The Impact Of A Lost Faceoff, AKA Andrew Cogliano Scouting Report

Andrew Cogliano came to camp this year with a focus on being a player in all three zones.  He claimed he saw the benefits of the defensive side of the game and said that he'd spent the summer learning how to win faceoffs.  This renewed vigor has been met with very little skepticism among Oiler fans, in fact, much less so compared to other off-season turnarounds in recent Oiler history.  Many are predicting the rise of the next third line center as well as a great penalty killer.  The word "Marchant" has been tossed around a number of times.

That no one has questioned his summer school courses on faceoffs is a bit odd.  I've written extensively on Cogliano's faceoff woes, just how protected he's been and his place in history for faceoff futility. If the summer lessons have paid off, that's fantastic, and the Oilers may have found their answer for the fourth center on the roster.  The reality of the situation is Cogliano's been so bad for so long at faceoffs that a part-time summer crash course in faceoffs isn't likely to significantly alter his level of skill in the circle. 

Desjardins has written about the effect of losing faceoffs previously, and in the articles I've written on Cogliano I noted what's become of the other players at the bottom of the Cogliano Line list:

There are the guys out of position: Oleg Kvasha, Shane Doan and Ryan Malone were all wingers that were attempting to change positions or were forced into the circle by personnel issues. There are the centers that never were: Milan Kraft, the current titleholder, went sent out after a year in which his counting numbers were okay, but he was overmatched. He's never made it back. Patrik Berglund is a rookie that is as overmatched in the circle as Cogliano. Viktor Kozlov was moved to the wing, partly because he couldn't handle faceoffs. Tim Connolly, seven years later, is still only 44% on the dot. Evgeni Malkin, in his third year, up to only 42%, though a physical specimen and one would think that is positioned well to eventually get it. That leaves us Matt Stajan. It's taken him five years, but he's developed into a reliable guy in the circle.

To remove another name from this list, this season the Pens have given up on thoughts of Malkin becoming competent in the circle as they've moved him to the wing to play with Jordan Staal.  The deck is stacked against Cogliano.

This brings us to Edmonton's trouncing of Tampa's AHL team at Rexall on Thursday night.  The positives in that win have been discussed at length here and elsewhere, but an overlooked negative was Cogliano's performance in the faceoff circle.  Even with his summer school crash course, even against mostly AHL-level players and even with the home ice faceoff advantage, Cogliano went 0-9 in the circle against six different Lightning forwards.  Below are his stats, taken from NHL.com:


Defensive Neutral Offensive
VS. 0-3 / 0% 0-4 / 0% 0-2 / 0%
Malone (LW) 0-1 / 0% 0-1 / 0%
Purcell (RW) 0-1 / 0%

Hall (C) 0-1 / 0%
0-1 / 0%
Pouliot (C)
0-1 / 0%
Tyrell (C)
0-1 / 0% 0-1 / 0%
Wright (C)
0-1 / 0%

 

Cogliano took six faceoffs against centres, three against wings, for nine losses.  His ineffectiveness was spread throughout all three zones.  It is interesting to note that he wasn't protected by Tom Renney as he has been in the past.


Short-Handed Even Strength Power Play
VS. 0-2 / 0% 0-4 / 0% 0-3 / 0%
Malone (LW) 0-1 / 0% 0-1 / 0%
Purcell (RW)
0-1 / 0%
Hall (C) 0-1 / 0%
0-1 / 0%
Pouliot (C)
0-1 / 0%
Tyrell (C)

0-2 / 0%
Wright (C)
0-1 / 0%

 

We can also see that Renney used him in all three situations, to no avail.

Even with the studies provided by Desjardins many fans, and especially Cogliano's ardent supporters, attempt to dismiss the impact of ineffectiveness in the faceoff circle as but a small part of the game. With that in mind, I cobbled together the immediate effect of Cogliano's faceoff losses in the game against Tampa.  Listed below are the details of each faceoff taken as well as the results of the ensuing shift.

Period Time Situation VS. Zone
1st 4:12 PP Tyrell NZ
Puck out of play





1st 2:04 PP Hall OZ
Giveaway by Blair Jones leads to Cogs goal.





2nd 13:10 EV Pouliot NZ
Smid takes boarding penalty





2nd 13:00 SH Malone DZ
1 blocked shot by Belle, 2 SOG, 1 missed shot





3rd 19:34 EV Purcell DZ
Tampa giveaway by James Wright leads to Paajarvi shot





3rd 16:06 EV Malone NZ
Two Tampa shot attemps, both blocked, one by Gilbert, one by Foster





3rd 12:03 EV Wright NZ
Petiot takes holding penalty in the defensive zone





3rd 11:53 SH Hall DZ
1 shot blocked, 1 missed shot.





3rd 7:09 PP Tyrell OZ
Puck out of play

 

Nine lost faceoffs, nine ensuing shifts.  The final results?  Two Oilers were forced to take penalties, resulting in two short-handed situations.  In addition, Tampa attempted two shots on goal and six additional shot attempts that were blocked or missed the net.  The results are brutal at any level of hockey.  However, they're overshadowed in people's minds by the outlier here - the turnover that led to the Edmonton goal.  Cogliano was extremely lucky to end up +1 in the GF-GA department for the game.

In my previous articles, I've implored the Oilers to move Cogliano to the wing to see exactly what kind of player they have.  Cogliano can't be an NHL center if he continues to struggle in the faceoffs department.  His struggles dictate that he has to be protected, but he's twenty-three now, approaching the age when the Oilers can't afford to protect him, especially given the age of the rest of the roster and abilities of the other centres on the roster.  Steve Tambellini has tried to include Cogliano in two seperate trades and it's difficult to blame him.  Now, more than ever, it makes sense to move Cogliano to the wing to see what they've got.  He's not the long-term answer at centre, no matter which line he's on.  Moving him to the wing while they still have control of his rights under restricted free agency gives the Oilers the opportunity to ascertain his value.  If he becomes a solid winger, able to pot twenty goals a year and kill penalties, they can sign him long-term or trade him for something of value.  As it is, a third-line centre incapable of winning a faceoff has little value other than a throw-in as part of a trade.

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