Big Decisions: Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene for Lubomir Visnovsky

Jonathan Willis
June 14 2012 08:16AM

More than a few fans of the Edmonton Oilers have been watching the Stanley Cup Finals with some envy. In Los Angeles, both Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene did an excellent job in specific roles, helping the Kings to their first ever Stanley Cup win. The Kings acquired the pair from Edmonton back in the summer of 2008 in exchange for Lubomir Visnovsky.

We’ve previously discussed the way that playing for a good team versus a bad team can shift perceptions of a useful role player – Colin Fraser seemed like a much better fourth-liner in Los Angeles than he did in Edmonton, and to some extent the same effect is happening here.

Prior to this season, Stoll and Greene had never made it out of the first round with the Kings. In the three years before this one, Los Angeles had won a total of four playoff games. Stoll had never come close to recapturing the 68-point form he’d had in Edmonton back in 2005-06 (in fact, this season he picked up six goals and 21 points, worse totals than his rookie year). Greene was improved from his time in Edmonton – where both his discipline and positioning had been questionable – and had rounded into a solid #5 defenseman who could also kill penalties, but even so he wasn’t entrusted with the toughest assignments; the Kings brought in Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell to take those.

It’s important not to overstate the contribution of the duo to this year’s championship.

Jarret Stoll remains a physical center who excels on the penalty kill, has good size, and can play a third line role. That’s what he did in L.A., behind Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards. He’s a good NHL player in that role, but he’s also extremely limited – especially offensively. Despite playing 17:06 per game, he finished ninth of the Kings’ top-nine forwards in scoring. At times this season, when the Kings were starving for offense, Stoll was part of the problem. Colin Fraser was more likely to pick up a point on any given even-strength shift. Adjusting for ice-time, Shawn Horcoff contributed 35% more offense than Stoll – and unlike Stoll, Horcoff played top opponents all season long.

I don’t mean to beat up on Stoll here – he’s a very good defensive forward – but it’s important not to misstate what he is. He’s a checking line forward who needs power play time to get points; at even-strength, his attention to defense means that goals are few and far between.

It’s a similar story with Matt Greene. He’s a useful number five defenseman – and I was very impressed with his work on the penalty kill – but the way his coach used him betrays his limitations. Take Game Six against New Jersey. Ilya Kovalchuk played almost 15 minutes of even-strength ice-time; Greene lined up against him for less than two. Alexei Ponikarovsky played just over 11; Greene saw him for six full minutes. It’s a pattern that held true all through the post-season for L.A. – Greene and his regular partner, Alec Martinez, consistently got the bottom-six players from the other team as regular opponents, and consistently spent less time in their own end than the other two defense pairings.

That’s not a slight on Greene; he’s a good third-pairing defenseman. But it’s important to remember that he wasn’t a top-four, Jason Smith-style shutdown option for the Kings. Those jobs went to superior players – Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell.

That’s why I think the Oilers made the right decision when they traded for Lubomir Visnovsky. They moved a pair of good support players for a highly-talented blue-liner. It was a trade that made sense at the time, and if they could trade a third-line centre and a third-pairing defender for a talent like Visnovsky today they’d be crazy not to do so.

Visnovsky is not only a top-four defenseman, he’s the exact sort of offensive threat the Oilers have been lacking since they dealt him to Anaheim. In his first year, he picked up 31 points in 50 games. He scored 45 the next year; in 2010-11 he led all NHL defensemen with 68 points. This year he was slowed by injury but still managed to record 27 points, six more than Stoll did. Despite playing for two lousy teams in Edmonton and Anaheim, he’s a plus-21 since leaving L.A.; Stoll and Greene combined are plus-14 despite making the playoffs in three of four seasons with the Kings.

That’s not to say the Kings made a mistake when they dealt Visnovsky. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine he would still be with the Kings today even had they kept him; his salary would have made him an extravagance on such a deep blue line.

But the Oilers made a move that benefitted their team when they pulled the trigger on that deal, sending away depth players – good depth players, but depth players all the same – to address a position of need, a position that still needs to be addressed in the worst way. It was the right call.

