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Who Can Handle Brodziak's Workload?

Kyle Brodziak was traded to the Wild because it was his fault that the Oilers lost last year. Or he was a locker room problem. Or he wasn't physical. Or something. The reasons for the Brodizak trade aren't quite understood by most, especially in light of the fact that the management team in Edmonton has yet to replace the skillset that Brodziak brought to the team.

Below is a chart of 2009 statistics [Zonestart, % of faceoffs taken in the defensive zone, % of faceoffs taken in the offensive zone, Corsi, and % of faceoffs won] of the five current Oilers' centers and Brodziak.


The two things that jump out on this chart are Brodziak's starting position on the ice and his faceoff percentage. Neither Sam Gagner nor Andrew Cogliano could be counted on to win a faceoff, which eliminated them as options in the defensive zone to start a shift. That left Brodziak to do everything that Shawn Horcoff couldn't handle and worse. The faceoff numbers were impressive for such a young center, especially given that he was taking so many own zone draws. Brodziak had an awful Corsi, but he did have inferior linemates, which impact performance when combined with the terrible starting position Brodziak endured throughout the season.

The contenders to replace Brodziak's workload are going to struggle with those starting conditions. Andrew Cogliano's faceoff woes are well-documented, Sam Gagner is still a kid and learning the craft. Mike Comrie hasn't had success in the faceoff circle in four years. Marc Pouliot has shown that he has some skill in the circle, but is untested.

Brodziak also contributed heavily to the Oilers' penalty kill last year -- he played the second most short-handed minutes on the team and took almost every faceoff that Shawn Horcoff didn't take.


Given that Kelly Buchberger's system last year didn't involve three pairs of forwards, maybe Buchberger isn't worried about getting another penalty killer. Perhaps he's content with Horcoff, Pisani, Moreau and O'Sullivan with Cogliano and Pouliot spot-filling. If Tom Renney is involved, however, remember that from this post Renney likes to run three pairs of forwards. Either way, Quinn still has a void on the penalty kill - someone that can win faceoffs when Horcoff is gassed.

The candidates to take up that role are either unproven or unable to handle it. Gilbert Brule, Cogliano, Comrie, Gagner, and Pouliot. Brule seems to have the keys to the kingdom because the team mismanaged his waiver situation last year, but is not ready for the penalty kill or slanted ice in the faceoff circle. Pouliot has shown flashes of talent in these areas, has the skills necessary to handle that load and has the size to make an impact defensively. However, according to most, he's barely hanging on to the 14th forward slot at this point. The others are not penalty kill options, are just plain bad in the faceoff circle and have never played in any similar role previously.

The Oilers were short-handed at center last year and it led to the situation that Brodziak was placed in last year. Rather than strengthen the position, the Oilers weakened themselves by trading Brodziak and leaving defensive zone work to players that have tried and failed or have never been asked to do so. To make things worse, the player with the tools to most likely step in is in danger of losing his job because of roster mismanagement.