Assessing Sutton

If you stare at something long enough, you can talk yourself into damn near anything. Or out of anything. On July 1, when Steve Tambellini was busy changing the look of the team with free agents Cam Barker, Ben Eager, Eric Belanger and Darcy Hordichuk, he also dropped in a one-for-one trade that sent away Kurtis Foster and brought in Andy Sutton.

My initial impression of Sutton was that he would serve the Jim Vandermeer-Jason Strudwick role, a veteran third pairing defender with the added value of being an enforcer and a tall tree on the blue. Penalty-killing appeared to be a useful area for his game, too.

A few comments on this blog have suggested Sutton is more than that, a solid 2nd pairing veteran with a wide enough range of skills to be considered the 3rd or 4th most valuable player in the current group. Let’s have a look.

  • 2010-11 5×5 QualComp: Safely in the third pairing, trailing three veterans who are clearly better players (Lubo, Lydman and Beauchemin) and the rookie Fowler.
  • 2010-11 5×5 QualTeam: Third pairing, in fact he’s down there with the fringe guys. Sutton played only half a season so these numbers could be skewed but it’s pretty clear the Ducks coaching staff had a preference for others during the important moments.
  • 2010-11 5×5 CorsiRel: Fifth on the team, which is not a good number considering he’s a veteran playing softer opponents.
  • 2010-11 Zone Start & Finish: This is a really interesting look at the Ducks. The zone start numbers show Sutton getting the easiest ride along with youngsters Sbisa and Fowler plus the fringe man Brookbank. The guys getting the toughest sledding by zone start are exactly the people Anaheim relied on all year. Andy Sutton isn’t one of them. His zone finish is a full 8 percentage points below the zone start.  
  • 2010-11 5×5 TOI: Well down the depth chart. At even strength the Ducks top 4D were Lubo, Beauchemin, Fowler and Lydman. This was a playoff team, and Sutton was a veteran option but the Ducks went with a rookie (Fowler) and another young player (Sbisa) in stronger roles.
  • 2010-11 4×5 TOI: Sutton was used as a PK option, and would appear to be a candidate for that kind of role on the Oilers this season.

Based on last season, Edmonton is looking at a third pairing veteran who can penalty kill and serve an enforcer role. Agreed? His 09-10 season was spent with the Islanders and then Ottawa (valuable enough to be worth a 2nd rder at the deadline) so the Desjardins numbers are shared over the two teams. I would say that he appeared to be a 2nd pairing defender during that season.

Conclusions? I think he’s a third pairing guy. Sutton will play more minutes with the game on the line than he did a year ago because the Oilers don’t have Lubo, Beauchemin and Lydman.

Last season, the Oilers leaders in QualComp at 5×5 were Gilbert, Peckham, Whitney and Smid. The leaders in 5×5 CorsiRel were Gilbert, Vandermeer, Smid and Foster. The leaders in 5×5 TOI were Gilbert, Whitney, Petry and Smid. The toughest zone starts at 5×5 were Peckham, Smid, Petry and Vandermeer.

Based on those numbers, the strongest candidate to joing Gilbert, Whitney and Smid in the top 4? Theo Peckham.

Nation Radio hits the air at Noon today Edmonton time on Team 1260. Guests scheduled to appear include:

  • Tyler Dellow from MC79 Hockey.  We’ll discuss the Arena debate, Steve Tambellini’s summer and possible outcomes of the Ryan Smyth trade.
  • David Staples from Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal. I’ll ask David about several articles he’s written recently, including Arena updates, Nikolai Khabibulin and Andrew Cogliano.
  • Bob Stauffer from across the universe. I’m interested in Bob’s take on the Ryan Smyth trade and possible outcomes, the Hemsky to the Jackets discussions that broke this week and we’ll argue over line combinations (only in Edmonton can you find people willing to spend part of their Saturday mulling the top 12F’s on the Oilers).
  • Jonathan Willis from The Score, the Nation Network, Hockey Prospectus, ESPN Insider and God knows what he’s added this week. I’m mostly interested in discussing his outstanding article in Hockey Prospectus a month ago about how to fix the Oilers bottom six. We’ll talk about how Steve Tambellini addressed these issues and then spend some time on the Cogliano deal.

I’m not sure the order for these guests (my producer Connor–who is excellent, they didn’t have producers when I was on air in my 20′s and 30′s; maybe they just want to help the old guy a little–usually waits until just before the show starts because there is often shuffling the morning of the broadcast) and would very much like your input into the show. So when you get a chance please drop an email to and I’ll ask as many as I can given our time limitations.

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