The Edmonton Oilers rebuild doesn’t exactly subscribe to the “strength up the middle” template. However, they have a young impact teenager, an early 20s 2liner and two veterans at the position. Is it good enough?
EVEN STRENGTH TOI/GM AND 5X5/60
- Sam Gagner 14:40/1.96
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 14:33/1.98
- Shawn Horcoff 14:03/1.04
- Eric Belanger 11:11/0.64
- Anton Lander 8:53/0.62
Gagner and the Nuge delivered solid numbers, owing to softer opposition and a zone start push respectively. Horcoff faced the toughs and ZS hell, delivering the 297th best 5×5/60 for NHL players who dressed for 40 games or more. Belanger and Lander were at 344 and 347 respectively (there were 368 players who qualified).
SH TOI GAME
- Shawn Horcoff 2:39
- Eric Belanger 2:28
- Anton Lander 1:36
About what we might have expected, gives us some insight into the role EDM expects Lander will play in the future.
PP TOI GAME AND 5X4/60
- Ryan Nugent Hopkins 3:00/7.34
- Shawn Horcoff 2:52/3.20
- Sam Gagner 2:27/3.66
- Eric Belanger 1:04/4.32
The Nuge on the PP is like Eric Clapton on guitar: it is on another level. Lots of verbal about Belanger on the PP but the Horcoff minutes are the mystery from here. You know I’m a fan of the filthy Russian, but he’s a veteran with major minutes in all three disciplines and this is the area Edmonton should be able to afford to rest him. Strange.
- Gagner’s graph in 5×5/close Corsi shows he’s successful with several players, notably Hall and Hemsky. He may not push the river, but he helps it flow.
- The Nuge shows that he and Eberle should play together no matter what, have a look at the numbers each perform without compared to together. Wow.
- Horcoff’s graph is encouraging and suggests he could play with Smyth-Hemsky or mentor a youngster like Paajarvi. He needs help but there’s still some blacktop left.
- Belanger’s WOWY isn’t pretty but there was some chem with Jones and he appears to have saved Eager too.
- Anton Lander wasn’t ready. Plastic knife to a gun fight.
CORSI QUAL COMP
My sincere thanks to Woodguy for the WOWY help and drawing my attention to Corsi QC. This gives a wider (and I think more accurate) view about what is happening on the ice 5×5. Notice the strong number Horcoff delivers when you account for comp and it once again confirms that Taylor Hall is already a beast.
Tom Renney did a couple of strange things last season–keeping Lander and playing Horcoff on the PP. I also think he got run over by Belanger’s awful year and Gagner was inconsistent too.
Still, I like the depth at the position. The Nuge is a freak on the PP but rolled out some nice numbers at evens too; Gagner posted some good numbers, you’d like him to play against tougher competition but that Corsi QOC number is solid.
The Horcoff had a splendid number in that discipline, so imo this comes down to zone starts and qual comp. Coach Krueger is going to need a stronger, better Belanger, an improving Gagner, an emerging Nuge and get Horcoff into a more manageable slot.
I also wonder if they’ll put Hall in the middle. Seems to be an idea they’ll at least try at some point in the future, this might be the time. Strength up the middle could get a boost this summer after all.
And even if it doesn’t, the maturation of the two youths should bring more order to the position. Perfect symmetry? No. However, there’s promise at the position, and enormous potential.