Cam Barker and Performance

One thing old timey Oiler fans are familiar with is the Edmonton NHL team and their love for reclamation projects. The one I remember best was Jimmy Harrison trying to make it back after an injury maybe 1979. That was a little different, Harrison was 33 or so and had a lot of miles on him.

Cam Barker is an interesting case. An offensive defenseman with a big shot that is effective for PP use, he had a monster draft year and found himself being taken 3rd overall in 2004 by the Chicago Blackhawks.

Right from the beginning, Barker got a lot of his offense from the powerplay. Here are his EV numbers in the WHL with the Tigers:

  • 03-04 (17): 69gp, 9-17-26 (.377)
  • 04-05 (18): 52gp, 9-9-18 (.346)
  • 05-06 (19): 25gp, 0-5-5 (.200)

Let’s compare that to Barker’s PP numbers during the same seasons:

  • 03-04 (17): 69gp, 12-26-38 (.551)
  • 04-05 (18): 52gp, 6-21-27 (.519)
  • 05-06 (19): 25gp, 5-8-13 (.520)

So, it’s fair to say that a lot of Barker’s offense (and this is true of all defensemen) came off his powerplay opportunities. Take those PP minutes away and Barker’s offense–a big part of the reason he was chosen at number 3–is going to slide. The boxcars will be off.


When he arrived in pro hockey, Barker got a healthy dose of PP time. In 06-07, he played half a season (35 games) and score 1-7-8; all but 2 assists came on the powerplay. Here are Cam Barker’s even strength 5×5 numbers since 07-08:

5×5/60, by year (source: behind the net dot ca)

  • 07-08: 1.35
  • 08-09: 0.60
  • 09-10: 0.76
  • 10-11: 0.17

Barker had an exceptional number in 07-08, a more normal total in the following two seasons and we know last year was poor.

5×4/60, by year

  • 07-08: 1.98
  • 08-09: 7.27
  • 09-10: 3.36
  • 10-11: 1.68

Barker lost playing time to various men, Zidlicky and Burns in year one and then those two and the kid Jared Spurgeon last season. I’m using all of this to establish that a lot of Barker’s value is tied to powerplay, and that when you’re not using him there it’ll be hard for him to earn his money. Even last season when he had a paltry 5 points, 2 of those came on the PP.

There is no horrible back story about Barker, he just lost effectiveness.

  • Wild GM Chuck Fletcher: “Cam worked real hard for us. He was a true professional. When we acquired him, he was a player we felt would fit into our short- and long-term plans. He was already an established player in the league that had some success. But it didn’t work out the way we anticipated and/or he had hoped. When you look back at things a couple years later, things seem crystal-clear. I’m the general manager, and ultimately I’m the guy who makes the trades and drafts the players. I certainly take full responsibility for any decision we ever make here.”
  1. Did he ever–at any time–play tough minutes in the NHL? No. He didn’t in Minnesota and in Chicago they always had a better option. Whatever Barker’s value–real or imagined, it doesn’t appear in the secondary disciplines (that I can find).
  2. How was his CorsiRel during these easy minutes? Mid pack all the way. Even last season when he was poor–you can’t find 5 kind words about him on the internet in the last year–his CorsiRel is right in the middle of the Hawk depth chart.
  3. But he wasn’t killing the competition? No, never. Not at even strength.
  4. Shouldn’t he have been doing that by now? Yes, I’d say that with his experience and pedigree that Barker should have had a stronger CorsiRel.
  5. Who was he playing with? Rookie Jared Spurgeon mostly, and a teenager named Justin Faulk.
  6. So he didn’t play with a quality veteran? Well I think Barker was the quality veteran, or at least the lead player on the third pairing.
  7. Is there anything 5×5 that helps his cause? I can’t find it. His zone start/end is a down arrow in Minnesota, and the same thing in Chicago.
  8. So he’s a hammer? To this point in his career Barker has been successful in one season and that year was a PP bonanza for him. A lot of 2nd assists and some goals too.
  9. How much of his career NHL offense came on the PP? 12-38-50 on the PP and 7-34-41 at even strength.
  10. What kind of PP TOI per game are we talking here? In his big season, Barker spent 3:24 a night on the PP. He was 2nd (behind Brian Campbell) among defensemen. He seemed to be around 2.5 to 3 minutes a night in Chicago.
  11. What about Minnesota? When they dealt for him in 09-10, the Wild used him in all situations. 17.5 minutes at evens, 2 minutes on the PK and 2.5 minutes on the PP. Lots of time. Last season, he was down to 14:10, 50 seconds and 1:22 by discipline.
  12. What happened? People kept passing him. Spurgeon and Stoner looked better than he did and took time away. He appeared to have a crisis of confidence (told Jason Gregor as much yesterday) and things got off the rails. The Wild, similar to the Oilers, had a poor season and Barker was impacted by it. He went from 32 shifts in 09-10 to 24 a year ago. Wild coaches found better options.
  13. Isn’t there anything good you can say about Cam Barker? Well, if he can help the PP that’s a pretty big deal. Barker (imo) should be considered this year’s Kurtis Foster, a guy the Oilers hope will impact the powerplay.
  14. Where will he play for the Oilers? I think second pairing. Smid-Gilbert is a pair that works and Whitney is lead dog, so unless the Oilers add a veteran defender (without trading one of Whitney, Gilbert or Smid) then I would rank Barker ahead of Peckham, Sutton, Petry and Chorney.
  15. Why ahead of Petry? So far, the Oilers have handled Petry well, breaking him in slowly and against depth opposition. Barker’s role should be 2nd pairing.
  16. Will the Oilers make another trade for defense? I’ve been saying this for 5 long years, but God yes. If they’re serious about being better.
  17. So you hate this signing? No, but as I mentioned yesterday it’s a huge risk. Barker is coming off a poor season and is miles from his best season. He’s an expensive risk, but if the Oilers can find a player here that has value. The 11-12 season is probably a reasonable time to invest in a guy like Barker. He isn’t the top 4 option we were hoping for, but he should be better than he was a year ago. If he isn’t, he’ll be down the line. My main worry is that it could impact a kid like Petry, whose development is vital.

