Sunday, November 04, 2007

Diamond Dan

I track former Oilers sometimes, can't help myself. In the picture to the right is unheralded former Oiler Jan Hejda. The Oilers managed to pull him out of thin air** last season, and though he sat in favour of the kids early, as the season wore on he got ice time, on the top pairing no less, and became popular on the Oilogosphere as a defender who could take on the tough opposition along side Jason Smith, and hold his own.

When former Oilers asst. GM, and current Columbus GM, Scott Howson acquired Hejda, it seemed obvious that he was a GM's pick. Hitchcock couldn't be expected to know the player well at all. Generally you expect the coach to take a while to trust a new player in this instance, ten games is a good guess. Hell, it took MacTavish a couple of months with Hejda in his first season.

Not so with Hitchcock and our man Dan. It seems to have been love at first sight. He's played with Foote, and against the other team's best right from the start. And it's a love that's been growing. At this point Hejda has taken the lead, and is more likely to be sent over the boards for an own zone draw at evens than any other Jacket player, edging out Hitchcock faves Foote, Chimera, Malhotra and Peca even. And young Klesla has been bumped down into a situation where he can enjoy more personal success.

The forwards that Hejda has played the most with are Nash, Peca and Zherdev. Go figure. And he is EV+/- +3. And that unfamiliar tingly feeling that Zherdev and Nash are experiencing for the first time ... well that's even strength plusness in November.

Sensibly, only so much credit can go to Hejda here. Much of the credit has to go to Nash and Zherdev, who seem to have started to turn a corner. And to Hitchcock, who has lured them around to that side when many before him had failed.

Still, if you were to argue that Hejda was NOT a high quality NHL defender ... then you'd have to rely on "anecdotal evidence", a.k.a. "making shit up". Because the facts won't be your friend.

Here are the CBJ game numbers for the keeners out there. Check the H2H's for Hejda. In terms of quality of opposition faced, that's just all kinds of impressive for Jan. The Oilers could do with a guy like this.

20016 20030 20042 20072 20085 20098 20115 20122 20133 20145 20171 20181

** Thin Air = High quality European league where several other defenders of Hejda's quality are doubtlessly playing.


Blogger Mr DeBakey said...

Not as high profile as the Pronger trade or the Smyth SNAFU

But still
signing Souray so that Dan could walk was a terrible decision.

On a related note
Tjarnqvist should be available again shortly,
wasn't he out til November with his hip pointer/pelvic inflamation/sports hernia condition?

11/04/2007 7:06 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

I know he had some chronic injuries, for that reason I would think the Oilers would be a bit gunshy. They have enough injury prone defencemen already.

I rated Shaggy though. Pucks just never seemed to go through him, aesthetically he looked like the Oilers best PKer to me for that reason, though I haven't checked the numbers. When he moved the puck it was usually north-south as well. Plus he played very tough minutes when he was healthy, basically Gator-minutes and then also subbing in here and there for Smid for half a shift when the lifting was going to be heavy.

Always had the feeling he was a one-year-Oiler though, just going by the way the Oilers shat on him a couple of times when it was clearly the young defenders that were struggling. Still, money talks.

You have to give Lowe credit for finding the diamonds in the rough in terms of veteran D, batting way above average there. The choices on the young Dman front have not been so good of course. But you have to take the rough with the smooth.

11/04/2007 7:28 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

I'm pretty sure Tjarnqvist played on Smith's pairing for much of the year when he was healthy. I recall they were together for a lot of ES events anyway.

Interesting item: the messageboard types really hated Tjarnqvist and they loved Lowe's offseason. That about sums it up.

Would it have killed the Oilers to start the year with Gilbert and Smid down on the farm while adding a guy like Hejda or Tjarnqvist?

I suspect Lowe and MacT took themselves far too seriously with the "nine new faces" talk. Change is all fine and well, but get the right ones for fucksakes.

