The Edmonton Oilers acquired Luke Gazdic for nothing. Placed on waivers because they had so many young wingers perform well in Dallas, the Stars lost a terrific young enforcer at the very beginning of his career. In this were 1984, articles would appear in local papers and magazines and the Hockey News would have written three features by now. Alas, it is 2014, and Luke Gazdic’s presence on the team brings a decidedly mixed reaction.
LUKE GAZDIC 13-14
- 5×5 points per 60: 0.62 (13th among regular forwards)
- 5×4 points per 60: nil
- Qual Comp: 15th toughest faced among regular forwards (fourth line)
- Qual Team: 12th best available teammates among regular forwards (fourth line)
- Corsi Rel: -16.5 (worst among regular forwards)
- Corsi for 5×5 %: 36.8
- Corsi for 5×5 % REL: -8.3
- Zone Start: 52.5% (6th easiest among regular forwards)
- Zone Finish: 43.8% (11th best among regular forwards)
- Shots on goal/percentage: 30/6.7% (11th among F’s >30 or more shots)
- Boxcars: 67, 2-2-4
RE 14-15 PREVIEW
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- What was the scouting report on Gazdic before Edmonton picked him up? Les Jackson, Dallas Stars Director of Scouting and Player Development, 2011: “Gaz has really come on since we drafted him. For his role, I think he is one of the most improved players we’ve had. For playing down the lineup, he really knows his role. He’s a real good team player and he’s a real smart guy. I think Gaz has made some good steps ahead.”
- What did you say about the move when Gazdic was hired? The day after his acquisition: “I don’t think there’s any other way to frame this: the Edmonton Oilers are going to be a very physical team and the possession talk of summer has given way to something else this fall. The Sam Gagner injury may have long reaching impact on the Edmonton Oilers beyond the injury itself.”
- You sure were wrong on that one. Heh.
- Can he be more than an enforcer? Can he play on a legit shutdown line? His resume suggests that Gazdic is not an ideal candidate.
- How is his offense? We’re looking at Zack Stortini.
- What do the Corgi’s tell us? His WOWY Corsi for 5×5% is 37.2 and that’s beyond terrible. Even more damning, his teammates are better off without him in a big way.
- Like who? His most common linemate was poor old Ryan Jones. In their time together, the Corsi for 5×5 % was 38.8. Jones without: 44.1; Gazdic without 36.2.
- That’s just one guy, though. Let’s take Martin Marincin, another rookie like Gazdic. The pair spent just over an hour on the ice together, posting a 41.7 Corsi for 5×5 %. That’s terrible. You wouldn’t re-hire that in a productive company. In 317 minutes without Marincin, Gazdic’s Corsi for 5×5 % was 36.3, that’s basically dereliction of duty. Marincin without Gazdic? In 621 minutes, 48.2%—on this team that’s a Calder nomination and a seat on next year’s Titanic.
- Gazdic was a rookie, he’ll get better. I’m not going to argue that, the concern is Edmonton’s stated priority of running a 4line that takes own-zone draws while also housing Gazdic.
- Has anyone actually said Gazdic will be on that 4line? Yes. A two-year deal is strong confirmation.
- Well, they’ll have him as the enforcer and then double shift someone for the own-zone starts. Maybe have a third defenseman out there. So let me get this straight: you’re dressing an enforcer who will be used exclusively in those rare times when Gordon gets a neutral or offensive zone start?
- He could play on other lines, too. NO. HE. CAN’T. Gazdic isn’t good at passing and making a pass, getting the puck out under control, beating another man while stickhandling, reading the play, making a clever pass to open ice, those hockey kinds of things.
- So he’s got a little work to do. (Blinks).
- I thought you liked him! You had him as a top 10 prospect in December! No, I listed him as the #18 prospect in the system for the winter edition. He would be in that range currently, although he’s no longer eligible (having played 50 NHL games).
- Why did you rank him that high? Two reasons. Having Luke Gazdic means the Oilers are less likely to spend a third round pick on Cameron Abney. Second, if the organization is committed to having a fighter they might as well have a good one.
- Is there a disconnect here in the Oilers offices? Yes, I think so.
- What is it? The Edmonton Oilers—including Craig MacTavish and Dallas Eakins—are grappling with the idea of an enforcer, a one dimensional tough guy. The Kassian thuggery injured Sam Gagner, and ensured the team would play with a fourth line that looked a certain way. It was a very effective assault.
- Are MacT and Eakins wrong? They certainly are based on the ineffectiveness of the fourth line. And now they want that line to play even more of a feature role. Gazdic is not a strong candidate for that role, in my opinion.
- Then, what’s the trick? I’ve long felt (and said, there’s no issue from my end) Edmonton has completely missed the boat on all this physicality jazz. The key isn’t to have a fourth line guy who can come out after the carnage and blow his horn, the key is to have actual NHL players who can also impact the game physically. We watched Hemsky get murdered by Regehr for a decade, but the Oilers are (apparently) incapable of icing actual NHL players who can wreck Boring Monahan on one of his sorties.
- So Benoit Pouliot is the enforcer? He’s a bigger man who can win battles. You have to acquire skilled men who also have physical size as part of their game. You have to stop equating toughness and intelligent play with fighting and intimidation. Hell, Mark Arcobello was exceptional in checking last year, good position, retrieved pucks, the whole deal. “Things accomplished after the whistle” do. not. matter.
- What’s the solution? Finding physical players, actually not even that, finding men with size and skill to pepper into the current lineup. More Benoit Pouliot’s, fewer Ryan Jones.
- And no Luke Gazdic? Only if he can help in a specific hockey role.
- Are the Oilers making progress with this philosophical problem? Yes. Dallas Eakins discussing Mark Fraser: “I can easily stand here and argue “Yes, we need that.” We’ve got a guy back there that’s more than willing to fill the role with Mark Fraser and, uh, one side of me says “absolutely, we need the toughness up front, we need it on our back end. But, Mark [Spector], I… and that’s the honest to God’s truth, there’s one side of me that says: “Yes, we need to old school it and we’ve got to have those guys.” And, then there’s another side of me looking at how teams are, some other teams are building and… I’m not sure.”
- Why this song? It’s about searching for answers, and NOT following the crowd to get them. Find your own solution, don’t say ‘well, everyone’s doing it’ or ‘well, we’ve always done it this way’ when you know one is not true and the other doesn’t work. Find the future in your past, not the Dave Semenko past, but the Messier, Tikkanen, Krushelnyski past.
- Not easy to get those players. Oilers have some on the way, and I really like the addition of Benoit Pouliot. Maybe Tyler Pitlick can help. The Oilers do need men who can win battles and check, but that’s an entirely different job description than the one filled by Luke Gazdic.
- When do we have our answer? We got it. The two-year deal. There’s no mystery here. The Oilers enter the season shorthanded because they are too attached to the past to see the future. The 4line will go out for an own-zone start and the results will be poor. There’s no mystery to this. None.
- Brian Bollig was successful in Chicago. Yes he was, but that Kruger fellow seems to have major impact in that role no matter who they throw over the boards. One suspects it’s a matter of who’s zooming who, we’ll find out this coming season as Bollig is in a new town.
- Were you surprised by that trade? Mostly the return. A third-round pick. Sam Pollock used to do that, play a guy on a great line for a year and then trade him away for high value.
- Do you like Gazdic? Oh yeah, he seems like a nice fellow and he’s popular with the team.
- Eberle says he’s a big part of the team. Eberle would enjoy winning hockey games, too. Oilers have to figure this out.