The Edmonton Oilers hired an excellent free agent in Eric Belanger. Since the lockout, July 1st has been a good (Roloson) and bad (Khabibulin) day for Oilers fans. 2011 was a busy day for the team, and Belanger’s signing would have been a welcome item on any July 1st 2006-11. A solid NHL veteran, an actual NHL player who could help on the penalty kill, in the faceoff circle and chip in offensively.
It was too long coming, but the hole at center was finally addressed.
- Your centermen aren’t scoring much. Horcoff (13-18-31) and Belanger (13-23-36) are going to see a lot of the tougher minutes and end zone faceoffs. RNH (8-23-31) and Sam Gagner (numbers to come) will see the PP time and get great opportunities.
- What role do you have Belanger in? Heavy PK minutes and a lot at even strength. Very little powerplay time, as I think it’ll go to the two young C’s.
- How does that compare to his role last season? In Phoenix, Belanger played 14EV, 1.5PK and 1.5PP minutes a night. I have him getting similar EV minutes in Edmonton and about 2.5PK minutes a night. Very defensive role.
- Similar to Horcoff. Right. Belanger, Horcoff and Smyth are the adults up front, I think the coach is going to ride them heavily, along with someone like maybe Eberle.
- Who does he play with? I’d like to see him with the two Swedes (Paajarvi and Omark) but he’s a plug and play center. He could probably help Hall-Eberle and would fit very nicely between Smyth and Hemsky. A really good signing.
- What will be his most important role? The penalty kill. Not just faceoffs (although that’s a Godsend for this team) but also because he’s a veteran player the coach can send out there when things are melting. It’s been years since the Oilers had one 2-way center on the ice and another on the bench waiting his turn.
- He wasn’t used much on the PK in Phoenix. I don’t know where this got started, but Belanger was in fact one of the top 4F’s for the Coyotes a year ago. Phoenix–a team the Oilers could copy in many ways–has a plethora of guys who can PK. The best among them were Hanzal, Fiddler, Korpikoski and Belanger.
- What about faceoffs? Led the Coyotes with 1297 sorties and a 55.3%.
- Why do you like this signing so much? It made so much sense, the price was excellent and it opens up all kinds of possibilities.
- Is he a better player than Horcoff? Don’t know. However, I believe there’s a chance Horcoff will have a better season because Belanger is on the team.
- How good was his PHX season last year? Belanger was 2nd among C’s in 5×5/points per 60 in PHX (1.85); 3rd in CorsiRel; 46.6 in Zone Start and 49.4 in zone end; among Coyotes centers, he faced the second toughest opponents (Hanzal) and played with the third best options.
- What can we say for certian about Belanger? We could use two more just like him to place on the wings.