Oilers At Risk Of Taking A Step Back

After an excellent end to the 2008 season, there is a lot of hype and expectations surrounding a few players on the Oilers. Not all of them will take the expected step forward and in fact some will fall back – so who do I think are the most likely candidates? Well… read on.

Andrew Cogliano

After a brilliant rookie season with the Oilers, which saw him score 18 goals and 27 assists for 45 points in 82 games, he is one player on the team at a higher risk of suffering the dreaded sophomore slump.

There are two main factors that I see that suggest the odds are against Cogs repeating/improving on last years performance: Erik Cole and lofty shooting percentage.

The introduction of Erik Cole to the Oilers line-up adds another top-six player to the line-up. While the “kid line” is expected to stay together after ending the season as the best line – there are no guarantees once the season starts and if they don’t start out with chemistry we could see this line split up early. And this is only made easier with two spots solidified on the top line (Hemsky and Horcoff) and Penner and Cole able to fit in on either of the top two lines.

And in the situation of a “kid line” split, Cogs is the most likely to move out of the top two due to his two way ability and his speed – in fact he would be a nice fit on the third line. If this occurs, it limits the time on ice and offensive opportunities for Cogliano – which increases the risk of lower production.

The second factor is his unreal shooting percentage last season – 18.4%, first on the team and top 10 in the league (wait – I thought Cogs was the next coming of Marchant). This level of shooting acumen is difficult to sustain and could easily drop down to the 10-15% range, which only adds additional pressure to his production levels.

So, we could see Cogliano with less offensive opportunity time and a weaker shooting percentage, which points to lower production.

Shawn Horcoff

The Oilers #1C is coming off a season where he took it to a whole new level after finding his scoring touch in Tijuana – had I known maybe I could’ve made it past midget B – scoring 21 goals and 29 assists in an injury shortened 53 games. Which I am sure helped make the signing of a six year extension easy for management.

The biggest risks he faces in repeating his awesome performance last year – shooting percentage (again? I know) and his shoulder.

Horcoff was second on the team with a shooting percentage of 18.3%, which again puts him in the top 10 in the league. The main reason to question his ability to repeat this is his past shooting percentages – 9.5% in 2007 and 13.2% in 2006 – with a career shooting percentage of 13.6%. Maybe there really was something in the trip to Mexico or it could just be his new shoot first attitude but there is a chance his shooting percentage returns to the mean – leading to lower production.

Horcoff’s season was cut short last year with a shoulder injury. While reports indicate he is 100% after the surgery, it is always a concern when a player having a great campaign goes through major surgery. How will this impact his play or his shot? It could be that it takes Horcoff some time for his shoulder to get well and his play suffers.

Tom Gilbert

Another player at risk of taking a step back in production is Tom Gilbert who had a great rookie campaign that saw 13 goals and 20 assists in 82 games.

The biggest area adding risk to Gilbert’s ability to top last year is the addition of depth on the blue line – both through the addition of Visnovsky and the return of Souray. It is clear that Gilbert benefited greatly from injury to Souray through increased ice-time. Gilbert averaged well over 20 minutes a game.

With a healthy Souray and the addition of minute-hog Visnovsky it is likely that Gilbert’s ice-time will fall and puts pressure on his offensive potential.

Other Player Risks

A few other players at risk of decreased production:

Dustin Penner – with the addition of Cole he could be knocked off the first line, which will decrease those great feeds from Hemsky and the risk of decreased offensive production.

Nilsson, Gagner, Brodziak – while I don’t feel they are at high risk of decreased production there are increased pressure to perform. Can they handle it – or suffer sophomore slumps (quasi-sophomore for Nilsson)?

As usual on these negative type posts, I hope I am wrong.

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~ by Auger on August 14, 2008.

3 Responses to “Oilers At Risk Of Taking A Step Back”

  1. Aren’t we just going to have to recognize at some point that betting against Shawn Horcoff is a stupid, fruitless idea?

    Penner’s a candidate to step forward. Given the circumstances last year, things are definitely lining up better for him.

  2. Last year, Horcoff really stepped it up and was amazing. Especially, when a lot of fans were questioning his place as our #1C after his brutal 2007 campaign.

    I agree about Penner – he now has a full off-season and shouldn’t be as distracted as he may have been after he won the cup. However, the addition of Cole presents some production risk as he could see his place on the first line given to Cole, if the chemistry is there.

  3. Great Blog, sad to see that you haven’t posted in a year!

    I have an Oilers wordpress blog too:

    Low On Oil

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