhat torn about Moreau, he was a loyal soldier (never the best player on the famous Marchant-Moreau-Grier line, he survived the other two because Lowe rewarded him) and at one time (I believe) a player with some value. However, we’ve reached a point where ‘somebody poisoned the water hole’ and it is time for him to go. Now.

  • Pouliot: Predicted- 70gp, 10-15-25 (.357)
  • Pouliot: Actual- 14gp, 2-2-4 (.286)

Pouliot was injured for much of the season, once again gassing a chance to establish himself with the team. However, upon his return the 2003 1st round pick has shown some things we haven’t seen before and once again we have a feeling there might be a player there. Was extremely close to being a HS on February 1st, but Brule came down with the flu and Pouliot cashed 1-1-2 +2 and has been in the lineup ever since. Of course he’s 7gp, 1-0-1 -4 in that time so the trials and tribulations of Pouliot are ongoing.

  • Jacques: Predicted- 50gp, 3-7-10 (.200)
  • Jacques: Actual- 49gp, 4-7-11 (.224)

Pretty close match. His AHL numbers implied a better player, and I wonder just how much better Pouliot’s AHL numbers might have been without Jacques on his wing. Buddy lacks all kinds of NHL level skills (passing, taking a pass, positioning, it is a long list) and this might be his offensive level. Oilers have better options at the end of the roster.

  • Brule: Predicted- 55gp, 7-8-15 (.273)
  • Brule: Actual- 49gp, 12-14-26 (.531)

It is extremely likely Brule will eat the lunch of O’Sullivan, Cogliano and others based on this season. Brule can score goals (has a nice release and can find lanes) and he has some jam despite his size (another smaller player). Tambellini seemed somewhat indifferent to him last fall but the organization has had very few forwards overachieve and Brule is one of them. Suspect he’ll get a nice contract and will be a strong candidate for the top 6 next fall (Gagner-Hall-Hemsky, Horcoff-Penner-Brule).

  • Stortini: Predicted- 70gp, 6-10-16 (.229)
  • Stortini: Actual- 57gp, 3-7-10 (.175)

Another consistent season for the 4line winger. A willing fighter who plays a simple game with results that don’t hurt his team, there is a chance Tambellini will go another route next season and require more offense from the 4line.

  • Potulny: Predicted- 66gp, 9-12-21 (.318)
  • Potulny: Actual- 44gp, 14-8-22 (.500)

A very nice season for Potulny. NHL prospects sometimes don’t get these chances, so credit where due. Potulny is certainly in the mix for next year’s team in a 4th line role (speeds has an excellent look at the 10-14F’s here) and could end up having a nice career in Edmonton.

A few items. These are the players I listed in the RE series, so Comrie and others don’t appear for various reasons. Comrie and Ryan Stone are/were having seasons within the range of reasonable expectations with injury being the only real negative.

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