Not So Poor, Poor, Pitiful Cogliano

From the outside, one might look at the position of speedy forward Andrew Cogliano and feel for this kid. After all, he's had a tremendously interesting and likely trying couple of months as a professional hockey player.

First he was traded. Part of the mind-numbing Dany Heatley soap opera, Cogliano was unofficially moved to the Ottawa Senators along with Dustin Penner and Ladislav Smid. The trade, as we all know never officially happened and Cogliano stayed put. He was gracious in his media conversations and claimed to be flattered as a key component in a trade involving a 50 goal scorer, but deep inside he was disappointed.

Not much later, Cogliano, along side a number of other forwards found themselves in competition for limited roster space in Edmonton. A number of similar style, smaller forwards didn't help Cogliano's cause. Unlike some of the other forwards who knew their time was nearing an end in Edmonton, Cogliano was relatively safe. Still, Cogliano's poor faceoff percentage the previous year, the Oilers willingess to trade him, and limited cap space on a team that needed to make decisions in the upcoming years; Cogliano had to have some moments of uncertainty regarding his role on the Oilers squad, especially since he was quickly coming due for a new contract.

Fast forward to the start of the season. Fans yearned to give the speedy forward top-six minutes. He'd scored 18 times in the past season on the third line and it was widely believed he could improve on those numbers if given the chance. Instead, fans found out new coach Pat Quinn preferred to place size on each of his four lines and roll them out, evenly distributing grit or "crust" to a very non-gritty team. Great concept, but bad for Cogliano, who again found himself moved down the depth charts in place of players like JF Jacques and Ryan Stone.

Add up all the obstacles facing the young Cogliano, and it's no wonder fans now feel for and worry he won't be able to produce the 20 plus goals they feel he's capable of in almost any other environment. Some fans have gone so far around Edmonton as to suggest trading him, just to give him a chance to be the player he could be, on a team that needs an offensive spark. I might suggest that Oiler fans be not so quick to give up hope.

To date, Cogliano is defying the odds. On the fourth line, Cogliano has put together five points in six games, with two goals that if nothing else, show the type of speed he possesses as a forward. Along side Ethan Moreau and Zack Stortini, Cogliano hasn't exactly been a typical fourth line forward.

Quinn wasn't exaggerating his stance that he'd be rolling all four lines. While most NHL squads might limit their fourth line players to sometimes six or seven minutes a game (sometimes less), Cogliano is averaging over twelve minutes in all situations. He's become a more counted on penalty killer, seen time on the powerplay, (rare for "fourth" liner), and has line-mates that are making him a more rounded NHL'er than he'd have been with the likes of Ales Hemsky or Sam Gagner.

Moreau and Stortini force the working man's style of play. They go into hard areas and expect their linemates to follow. The skilled forward in that spot, is the benefactor of a number of loose and errant pucks that find their way to open ice areas, thus allowing someone with both skill and speed to capitalize, sometimes against another teams weaker defense. Currently, that's where Cogliano finds himself.

As Jason Gregor of oilersnation.com put it, while Stortini and Moreau aren't blessed with natural skill like Comrie, Gagner, Cogliano, O'Sulllivan or Hemsky, they go to the tough areas more often and when teamed up with some skilled guys, they get results.

In the meantime, Cogliano's faceoff stats have gone up. He's 50% on the year (a vast improvement over his 37% total from the previous season), he's averaging about 19 shifts per game and lacks time on only the power play, which I'm sure will increase with his new offensive production.

Of all the scenarios Andrew Cogliano may have imagined he'd see starting the 2009/2010 season with the Oilers, this may be the most unlikely. It may also be the most beneficial to his young career. Time will tell, but it looks as though big things are on the horizon and Andrew Cogliano may prove to be the best piece of the Heatley trade that never left Edmonton. .

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