Post-script: This piece was written prior to my reading Craig MacTavish's thoughts on the Visnovsky trade. I'm still not convinced; for all the virtues of both Stoll and Greene, Visnovsky was easily the best player in the deal and the kind of piece the Oilers have consistently needed since Pronger's departure.

Previously in this series

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 Cody anderson
June 14 2012, 10:34AM
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Tiger, I believe there are a few reasons we do this.

1) Those good players that are available do not want to sign on a 30th place team unless they are getting paid at a premium. (this should change a little this year and a lot next year as people can see we are nearing the evolution into a competitive and potentially good future team)

2) I believe they brought in belanger expecting more out of him. In my opinion he is a markinal role player, that when put with plugs will look like a plug himself.

3) I think part of the rebuild goal was to finish low and accumulate high draft picks. If we spent to the cap ceiling, over paying role players to make us better, it would help in the short term, but we would have most likely finished 20th rather than 30th and 29th. We would still not have a playoff team but would fight like Calgary until we had to blow up the team.

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#52 blueorangekoolaid
June 14 2012, 10:35AM
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@Cody anderson

Fair enough. On J. Schultz, I'd rather ensure no one else can talk to him thus eliminating the risk of him choosing elsewhere. I'm all for sending Anaheim and 3rd rounder or Omark or something to get his rights ahead of time.

I love Smid as well and would love to keep him. Do you think Anaheim does the same deal for Gags and some combination of 2nd round, Peckham or some other prospects like Pitlick or Hamilton?

I know Yakupov is a huge talent but I think Galchenyuk could be a similar talent had he not been hurt plus he plays a position of need as opposed to Yak's RW which is possibly our only position that does not need help. But I know 1st overall has to be Yak, that's why I trade it for some other top 5 pick and an asset. 3rd and Eller? 1st + for 4th and Hamonic (NYI is known for trading players they really shouldn't)

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#54 Eddie Edmonton
June 14 2012, 10:40AM
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@Jason Gregor

If Lubo is one-dimensional, and is only worth Stoll and Greene in a trade: what do you expect from him then?

You're the one that thinks of him as a failed elite D-Man. Most people see him for what he is, a good 2-3 D-Man.

The money he makes is not his fault, just Like Horcoff.

There is 19 players on a team any given night. How do you expect a #2 D-Man to make his team champions all by him self? Pronger couldn't do it in Edmonton.

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#55 Cody anderson
June 14 2012, 10:45AM
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@ Blueorangekoolaid

Now we are getting closer to the same page.

I would trade for J Schultz rights in a heart beat as long as it is a faltering prospect and a conditional draft pick, or just a conditional draft pick.

I think I would negotiate them as seperate deals most likely as the huge deals ar harder to pull off.

I don't know what it would take to get Anaheim's 6th pick, but i would do nothing until I saw who was available. I Galchenyuk is available I would trade gagner and a prospect other than (Klefbom)or Gagner and a 3rd or lower for their right to pick Galchenyuk.

We would then need to sign a descent short term stop gap to cover the 2nd line centre role as I don't think Gal would be ready this year and Horc has proven he cannot play the 2nd line centre on a competitve team.

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#56 blueorangekoolaid
June 14 2012, 10:53AM
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@Cody anderson

Do you give Gal a chance in camp and/or 9 games or does he automatically go back to junior? Also is there nothing out there that you would trade #1 for? What about a big C or LW with offence for top 6? Not sure who but is there a realistic deal out there? Do you need more than a proven top 6 player for #1?

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#57 dawgbone
June 14 2012, 10:59AM
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@Jason Gregor

You are still attributing team success/failure to Visnovsky.

The guy has never played on a team even as remotely good as any of the teams guys like Pronger and Lidstrom have played on.

Yes, he hasn't had any playoff success. Yes he's missed the playoffs most of his career.

Is that really on him though?

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#58 The Soup Fascist
June 14 2012, 11:09AM
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I swear I remember a game when the Oil had a couple of D in the penalty box and the Oilers chose to play 3 forwards and one D on the PK rather than throw Vish over the boards. Hard to get too excited about a DEFENCEman who can't play defence on a PK better than a forward. The very definition of a one-dimensional player.

