In a span of two weeks the Oilers agreed to terms on entry level contracts for all four of the players they have selected in the second round of the draft over the past two years. The ball got rolling with Tyler Pitlick, followed shortly by Curtis Hamilton, Martin Marincin signed days after that, and then finally yesterday Anton Lander put pen to paper and a collective sigh of relief was heard across Oil Country. The arrows all point the right way with these guys and we have high hopes for each of them, all the while knowing that it's likely that one or even two of these players could still be a bust.
I hate to rain on the parade (twitter reaction to the Lander signing included references to rainbows after all) but the reality is that it is a very real possibility. Want proof? Look no further than former second round draft pick J.F. Jacques. In 2003 the Oilers selected Jacques with the last pick of the second round, 68th overall (there is a story behind how the Oilers got that 68th pick but I won't even get into that). Eight years have passed since the Oilers stepped to the podium in Nashville and called the name of the big left winger from Baie-Comeau Drakkar and I think we can all agree that Jacques is a bust.
Jacques has spent time with the Oilers in each of the last six seasons. In the last two seasons he set new career highs in games played with 49 and 51. Injuries have taken their toll on Jacques and have limited his games played in a number of seasons. All told Jacques has dressed in 160 games game for the Oilers and has nine goals and eight assists to show for his effort. Keep in mind that isn't an average, that's a total. 17 points in 160 games. Oh and he's also -38. Yikes.
It's clear that Jacques doesn't score but his career average time on ice is only 8:29, that isn't going to provide him much in the way of opportunities to put up big scoring totals so let's take a look at his scoring chances and see if he's actually hurting his team during his very limited ice time. Based on Derek's breakdown of his scoring chances from yesterday it's pretty clear that Jacques isn't much help to the Oilers here either, his season average is just 44%. We don't have career scoring chance stats for Jacques but I think it's safe to guess that his career average would be in this same range.
So Jacques doesn't score and he doesn't create chances. He spends time on the fourth line and he's big so he must get into a good number of fights; that's where we'll find value in Jacques' game. Wrong again. Earlier this season Tyler Dellow took a look at players who had played at least as many games as Jacques with equal or fewer points. The result was clear; Jacques doesn't fight anywhere near as much as players with similar contributions to their teams. You can argue the value of fighting as much as you want but it has to be more valuable than doing nothing at all.
So we know he doesn't fight, he doesn't create chances, and he doesn't score. But Jacques plays in the NHL, he must have some identifiable skill, there has to be some reason that Oiler management felt he was worth $615,000 this season. So what is it that he does? Thanks to Bruce, we know that Jacques hits. He hits so much that this season he threw 50% more hits per sixty minute than Zack Stortini who ranks second on the list.
That's it, he hits. And he's big and he skates fairly well too. He doesn't bring anything else to the Oilers. His AHL numbers look good and he gives the occasional glimpse of the player that management hopes he can be but he just isn't ever going to consistently be that player at the NHL level. It boggles the mind to think that in the face of all the evidence to the contrary that the Oilers gave him one year deal last summer while still clinging to the fading hope that Jacques would turn into a true NHL player. The best way to describe that deal is good money after bad, and trust me you almost never get your money back.
Jacques has been part of the Oilers organization for eight years and has yet to establish himself as an NHL player. More than enough time and money has been spent on him. For the Oilers there are better options already available for the fourth line and it is simply time to move on. And really don't you want to remember the way Jacques was in the last game of the season against Colorado? His line that night was vintage Jacques - 9 shifts, 5:15 time on ice, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 hits, 0 shots. That's the player I want to remember.
Prediction: The Oilers will inexplicably bring Jacques back for another year. Afraid to lose him as a free agent they will also qualify him, in the process giving him a well deserved 10% raise to a yearly salary of $676,500. Jacques will then do what he always does, nothing. He'll score less than 5 goals and will add no more than 5 assists. And I will repost this exact same thing on April 29, 2012.