The Chris VandeVelde story for most of 2010-11 was that of a struggle. The enormous gap between NCAA and AHL hockey has been proven time and again by Oiler prospects over the last few seasons (Taylor Chorney, Colin McDonald, Geoff Paukovich, etc).
The final portion of his season–ironically the one that began with his first callup to the NHL–kicked off his strongest showing of the entire year. How do these things happen?
A few reasons, I think. VandeVelde probably felt comforable with his linemates (played with Giroux and Hartikainen 50% of the time at evens), and his role was likely simplified by the coaching staff.
He looked good, real good. Not Teemu Hartikainen good but like someone you could hope for and cheer on and maybe he’d score or make a nice play.
You couldn’t say that about a few Oilers this season.
Chris VandeVelde 10-11
- 5×5 points per 60: 0.72 (17th among forwards but DNQ)
- 5×4 points per 60: nil
- Qual Comp: 2nd easiest faced among forwards but DNQ
- Qual Team: tied for 7th best available teammates among forwards but DNQ
- Corsi Rel: -13.5 (17th best among forwards but DNQ)
- Zone Start: 54.3% (3rd easiest among forwards but DNQ)
- Zone Finish: 59.5% (2nd best among forwards but DNQ)
- Shots on goal/percentage: 16 shots/0
- Boxcars: 12gp, 0-2-2
- Plus Minus: -6 on a team that was -52
- What do these numbers tell us? There aren’t enough at-bats to prove anything, but at least we know coach Renney can protect players when he’s of a mind to do it. He’s shy offensively and his CorsiRel is shady based on how many minutes he played/zone starts/opposition. He did have a nice faceoff percentage (52.8%) in 159 sorties, so he was taking a lot of faceoffs and winning more than half of them.
- How could these numbers be better? You’d like a lot more offense but this is a small sample size. I don’t think he was ready, so when viewed through that lens these numbers are plenty good. I don’t know if he’s going to be a player, though. In his favor, VandeVelde had a strong playoff after being sent down to OKC so maybe he just needed some confidence.
- He’s big and a center who can win faceoffs. You bet, the Oilers need them by the dozen. However, the club also has Anton Lander arriving this fall and the Swedish kid could jump ahead of VandeVelde on day 1 of training camp. Plus one would hope they’ll be shopping for NHL veterans at the position.
- What else can he do? He has enough size to impact the game physically. I see only one fighting major and it came after a high sticking penalty so maybe he has that gear. He only did it once, though.
- So he won’t be an Oiler? Looking at the current depth chart, there’s Horcoff, Gagner, Cogliano and Fraser clearly ahead of him based on how coach Renney used the roster last season. Add in Lander and that’s maybe 5 ahead of him on the depth chart. Behind VV are O’Marra, Arcobello and Kytnar plus Pitlick might be in there somewhere.
- Can you see a scenario where he plays with the Oilers in 10-11? Sure. They draft RNH and send him to Red Deer, they move Cogliano to the wing and he beats out Lander for the 4line job.
- Will that happen? Who knows. The Oilers move in mysterious ways.
- What should happen? Tom Renney should walk into the office, drink a gallon of goat’s blood, scream at the moon and threaten to burn crop circles on the lawn unless the Oilers hire an actual center.