Secondary scorers: analysis by microstat

66 games into this sorry, lost season, the Edmonton Oilers stand, er, lie in 30th place overall, 6 points in arrears of dismal Toronto and fully a dozen points back of the 28th place Islanders. It's a standing they've earned on merit, given the Oilers also rank 30th in Goals Against and 29th in Goals For (shootout "goals" included cuz I'm too lazy to weed 'em out until season's end). This latter "achievement" took some time after a hot start which saw the Oil in the top ten offensive teams for quite a while. Today they rank (barely) ahead of Boston, and based on recent evidence such as 4 goals during the just-completed 3-game homestand it's easy to imagine the Oil hitting bottom in this dept. too when all is said and done.

The injury to Ales Hemsky is obviously a major contributing factor, as is the crash and burn of the Oilers' defensive corps which generated a lot of offence last year. Front-line scoring has been poor with only Dustin Penner having scored even 15 goals to date, while scoring depth has been spotty at best. Let's look at that scoring depth, in depth.

Up front, the expectations for scoring could crudely be divided into these groups:

Primary scoring: (Hemsky), Horcoff, Penner, Gagner

Secondary scoring: O'Sullivan, Nilsson, Cogliano, Brule, Potulny,  (Comrie), (Pouliot)

Checkers, plumbers and grunts: Moreau, Jacques, Stortini, (Pisani), (Stone), Jones

I've included Ryan Jones just because he appears on the Behind the Net data which is my primary source for this study. In all 17 Oiler forwards have played 19+ GP in 2009-10, with the five in brackets all having played fewer than 30.

Today I am going to focus on just the middle group, the guys who should be expected to provide secondary scoring. Comrie and Pouliot are excluded due to having played fewer than half the games, which leaves us with five players: Patrick O'Sullivan, Robert Nilsson, Andrew Cogliano, Gilbert Brule and Ryan Potulny. Apples and apples to at least some degree: each is 22-25 years old; each is between 5'10 and 6'0 and 180-190 lbs; each has a background of being a scorer. Some numbers on this quintet after the jump:

For this study we'll focus on even strength performance only, primarily using data from Gabe Desjardins' supplemented by I have chosen 12 categories, with both Quality of Competition and of Teammate calculated as an average of three different measures. Figures in brackets are the ranking among the 12 Oiler forwards with 30+ GP, other than faceoffs where only 9 players with 100+ draws are considered.  

13:16 O'Sullivan (4 of 12)
12:50 Brule (5)
12:34 Nilsson (6)
12:19 Cogliano (7)
12:18 Potulny (8)

Not much to choose here, just a minute per game difference among the five.

1.14 Brule (1 of 12)
0.72 Potulny (3)
0.44 O'Sullivan (8)
0.40 Nilsson (9)
0.30 Cogliano (11)

2.28 Brule (1 of 12)
1.54 Potulny(4)
1.41 Nilsson (5)
1.31 O'Sullivan (6)
0.91 Cogliano (11)

Brule has surprisingly pulled ahead of Dustin Penner and is now the most productive scorer on the team per minute of ice time, in both goals and points (Hemsky excluded, of course). He is well clear of his "peers", with only Potulny even in the ballpark as a finisher.

GF ON/60
2.63 Brule (2 of 12)
2.05 Cogliano (7)
1.82 Nilsson (8)
1.75 O'Sullivan (10)
1.64 Potulny (11)

GA ON/60
2.74 Cogliano (5 of 12)
2.81 Brule (7)
3.08 Potulny (8)
3.33 Nilsson (9)
3.71 O'Sullivan (12)

Brule again is far superior to his peer group, with only Cogliano in the conversation. The others are bleeding minus 1.5 to 2.0 goals per 60 minutes they play.

QoC rankings (QualComp, Corsi QoC, Rel Corsi QoC = average)
O'Sullivan (2, 4, 2 = 2.7 of 12)
Brule (8, 2, 3 = 4.3)
Potulny (4, 6, 6 = 5.3)
Cogliano (7, 10, 11 = 9.3)
Nilsson (10, 11, 10 = 10.3)

QoT rankings (QualTeam, Corsi QoT, Rel Corsi QoT = average)
Potulny (1, 3, 3 = 2.3 of 12)
Cogliano (8, 2, 2 = 4.0)
Brule (4, 5, 6 = 5.0)
O'Sullivan (2, 6, 7 = 5.0)
Nilsson (11, 10, 11 = 10.7)

O'Sullivan has faced slightly tougher competitiion than Brule in two of the three metrics. Potulny on the other hand has played with the weakest teammates (QoT is listed in order of difficulty). Nilsson has faced the softest of minutes with the best of teammates.

