Established NHL players have moved up in the Top 25 since February. Zack Stortini moved up from 18th to 13th, and Gilbert Brule went from 10th to 8th. That trend comes to an end with Andrew Cogliano who loses two spots from the February rankings. At the time of those rankings, Cogliano had posted just awful boxcar numbers: 5-8-13 and -8 in 61 games. The lack of offense was poor percentages; the numbers were bound to get better. In the season's last 21 games, Cogliano (and/or Yahweh by his grace and favour) turned things around offensively. He more than doubled his offensive output, going 5-10-15 and +3 over that time.
I probably don't need to say that the percentages were falling a bit differently in this last stretch, but I will anyway. Cogliano went from shooting 4.5% in the season's first 61 games to 13.9% in the last quarter, so he had reason to praise his generous maker. But his underlying numbers also improved dramatically. Cogliano had a Corsi% of 45.6% in the first 61 games, but improved to 46.6% in the last 21. That doesn't sound impressive at all, but it's worth noting that 46.6% was the third best total on the team during that stretch. The two players who were better? Dustin Penner at 47.2% and team-leader Robert "this isn't a joke" Nilsson dwarfing the competition at 48.8%. There's probably something to be said about buying that guy out at this point, but I'll leave that to readers in the comments. At any rate, Cogliano's performance was clearly better over this stretch, though some of that is surely owing to being liberated from Ethan Moreau. So after such a strong close to the year why is he falling in the rankings?
There are three reasons for Cogliano's fall. The first is simply that he started high and there wasn't much room for him to pass the guys ahead of him. On top of that, the Oilers added a top prospect in Taylor Hall. With an addition like that, Cogliano was bound to fall at least one spot. And on two lists (mine and Bruce's), that's the whole fall. On two other lists (Derek and Jonathan), he was passed by another 2010 draft pick, Tyler Pitlick, which bumped him down one more spot. And then there's Ben. He had Cogliano lowest in February, and now has him getting passed by Zack Stortini, Devan Dubnyk, Jeff Petry, Alex Plante, and newcomer Ryan Martindale. Ouch.
So what's wrong with Cogliano? In my opinion, it's mostly the situation. He can't win a faceoff but has played center his entire career. He's small on a team committed to getting bigger. He hasn't proven that he's got the defensive chops to take on a lot of responsibility in the defensive zone or against good players. He belongs on the wing, but with Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Jordan Eberle, and Taylor Hall all in the fold, things are already looking crowded. Especially if he needs some sheltering. Add in Gilbert Brule, Sam Gagner, and Shawn Horcoff, and there's only one top nine spot left. With so much youth in the lineup, the Oilers need that player to be capable all over the ice. Derek recently talked about what Steve Tambellini has left to do this summer and one of his suggestions was for the Oilers to sign a tough minutes forward. If that happens, someone else gets pushed out. If Linus Omark makes the team, it's the same thing. If it's both, two players need to be moved to make room. Maybe that's Eberle going to Oklahoma, Hall going to Windsor or Paajarvi going to Timra, but maybe it's Andrew Cogliano going to the fourth line or the press-box. Judging from Steve Tambellini's desire to rid himself of the guy, I suspect he sees Cogliano as one of the odd men out.
If Cogliano gets moved out of Edmonton, he could establish himself and have success, especially if he's playing with good players. Far too often last season, Andrew Cogliano was the best player on his line (with Ethan Moreau and Zack Stortini). That's a tough situation for any player on an entry-level contract, nevermind a guy who really isn't thought of as a future NHL star. Centering a line with two kids would just be more of the same, and it probably wouldn't be good for the kids. The Oilers seem to be using this season as a development year, which is fine. My hope is that, if this is the case, they do so conservatively and introduce two rookies this year: Linus Omark and Jordan Eberle. If it's a development year, that's fine, but hold onto the three value years from the two bluechippers and bring them in once you've culled the herd. Let Eberle get his footing, make a decision on Omark, Cogliano, and Brule, and give everyone a chance at playing some reasonable competition. If the season isn't about winning, experiment. Let players take a five or ten or twenty game stint in one role, then the same in another. See what you have. Maybe they'll end up having more in Cogliano than they'd thought.