FOSTER 10-11

  • 5×5 points per 60: 0.55 (5th among Oil D)
  • 5×4 points per 60: 2.93 (2nd among Oil D)
  • Qual Comp: easiest among D
  • Qual Team: 4th best available among D
  • Corsi Rel: 2.0 (tied for 4th best among D)
  • Zone Start: 54.5% (easiest among D)
  • Zone Finish: 52.9% (best among D)
  • Shots on goal/percentage: 182 shots/8 goals 4.4% (5th best)
  • Boxcars: 74gp, 8-14-22
  • Plus Minus: -12 on a team that was -52

BARKER 10-11

  • 5×5 points per 60: 0.17 (7th among Wild D)
  • 5×4 points per 60: 2.55 (5th among Wild D)
  • Qual Comp: easiest among D
  • Qual Team: 6th best available among D
  • Corsi Rel: -3.7 (4th best among D)
  • Zone Start: 50.8% (2nd easiest among D)
  • Zone Finish: 48.3% (2nd best among D)
  • Shots on goal/percentage: 44 shots/1 goal 2.2%
  • Boxcars: 52gp, 1-4-5 
  • Plus Minus: -10 on a team that was -27

Nation Radio his the airwaves again today, noon Edmonton time on Team 1260. The show will have a draft/prospect feel but we’ll also devote plenty of time to the UFA signings and the impact on the Edmonton Oilers for next season. Scheduled to appear:

  • Scott Cullen from tsn. He tracked the UFA signings yesterday and that my friends was a full time job. We’ll discuss the Oilers moves, the Leafs lack of moves and Calgary’s chances of acquiring Brad Richards. 
  • Kent Simpson from Team 1260′s Edmonton Oil Kings broadcasts. We’ll discuss the importance of playing in an advanced league like the WHL for young European players. Kent had a bird’s eye view of Kristians Pelss and his impressive development and we’ll discuss it and project new Oiler and Oil King Martin Gernat.
  • Kirk Luedeke from Bruins draft Watch. Kirk LOVES the Oilers draft and we’ll ask him to give his overall impressions. Kirk probably has some good behind the scene stories from the draft action so we’ll try to pry those out too.
  • Mike Spiedel from Hockey Symposium. Mike has taught me a lot about the draft and value picks over the years, and we’ll get his insight into just how many Oiler selections were “value” picks.
  • Matt Bugg from Dobber Hockey. I interviewed Matt last weekend about the Oilers picks and will touch base on the subject again. I’ll also delve a little into the players not selected and ask if any of them might be worth signing to pro contracts.

The show will have a dual focus: the draft and UFA signings. Some of my conversations today may be a little shorter because I’m hoping to pass along some interviews from Steve Tambellini, Cam Barker and Eric Belanger. Emails are welcome, we like questions and love comments at

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