Relative Corsi
+3.7 Nilsson (3 of 12)
+2.1 Brule (4)
-2.1 Potulny (6)
-3.7 Cogliano (7)
-4.4 O'Sullivan (8)

Nilsson's cherry minutes show up on the Corsi metric, not that he has the production to show for it. But at least Oilers outshoot with him out there.

PDO# (Sh% + Sv%)
1.001 (9.2% + .909) Brule (4 of 12)
.996 (7.1% +.924) Cogliano (5)
.956 (6.2% + .894) Nilsson (9)
.956 (5.4% + .902) Potulny (10)
.953 (6.2 + .891) O'Sullivan (11)

Brule and Cogliano are around the median 1.000 for different reasons, a good Sv% for Cogliano and a solid on-ice Sh% for Brule. The other three are all hurting by this metric. I'll leave it to the reader's opinion to determine whether that is a measure of their own performance or simply a case of percentages which are likely to snap back in their favour.

47.7% Brule (4 of 12)
48.2% Potulny (5)
49.0% Cogliano (7)
49.7% O'Sullivan (10)
50.2% Nilsson (11)

Cherries on top for Nilsson.

1.80 Brule (3 of 12)
0.85 Cogliano (6) 
0.76 Potulny (7)
0.52 Nilsson (9)
0.46 O'Sullivan (10)

I included one stat that measures physical play because to me it has value. Certainly Brule is far and away the most physical of this fivesome.

Faceoffs (100 or more draws)
Brule 52.6% (1 of 9)
Potulny 47.6% (6 of 9)
Cogliano 42.5% (8 of 9)
O'Sullivan 36.0% (9 of 9)
Nilsson --- (unranked)

Again Brule is free and clear with a solid percentage well above break even. The rest are increasing degrees of suck, with the exception of Nilsson who doesn't take draws at all.

+6.2 Brule (2 of 12)
+3.1 Potulny (4)
+1.2 Nilsson (5)
+0.4 O'Sullivan (8)
-0.9 Cogliano (11)

Tom Awad's metric confirms Brule is well clear of his peer group. For some reason Cogliano is hammered more than Nilsson and O'Sullivan.

Finally, let's rank this peer group among themselves in each of these 12 diverse categories:

Stat Brule Potulny Cogliano Nilsson  O'Sullivan
G/60 1 2 5 4 3
P/60 1 2 5 4 3
GF ON/60 1 5 2 3 4
GA ON/60 2 3 1 4 5
QoC 2 3 4 5 1
QoT 3.5 1 2 5 3.5
REL Corsi 2 3 4 1 5
PDO# 1 4 2 3 5
ZoneStart 1 2 3 5 4
Hits/GP 1 3 2 4 5
FO% 1 2 3 5 4
GVT 1 2 5 3 4
(total) 17.5 32 38 46 46.5

Wow, Gilbert Brule is ranked #1 in 8 of the 12, with the other four guys topping a single category each. Considering that he is both the second youngest and second cheapest of the group, my own conclusion is that he's developing nicely, or at least, nicer than those other guys. For some reason opinion has been pretty sharply divided on this guy, including within our own Copper & Blue top 5 under 25, in which two of us ranked him in the top 6 and the other three outside the top 12. "Sell high" has been the mantra in some quarters. My own opinion is that this is one guy who's made real positive steps, and while he still has a considerable way to go, we'd be nuts to let him go at this point. He's one of the most positive stories of this dismal season.

On the other hand, the foregoing continues to cast Patrick O'Sullivan and Robert Nilsson in a bad light that becomes even harsher when you realize they are by far the two highest-paid members of the group. Nilsson especially has feeble production, given his cherry minutes with excellent teammates against softish opposition. If he can't score (or defend, or hit) under those circumstances, what more do we need to know about the guy? In this fan's opinion it's time to cut bait on both of these guys.

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