Tuesday, July 20, 2010

FACING OFF: Madden or Wellwood could be good fits

The Oilers might be a much younger and somewhat grittier team with the deals Steve Tambellini has swung in recent weeks, but he needs to track someone down to play centre.

The Oilers still have problem down the middle with the lack of reliable centremen, especially when it comes to special teams and the third and fourth lines.

Newly acquired Colin Fraser was 47.8 per cent (376 out of 787) on the faceoff circle two seasons ago with Chicago and he is the right pick-up for the Oilers. Fraser does offer a lot of defensive upside, which is why he’s ideal for the team’s second penalty killing unit.

And then there’s obviously Shawn Horcoff who won 53.9 per cent of his faceoffs back in 2008-09, but he slid a bit last season mostly because of a bad shoulder.

Horcoff was 46.4 per cent (621 out of 1337) on the circle and that’s slightly less than Sam Gagner (336 out of 709) and Ryan Potulny (389 out of 820) who were both 47.4 per cent on the dot.

As far as the stats are concerned, the Oilers are in desperate need of a reliable centreman.

And if Tambellini is looking to make another splash this summer, it might not be a bad idea to pick up John Madden to a Mike Comrie-like contract.

The 37-year-old made $2.75 million with the Blackhawks last season, and he could sign to an extremely cheaper contract based on his age.

Adding Madden, who scored 23 points and had a winning faceoff percentage of 53 last season, could also provide some much-needed leadership to a very youthful hockey team.

But if Tambellini is looking long term, there’s also Kyle Wellwood who was a reliable faceoff guy for the Canucks at 53.8 per cent.

The 27-year-old scored 14 goals and 11 assists in 75 games last season, and given his past history with his lack of conditioning, Wellwood could agree to a longer contract somewhere around the $1.5-million mark.

Wellwood is a risk, but he’s an ideal third-line centreman who doesn’t take a lot of dumb penalties.


A team that wins in the NHL must consistently win faceoffs, as far as last season’s stats are concerned.

The West Division-leading San Jose Sharks had the best faceoff team in the league at 55.6 per cent. Boston was second at 52.6, followed by the Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks at 52.4.

The worst faceoff team was the worst team in the NHL last season. The Edmonton Oilers were dead last at 46.4 per cent, followed by the Colorado Avalanche at 47.7, and the Calgary Flames at 48 per cent.

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