The Problems With The Andrew Cogliano Trade

Editor's Note: This article was written prior to the Ducks signing Cogliano to his new contract. However, as long as the one-year contract demands set forth by Jim Matheson remain correct, the viewpoint of the author is unchanged.

The staredown always ended with a loss.

The long-term solution is moving Cogliano to the wing. Given the current depth chart and the coming Riley Nash, Cogliano has no place in the middle. He would, however, be a low-cost alternative to bringing in a $4+ million scorer, given his scoring touch and underliers. As I mentioned, he has one year of development time left, and it's best to use that on the wing. The organization needs scoring wingers and has a year to turn Cogliano into one of those.

--Me, March 2009

Rather than move Andrew Cogliano to the wing, the organization stuck with him in the middle.  His career in Edmonton ended with at least one notable accomplishment - the crowning of the worst faceoff man of the last decade.  It also meant two more seasons of the above .gif - Cogliano staring at the puck in the defensive zone.

In those linked articles I lobbied the Oilers to move Cogliano for some useful pieces, so if anyone should be happy with a Cogliano trade, it should be me.  However, there was a caveat to my lobbying efforts, namely that the Oilers give Cogliano a year on the wing to develop into a speedy, goal-scoring right wing like Maxim Afinogenov.  There is abundant talent within the player; perhaps it would come to the surface if Cogliano were to be freed from the defensive responsibilities of center, responsibilities that he clearly can't handle.  That he wasn't moved to the wing is mystifying -- he was a poor defensive center who couldn't win a faceoff -- why keep him at center?  If it was at his insistence, shame on him for being unwilling to experiment with his game and find a useful top 9 role on an NHL team.  If Cogliano was willing to move to the wing, but it was the Oilers who drove the positional decisions, then shame on the team for wasting away the prime formative years of a first-round draft pick with obvious talent. 

It makes even less sense to trade him before a right wing tryout when taken in context with other personnel moves the organization has made in recent years.  Steve Tambellini v 1.0 traded Raffi Torres to Columbus for Gilbert Brule and immediately installed Brule as a right wing.  Brule came to the Oilers with no proven history of NHL success, yet after one season of moderate success on Dustin Penner's off-wing buoyed by some statistical blips, the Oilers handed Brule a two-year, $3.7 million contract, a $1.85 million per year cap hit.  This off-season, as if the Oilers' management cabal has never read Santayana's "Life of Reason", they did not learn from their history and repeated their actions with Ryan Jones, handing out a two-year, $3 million contract, a $1.5 million per year cap hit.  Jones had no history of NHL performance, yet popped in 18 goals while dragging some terrible underlying numbers and landed his contract.  When Cogliano's name came up for contract renewal, he was seeking $1.5 to $1.7 million annually, and the club wasn't willing to pay him that amount.  Management had a player with a proven, though extremely modest history, and wasn't willing to pay him the same amount of money they'd given to two players with zero history and little hope of replicating their one-year, one-off performances.  Cogliano filed for arbitration and sealed his fate.

Respondents to our poll found Cogliano to be a better option than Jones, with 63% of voters backing Cogliano.

The inability of the Oilers to find value in even bottom eight players led them to their fate.  Regular readers know of Scott's cap space guideline chart.  His cap hit for the bottom eight players comes in at $6.75 million.  The Oilers have $4.45 million sunk into their 4th line between Ben Eager, Brule and Jones.  Finish the bottom eight out with Darcy Hordichuk, Ryan O`Marra or Chris Vande Velde, Andy Sutton, Cam Barker and Taylor Chorney and the Oilers are spending more than $11 million on their bottom eight players.  If it was value that the management team was concerned about, there were plenty of other opportunities to take a stand in the name of a few percent.  Outside of a couple of teams who will be hiding terrible contracts on the fourth line or bottom pairing, no team spends nearly as much money on the bottom of the roster as the Oilers.  Sadly, for all of the money being spent, the Oilers aren't employing difference-makers.  Paying Cogliano $1.7 million to play on the wing (or at center for that matter) makes far more hockey sense than giving all of that money to ineffective hockey players.

Even though I mentioned keeping him at center in the last paragraph, it would have been in the interest of both parties to move Cogliano to wing.  He was a black hole on the dot.  Whether that was a complete lack of natural talent for faceoffs, poor coaching, or poor work habits, Cogliano's faceoff numbers speak for themselves:

 

Year Faceoff %
2007-08 39.5%
2008-09 37.2%
2009-10 43.0%
2010-11 41.6%

 

As Ray Zalinsky said in Tommy Boy, "Good, you've pinpointed it. Step two is washing it out."  He also struggled on the defensive side of the game.  As Scott said in his season recap:

The problem areas, to my eye, are when the game is more static, like coverage in front of the net, battles along the boards, and positioning on the penalty kill.

Couple those issues with his tendency to stare at the puck on defense and you've created a terrible defensive center.  For whatever reason, center wasn't going to work for Cogliano and the Oilers, but there were some bright spots.  He was making progress in the possession game.  It wasn't Taylor Hall-like, but the numbers were a heck of a lot better than Jones or Brule.  Bruce talked about his improvement on the penalty kill and by the end of the season, he was a reliable option short-handed.  He's also demonstrated some goal-scoring ability, though it's been largely dependent on shooting percentage, not shots generated.  His shots per game have leveled off, but taking the shackles of the center position off of him could have resulted in more shots.

Aside from the fact that management is choosing to employ worse players for the same money, the worst part of the trade is the return.  A second-round pick is a fine return for a player with serious deficiencies like Cogliano.  But it's just one more move for an administration with zero demonstrated ability to get actual NHL players and tangible returns.  The fans play it up and cheer loudly as just one more draft pick for the scouting staff, but by the time a second-round pick in 2013 is ready for NHL minutes, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Linus Omark, Jeff Petry and Devan Dubnyk will no longer be under control via restricted free agency.  The window will have closed.  To make it even worse, Steve Tambellini had the option of a second-round pick in 2012 or 2013 and chose the latter.

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