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#59 Cody anderson
June 14 2012, 11:09AM
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@ Blueorangekoolaid

I think you always have to give a player a chance to make the team and without doubt he has the skill to. I am just guessing that one year of junior, then missing a full season makes the jum to 2nd line centre a huge reach. the beauty is if we signed someone for 1 to 2 years, even if he Galchenyuk makes the team we have a glaring weakness at centre and we can arrange them accordingly and trade Belanger.

I am not as high on Yak as a lot of people. His skill is undeniable. He is not big although from what I hear he is physical, reasonably solid, and a gym rat, so this might not be as big of an issue as I first thought. i don't mind smaller finnesse players, but I think you have to have a healthy mix, and so far are entire future is based on smaller finnesse players (possible exclusion of hall, although he is not overly big either)

If we have a power forward to play Yak with I take him everydy of the week as long as there are no concerns about character or geling with the team.

Here are the trades I thought of yesterday that would make me look awful hard at trading the 1st pick.

1)To trade with Columbus I need Johnson

2)Montreal I actually don't care for PK. I would prefer Nathan Beaulieu. Remember the team dynamic and the problems PK has had with his own team.

3)NY Islanders I would look at Ryan Strome or Travis Hamonic.

4)Toronto I would need Gardiner and a sweetener or would look at Franson and Schenn. I don't want Kadri unless he is a throw-in.

My choices depending on what we got in the trade would be Murray then Galchenyuk, then Reilly, then Dumba, the Reinhardt, then Ceci.

I wouldn't go down any lower than that unless you are getting a big star centre or stud d-man that are signed long term to a reasonable contract

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#60 TigerUnderGlass
June 14 2012, 11:18AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

No, somehow it didn't post...Wanye is dead. Myers hasn't made the money yet, how can you say he's in same boat. If he makes playoffs next year and wins around, he's already ahead.

You can't compare a guy who has yet to make the actual money.

And in four years, when Wiz and Buff have had five years at that coin, if they haven't done squat I will put them in that category, but can't say they are same as him.

Also Wiz and Buff will kill penalties, and be physical down low. Lubo was never that guy. He's one-dimensional.

So the question wasn't, "who are guys with a similar cap hit and little success," it was "who are guys who have had a similar cap hit for at least 5 years and don't kill penalties or knock people down."

On a slightly different topic - why does everyone believe that Stoll and Greene were such big leaders on that team? I can't say it isn't true, because I have no idea, but most of the people saying it have no idea either.

I can think of 7 or 8 guys who are more likely leadership candidates than either of them.

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#61 blueorangekoolaid
June 14 2012, 11:18AM
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@Cody anderson

in Columbus do you mean Jack Johnson or Ryan Johansen? I'm also not a Subban fan. NYI I'd take Hamonic and run if he's available. Hamonic and 4th overall for 1st plus what? Would you look at J. Staal if you could negotiate a deal ahead of time on an extension?

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#62 BingBong
June 14 2012, 11:30AM
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I dunno...I basically see Stoll, Greene, Fraser and to a certain degree even Penner, as guys who just happen to be on a Stanley Cup winner. I'm not saying they didn't contribute - obviously they did - but I don't view any of them as integral to the team. Doughty, Brown, Carter, Kopitar, Richards, Quick; those are the guys who were key.

As for the trade, I thought it was a good one, especially consering Stoll was just coming off a horrible year, had concussion issues, and was rumoured to have some non-hockey related issues. Vish is a great player, I would say a great #2. He just didn't work out here and it didn't seem like he really wanted to be here IMO.

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#63 Quicksilver ballet
June 14 2012, 11:33AM
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I wuv having that ability to argue back and forth about all things Oilers/NHL here 24 hrs/365 days a year.

Even though you biotches are wrong most of the time, i do enjoy the conversations that take place. Megabyte that Ron Burgundy.

The Kings were fortunate to be able to unload the soft/aging Ryan Smyth and add Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. This had far more to do with their success this yr than than the Visnovsky, Stoll/Green deal did. As Rich Winter would say, you can grab Stoll and Green types at Walmart, but you won't find guys like Richards and Carter there.

