Well kids, what did we learn today?
That was usually my answer, but I hope the Oilers can get better ones from Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano.
- Important note #1: It might be hard to isolate these two players because they have played together alot - especially in 07/08 - so the last hypothesis will probably the most difficult one to address with much certainty. I could attempt to further look at them with and without each other, but I think that will kill the sample sizes. For the time being, I'm willing to just accept this as a limitation.
- Important note #2: I'm going by games played and I'm not looking at icetime. This could be a big deal, but I'm blatantly avoiding it right now.
First things first, let's get an idea of how sheltered these two players were on the Oilers. Probably the best way to look at this is to check out where they have been starting their shifts relative to the team. Using timeonice.com, I have the Oilers' team faceoff differential (offensive zone minus defensive zone) vs. the starting faceoff zone differential for Gagner and Cogliano for the last two seasons in 20 game increments (22 games in the last one):
Ugh, this team sucked in 07/08. But anyway, Gagner and Cogliano have been sheltered quite a bit as Oilers under Craig MacTavish, particularly to start the 07/08 season. The beginning of that year was crazy - the Oilers were pinned in their zone at 5-on-5 and yet MacT managed to get the kids an even shake. That's no small feat. Now the team is predictably still in the red in this department, but better, and the two players in question still enjoyed sheltering to some degree right up to the present.
Just to support this point a little bit, we can look at the Gabriel Desjardins' Quality of Competition player rankings within the team. Among forwards in 2007-2008, Gagner was 9th and Cogliano was 12th, but they were very close. Meanwhile last year, they moved up to 8th and 9th respectively. I think we can be reasonably confident that MacTavish ensured that they both started their shifts favourably in terms of zone and opposition.
Now for some results:
At least 2007-2008 fits what we might expect and basically what I swear Vic posted last offseason. They were pretty bad to start 2007-2008 but as we can see by the zone shift chart below (which is really just graph 2 minus graph 1, or Shift End Diff. - Shift Start Diff.) these guys were treading water after their first season. It's also interesting to me that although the team's year-end performance in 2007-2008 was pretty unsustainable, the kids did finish off the year at a pretty decent clip. After looking at a decent underlying trend, can we still say MacT was totally nuts for starting to believe the hype a little bit?
Gagner looks pretty reasonable after the first quarter of 2008-2009 by the Zone Shift measure despite all the bad press he was getting because he couldn't buy a goal. His line is pushing the puck forward during the first 20 games of 08/09 and that's a wonderful thing.
However, it appears that Cogliano and Gagner start to deviate at this point last year. Gagner just trends downwards after this point while Cogliano seems to be holding steady. Is this real or some kind of artifact? An injury maybe? I don't know, but it is interesting. There must be some kind of explanation and I'm taking suggestions. Including that there's not much value here.
Lastly, there's the Corsi. Frankly this is kind of all over the place and is also less flattering than the faceoff position data. It really doesn't look like they're getting better by this measure. I think this is probably just an example of how young players don't develop in a linear fashion. Furthermore, it's probably also a good example of how variable the actual level of play can be for players in their first and second years in the league. I imagine that vets see their GF/GA data move around a lot, but their Corsi and faceoffs are probably a little more consistent.