11/04/2007 8:27 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


Yeah, he played mostly with Gator I'm sure. And I'm sure that if you go back and look at the H2H icetimes, esp if you pick a dozen or so games vs teams with an obvious star forward, and that weren't penalty filled or lopsided on the scoreboard ... I bet that every one Shaggy had more of those minutes than Gator, then a big drop to Staios and then Smid.

I think that was Shaggy eating up some Smid minutes vs those guys, esp in his own end.

And I would guess that if the messageboard fans were hating Shaggy at a time, they were loving Smid at the same instant. That's the way the Oilers were spinning it, brashly and nonsensically I thought.

11/04/2007 8:44 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

As an aside on Hitchcock, game 20085 is vs Dallas at home. And of course we all know about the Modano-Hitchcock relationship. That's the one where he completely broke form, he stayed with Foote/Hejda vs Modo but tried to get Fedorov/Vyborny as the forward match with Chimera/Malhotra as the post-penalty guys and backup to plan A (being Fedorov).

Must have been a game Hitchcock really wanted. And the Zherdev-Peca-Nash line barely got a sniff of Modano.

And if the playoffs started tomorrow I think game 20085 would be the better guess at Hitchcock's gameplan, better than the other dozen games. Just a hunch, mind.

11/04/2007 8:50 pm  
Blogger Black Dog said...

Good stuff Vic - yeah, chalk up Hejda as one who got away. And Shaggy did play most of his time with Smith before he started getting hurt. It was no coincidence, I think, that the Oilers' slide into oblivion last year began when he and Staios went down. The team survived a short period when Smyth and Hemsky were both out but when the two D men went down that was all she wrote.

Hejda was a good move by Lowe and then he didn't follow up and sign him - a good effective player at a good price - you know, the type who makes up for the guys who aren't earning their coin.

11/05/2007 5:35 am  
Blogger Tyler said...

This EV faceoff stuff is fun stuff. I did the Oilers last night and it's really interesting to see how it breaks down. What I'd like to see is the odds of a shot/goal in the 5, 10, 15, 20 seconds after a faceoff in the other team's end of the ice. Souray and Gilbert both have suprisingly good shots for/against numbers this year...they're also the two guys who have the highest ratio of offensive zone faceoffs/faceoffs.

11/05/2007 8:07 am  
Blogger Lord Bob said...

Yeah, you could say that Lowe didn't sign a top-four defenseman for an insanely reasonable contract and let him escape to beautiful Columbus. But Hejda's, like, 29 or something! That makes he only has, like, eight effective seasons left in him before he breaks down. Also, we have eight NHL-calibre defensemen, dontchya know.

Maybe Hejda should have divorced his wife!

(It's 8:40 AM Pacific Standard Time and I need a drink. The trouble is that even pretty hard-core Lowe defenders like I have trouble defending the blue-line moves this off-season...)

11/05/2007 9:40 am  
Blogger namflashback said...

Crazy stuff.

Re-sign Hejda at $1-1.5M over 2-3 years.

Do one of EITHER the Pitkanen deal or Souray deal.

Sidestep the Tarnstrom deal.

Keep the Grebeshkov deal.

Hejda Staios
Greb Gilbert
Pitkanen Greene
Smid Roy

Would have been about 5+ M cheaper.

Could still go for Hossa with the savings even with the Dusty Penner deal in there.

"But what I like about him is he's got a plan!"

11/05/2007 10:00 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Black Dog:

You have to be happy for Hejda. And you have to wonder, if Howson hadn't become the GM of Columbus, would Hejda have even found work in this league?


Ya, I actually posted a thread above on the subject before reading your comment, but it's curious stuff. And as you say, it would be good to know how that increases your chances of getting a - instead of a +. Desjardins has a graph running from seconds after a faceoff until goals are scored. But it seems a bit too severe of an impact there, so presumably he's left in powerplays.

I would just like to see how often defensive zone faceoff shifts end in goals or in penalties, and for which team. There is obviously an additional burden on the players going out on the ice in that situation.

11/05/2007 10:54 am  

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