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#64 Cody anderson
June 14 2012, 11:33AM
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I did actually mean Jack Johnson as I feel D is our most pressing need. I think Gagner is a descent 2nd line centre, but I would much prefer more size unless we get him at least one power forward to play with. I would love to have Johansen as well, but then we would be drafting a dman and unless it is Murray we have to wait for them to be NHL ready. I like Murray and think he is NHL ready, but I think like any young dman he will most likely have his early struggles.

I think Gagner is to small and not defensive enough to be a 3rd line centre so this would make him totally expendable. that beaing said i would probably do this trade as well.

If I had to throw a sweetener into the mix on the Hamonic deal it would be a 3rd round or lower pick or a faltering prospect. Perhaps someone like Omark, Pitlick, Teubert, or plante.

If they were crazy enough to see value in one of our 4th liners, or bottom Dmen, Horcoff, or Khabby I would use them as sweeteners as well, although to me it would just be purging their contracts.

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#65 Jon
June 14 2012, 11:34AM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

So the question wasn't, "who are guys with a similar cap hit and little success," it was "who are guys who have had a similar cap hit for at least 5 years and don't kill penalties or knock people down."

On a slightly different topic - why does everyone believe that Stoll and Greene were such big leaders on that team? I can't say it isn't true, because I have no idea, but most of the people saying it have no idea either.

I can think of 7 or 8 guys who are more likely leadership candidates than either of them.

Well, Greene's got an A in LA, so he's obviously a leader on that team. Usually when players get the leader rep and they've been around for as long as they have, it's usually true, especially when they wear letters (Greene) or have worn letters in the past (Stoll)

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#66 blueorangekoolaid
June 14 2012, 11:39AM
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@Cody anderson

1st and Gags for 2nd and Johansen then draft Murray? I would think NYI would probably want both a marginal prospect and a pick for Hamonic. Something like 1st, Teubert and 3rd round for 4th and Hamonic draft Galchenyuk or Forsberg. Maybe throw Omark as well just to dump his contract off our 50 (since he will get qualified). I'd lose my mind if they wanted Khabby as well.

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#67 Cody anderson
June 14 2012, 11:47AM
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On J. Staal, I would love to have him here but it would depend on the Cap hit. If he was willing to sign for 5 or less, a multiple year deal, and is familiar with the area and willing to relocate here then I would look at it.

This would be a tough deal to make because I would want a good sweetener coming back this way. Either a solid prospect or a high draft pick (2nd or better)

I don't think they would throw much in. I see us sending away a potential 1st line superstar on an entry level contract to get back an ideal 2nd line centre at a much greater cap hit.

This deal would be great in the short term, but unless you got something good with him or great value out of Gagner I think you are mortgaging the future.

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#68 Cody anderson
June 14 2012, 11:58AM
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With Columbus I would not include Gagner in that trade. I think for some teams there is big value to go up to number one. I would trade Gagner straight across for Johansen, although I doubt Columbus would do this.

I see Gagner as a proven commodity with descent value and I see Johansen as having a higher ceiling, but not currently as good. I would need something else coming back in this trade or I would include something of lesser value than Gagner. If they wanted Hemmer I would include him as i feel he has a bad contract that sets a bad precident. this would create another hole though.

On the Hamonick trade i have no problem throwing in Teubert as I see him as an AHL defenseman.

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#69 blueorangekoolaid
June 14 2012, 12:00PM
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@Cody anderson

If it looks like they might struggle signing him (need to re-up Crosby and pay Malkin (5 million for the 3rd best C on your team doesn't equal success) means they might throw more in. What about a prospect upgrade, something like 1st and Pitlick for Staal and Morrow or Despres?

Trading a potential 1st line superstar is risky but he probably ends up costing more than J. Staal after entry level is up. Can we afford RFA deals for all of Hall, Ebs, RNH, Yakupov and J. Schultz (should we get him) plus next tier guys like MPS?

So much to consider, that's what makes being an Oiler fan both exciting and infuriating.

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#70 Cody anderson
June 14 2012, 12:22PM
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If they would throw in Morrow or Despres for a faltering draft choice I would do this deal as long as Staal is being paid 5 million or less.

