Gregor: New Oilers centre Gordon matches up to former captain Horcoff — in some areas
Up to Edmonton’s core young players to fill void left by veteran’s departure
EDMONTON - Friday’s free-agent frenzy actually lived up to the hype this year.
Sixty regular NHL players were signed, 52 of them with new teams, for almost $400 million US. Only two players, Nathan Horton and David Clarkson, got deals longer than five years, as teams demonstrated a semblance of financial constraint.
The Edmonton Oilers signed veterans Andrew Ference, Boyd Gordon and Jason LaBarbera, unproven Jesse Joensuu and two former AHL Toronto Marlies, Wil Acton and Ryan Hamilton.
None of them are big names, but are they better than the players they replaced?
If the Oilers are going to improve, they need to improve their complementary players. They have high-end skill in Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner, Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz, although all six of them will need to become more consistent if they expect to win.
Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish made it clear at the end of the 2012-13 season he wasn’t happy with his bottom-six forwards.
“We had a lot of guys that the best they were going to be in any given game was a non-factor,” MacTavish said, not mincing his words.
The Oilers felt Joensuu could give them more than Lennart Petrell, and it is easy to say that Gordon will have more of an impact than Eric Belanger.
But could Gordon be equal to former captain Shawn Horcoff as the third-line centre?
Horcoff wasn’t nearly as bad a player as many fans believed. Most couldn’t get past his contract, so they unrealistically expected him to produce like a $5.5-million player. He wasn’t a flashy offensive player, and yes, he was overpaid, but that wasn’t his fault.
Horcoff will make $4 million this year and $3 million next season, while Gordon has a new three-year pact that pays him $3 million a season. Their contracts, in actual dollars, are similar, so should we expect Gordon to perform as well?
If you compare their careers, Horcoff is a much better offensive player, but if you look at the past two seasons, they’ve produced basically the same point totals at even strength.
Last season, Horcoff had eight even-strength points in 31 games. If you pro-rate that over an 82-game season, that is 21 even-strength points. He also had 21 even-strength points in 2011-12.
This past season, Gordon had 11 even-strength points in 48 games, which pro-rates to 19 in a full season. In 2011-12 he had 20 even-strength points.
Gordon can be just as productive five-on-five. He’s equal or better defensively, he’s better in the faceoff dot, but he won’t replace Horcoff’s contribution on the power play. It will be up to the kids to fill the void left by Horcoff on the power play. One of them will need to do the dirty work in the corner and in front of the net, while Nugent-Hopkins and Gagner must improve their faceoffs.
The Oilers should add a veteran fourth line centre. If Anton Lander plays well in training camp and wins the job, fine, but they shouldn’t enter August with Lander as their fourth-line centre.
Only 17 free agents got four-year contracts, yet the Nashville Predators signed three of them: Matt Hendricks, Viktor Stalberg and Eric Nystrom. That is a sign of remaining mediocre. Ray Emery went 17-1 with the Chicago Blackhawks and signed for $1.65 million, while Nikolai Khabibulin won only four games, yet he received $2 million from the Blackhawks.
You decide what this means: The only free agent former Oilers to be signed so far are goalies Yann Danis and Khabibulin … You know a city is desperate for a winner when they are comparing David Clarkson to Wendel Clark. Clarkson is 29, has played 426 career games and has 97 goals and 170 points. When Clark was 29, he had played 434 games and scored 220 goals and 384 points. There is no comparison.
On Tuesday, the NHL will announce their 2013 Hall of Fame inductees. Scott Niedermayer and Chris Chelios will go in on their first ballot, while Brendan Shanahan should go in on his second. If I had a vote, Eric Lindros would get in during his third year of eligibility.
The more I think about it, the more I like Ed Hervey’s decision to extend Kavis Reed’s contract by a year now rather than have him twist in the wind all season. The Eskimos need stability, rather than constant change, and blaming the coach has become too easy of an out in pro sports. It wasn’t Reed’s fault former GM Eric Tillman traded Ricky Ray last season after Reed went 11-7 in 2011 as a rookie head coach.
Congratulations to all the competitors who finished the Great White North Triathlon (half Ironman) during the weekend in Stony Plain. It is inspiring to watch people push their bodies to the limits and still keep going. Kudos to race director Mike Brown, and a big shout out to all the volunteers who helped make the event an incredible success. See you all next year.
You can listen to Gregor weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on the TEAM 1260, read him at oilersnation.com and follow him@jasongregor on twitter.
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