I don't think Pitsburg goes for this deal. Pitlick may very well be a career AHL player and these 2 are very good prospects.

the reason I hated the Hemsky signing and the Smyth deal dragging out is if these are long term Oilers they should be taking a hometown discount in order to stay otherwise there is no way we sign everyone.

If you can convinve the young guys that people want to play here and that they can win by staying together you may very well be able to sign them all at discounted but fair prices. If we have to pay them what they would get as UFA's we will be lucky to keep 2 or 3 of them. if they see vets taking less than what they could get on the open market in order to saty here that can be a learned attitude. Obviously not everyone will follow suit, But if all the stars signed for 1 mill less then their true value that nets you an extra star, or that much better of a supporting cast.

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#71 TigerUnderGlass
June 14 2012, 12:28PM
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Jon wrote:

Well, Greene's got an A in LA, so he's obviously a leader on that team. Usually when players get the leader rep and they've been around for as long as they have, it's usually true, especially when they wear letters (Greene) or have worn letters in the past (Stoll)

Except that as far as I know they didn't have a reputation as leaders until this years playoffs.

Even then all the players ever talked about was the leadership of Brown and Kopitar.

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#72 Rogue
June 14 2012, 12:34PM
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Bottom line is that every GM would have made that trade. He who gets the best player wins the deal. Gregor has always said that. Now he seems to have forgotten that.

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#73 Jason Gregor
June 14 2012, 12:49PM
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@TigerUnderGlass

I can tell you with certainty Stoll is a leader. Was in junior, and has always been a great team guy.

Very well-liked by teammates, and when you see how he interacts with people outside the team you see he isn't fake. Organizing team events, making them do things together off-ice, Stoll is usually one who initiates that.Greene has an "A" in LA. He's a funny guy in room, lightens things up, and makes guys feel welcome. Players talked about Kopitar and Brown cause they were asked about them. Ask them about Greene and Stoll and you'd get similar response. Need numerous quality people in a room to be successful.

Hard for many to believe the importance of those guys, but they help more than just on the ice.

Oilers never replaced their personalities as much as their on-ice abilities.

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#74 Walter Sobchak
June 14 2012, 12:54PM
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Cody anderson wrote:

I would not even consider the 5th and Schenn for the 1st. If they did Gardiner Shcenn and the 5th then we have a deal. At very least i would want Gardiner, 5th, and another pick.

I think in time if we got lucky and developed well Schenn may be similar to Smid, but he is a long way off right now. Also Smid improved a tonne this year. Who knows if he has reached his ceiling. I would not consider trading Smid for the 5th pick or any defenseman in this draft.

Smid wants to stay here. He loves Edmonton and I believe will take a hometown discount to stay long term. If Schultz would sign here if we dealt for him, Then we would have an awful good chance signing him on July 1. I would have to think a much better chance with a stronger team by not giving up good current assets for potential future assets.

Yes! Yes! Finally.

All you thinking Schenn and the 5th is a good deal read Cody Anderson comment, or even Gardiner and the 5th.

Maybe both of them together and the 5th even then I might still ask for next years 1st based on draft postion.

Your talking about trading an elite scorer, maybe not Stamkos elte but this kid might be a 40 goal scorer.

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#75 Jason Gregor
June 14 2012, 12:54PM
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Rogue wrote:

Bottom line is that every GM would have made that trade. He who gets the best player wins the deal. Gregor has always said that. Now he seems to have forgotten that.

Go back and read. I said Visnovsky is best player, never said they lost the deal. And Oilers didn't really win the trade, because they never improved.

You trade best player, usually you win trade right away, but not always in longterm, I've stated that numerous times.

Years later the Pronger deal doesn't look as bad with Eberle and Smid starting to emerge. In three years, some might like it even more.

Fact is the Kings ended up with better results from the pieces of that deal...Four years later, but they did.

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#76 rickithebear
June 14 2012, 01:12PM
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Hamonic: paired with Macdoanald had top 10 tough comp results. Better than suter this year. Good luck with that.

J.stall faced first comp in 48% zone start last 4 years. he was .55 EVP/60 better than the league averag for this role. Jordan stall was =8 better than average for his role.he was a top 20 for centers at PK. Would have to trade for him and resign him to a 4.5-5M contract.

P. Guastad faced first comp in 44% zone start last 4 years. He was .53 EVP/60 better than the league average for this role. In this role a player should be -12 each year. he was =1 each year. a plus/minus 13 better than average. He was top 10 for centers at PK. he is a ufa this year can be signed for 3M. only

To me no contest. Gaustad is better suited to take on half of horcoff's tough comp role free horc to move from his 21EVP/season role back to a 40EVP/season role. Heck play Horc with Hemsky and a solid winger in even role he might generate a 50 EVP/season pace like he did in 07/08 and 06/07.

Gaustad only havng to eat half of the 13EVP/60 role could have a huge jump in EVP production

I am smiling with a bottom 6 of:

XXX-Horc/Gaustad-Hemsky

Belanger-Horc/Gaustad-Jones

protecting the kids for soft opposition.

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#77 Bucknuck
June 14 2012, 01:20PM
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Lubo might be over-rated, but with Stoll's injury concerns and Greene's upside being comparable with Sutton I believe it was a good trade. They needed a defenseman who could move the puck, and he qualified. He's no Chris Pronger, but he's a lot better than most d-men in the league.

I think MacT saying it was a mistake should be setting off alarm bells in Oilers Nation.

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#78 rickithebear
June 14 2012, 01:24PM
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There are usaually 30 30G scorers in the league each year.

Would it be terrible to have 5 (5/30) potential 30G scorers on the team. Eberle, Hall, Yakupov, Rieder, RNH.

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#79 TigerUnderGlass
June 14 2012, 02:05PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

I can tell you with certainty Stoll is a leader. Was in junior, and has always been a great team guy.

Very well-liked by teammates, and when you see how he interacts with people outside the team you see he isn't fake. Organizing team events, making them do things together off-ice, Stoll is usually one who initiates that.Greene has an "A" in LA. He's a funny guy in room, lightens things up, and makes guys feel welcome. Players talked about Kopitar and Brown cause they were asked about them. Ask them about Greene and Stoll and you'd get similar response. Need numerous quality people in a room to be successful.

Hard for many to believe the importance of those guys, but they help more than just on the ice.

Oilers never replaced their personalities as much as their on-ice abilities.

Fair enough. Like I said, I have no way to know. Mostly I just think it's funny how I've never heard anything about it until just now when LA wins the cup.

I remember rumors to the opposite in Edmonton, with people saying Stoll drinks too much, Stoll fights with vets, Stoll kicks babies, etc.

That was probably just the standard local media treatment on his way out though.

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#80 TigerUnderGlass
June 14 2012, 02:08PM
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@Jason Gregor

Fact is the Kings ended up with better results from the pieces of that deal...Four years later, but they did.

You heard it here first kids. LA won the cup because they traded Visnovsky for Stoll and Greene.

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#81 Rogue
June 14 2012, 02:34PM
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They could of won the Cup with most any 3rd center and #6 dman. And Willis pointed out their actual contributions. Players who are marginal tend to rise to the occasion,for they know their limited value, that is why there is so many surprise performances in the playoffs. With your view, Jason, Willis will have to dissect every trade made to justify who won based on Cups won. Also, I guess this makes Stoll and Greene better clutch performers than Lubo. With that in mind, the Oil should of paid Pisani 5 mil.per for what he did.

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#82 Clyde Frog
June 14 2012, 03:09PM
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When we traded Stoll he was a 2nd liner for us and one for the Kings, not a 3rd liner at all.

After struggling with full body arthritis it is interesting his most valued season by us (The last one) was also his worst.

Before the Kings made their magical run in the playoffs, ex-Oilers like Penner and Stoll were having their worst seasons ever.

No-one here could possibly claim any team would have traded for them at the deadline.... Not with that terrible performance.

Yet give them a cup and BOOM, we re-evalute a trade everyone was comfortable with.

I think I now see how the Horcoff contracts happens... Don't suck in the playoffs and all of a sudden your regular season contribution doesn't matter at all anymore. He at least posted a 70 pt season when we dropped that albatross on his shoulders.

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