Review After 20. Where Do You Think They Sit?

It's pretty standard from what I've noticed for the NHL blogosphere to do a quarter of the way through the season team review on each respective team for which they write. They examine player by player to see how each is doing, his contribution to the team, and so forth.

We'll be doing that as well, just a bit differently. I'll be breaking each article into groups of five players, not only giving grades, but going through my earlier predictions and seeing how off base I was or whether I was on the right track.

First, let me preface this with, it's hard to judge a number of the players on this team due strictly to how injured and ill they've been. With somewhere close to 100 man games missed in just 20 games total for the team, how can we fairly suggest that each player will be getting a fair review?

All that said, let's give it a shot anyways.

We'll start with the only five players to have actually played all 20 Oiler games this season. Stortini, Gilbert, Cogliano, O'Sullivan and Penner.

Penner is an easy one. While we were pretty confident that he'd have a bounce back year (our first ever article on this site was actually about Penner breaking out), we can't lie and suggest we expected the level to which Penner has kicked off this season.

Penner leads the Oilers in a ton of categories and even when his production is limited to one goal in a contest, Penner has been the best player on the ice for both teams. A far cry from watching him last season.

Penner's pace of play has come back to reality a tad bit, but he's still highly ranked in the NHL (tied for 6th) for points, plus/minus, goals scored, and he's playing in all important situations for the Oilers. He's currently tied with Dany Heatley for points, which if you'd have predicted that before the first 20 games of the season and right after the trade was veto'd, you should have bought a lottery ticket.

Penner needs another multi-point effort here in the next couple games to hope to stay ahead of Heatley, but I don't think Oiler fans need him to out-point San Jose's 50 goal scorer to be happy with Penner's performance. 35 goals and 30-35 assists would be great. 65 points at just over $4 million would make Penner a good contract for the first time since coming to Edmonton.

Penner has been the one consistent Oiler in an otherwise very inconsistent season.

Dustin Penner -- A+

Andrew Cogliano is another piece of that Heatley puzzle who seems to be doing whatCogliano normally does, just at a slower pace (we don't mean speed, as he's still one of the fastest players in the NHL). He's on track to get about 13 goals and 33 points, which for what Oiler fans and management had expected isn't great, especially in a contract year.

The problem is, it's not all Cogliano's fault. He's been on the fourth line almost all season in more of a grinder type role. Playing with Ethan Moreau and Zack Stortini night in and night out, even in the face of injuries, either means that Pat Quinn has little confidence in Cogliano to play a bigger role or he just doesn't know where else to put him.

Once again his faceoff win percentage is awful at 39% and while he's the speediest forward the Oilers have, speed won't be enough.

Fans can expect a contract issue at the end of the season, as I expect Cogliano to feel he's worth more than he'll be offered. If things look iffy, expect Cogliano to be part of a group of players moved in a trade for something a bit more proven and productive. People wondered why his name was a part of the Heatley trade. His numbers make for an obvious answer.

All that said, I do like how Cogliano has become a much more efficient penalty killer on a team that needed some assistance in that area and he looks like a threat on any given night. He just doesn't have the linemates to assist him.

Andrew Cogliano -- C+

Tom Gilbert has been bad. I'd love to say it another way, but with a plus/minus - 4 and 4 points with only 1 goal, he's not contributed in the main area he's been paid $4 million per season to contribute.

Granted, with Souray, Visnovsky and Smid out of the lineup, Gilbert was asked to play more defensive hockey. Still, Gilbert has been so unproductive, that any trade value he had to start the season has all but vanished.

That's not good news for the Oilers who are now looking at another few years at his salary. Fans can only hope that his 45 points last season (almost all second assists) wasn't just a fluke, nor is his only 4 points this season. On pace for about 16 points, Gilbert needs to pick it up, or the albatross contract that people like to peg Horcoff with, will look like small potatoes compared to Gilbert.

Tom Gilbert -- D-

Zack Stortini hasn't really been Zack Stortini. For a while, he was surprisingly effective and it looked like my season starting prediction of 10 goals was going to happen.

After the Nasvhille game however, Stortini hasn't done a lot in the role he's expected to play to give energy to an often lazy Oilers team. One has to wonder if all of a sudden Stortini figured he'd be more of an offensive threat and forgot why he's on the team.

The good, is that Stortini is second in the team in hits with 34. The bad, is that he's supposed to be the team agitator. He's not doing it at nearly the same pace as last season and often times, the 3rd line (a line with AHL'ers and Gilbert Brule) has out-agitated the Stortini line.

For a guy known as a scrapper (so much so, he was the NHL 2K9 consultant on fighting), his fighting this season is down. Now I'm not so much about having a player that leads the league in fights like Stortini did last season. I'm more about a player finding the right time to lift the spirits of his team with a good tilt. There has been plenty of opporuntity for that this year and Stortini just hasn't been there.

Stortini has been part of one of the more consistent lines for the Oilers, so that is a good thing. I just wonder if that speaks more about the fourth line, or the lack of production from the other three lines.

Zack Stortini -- C +

Patrick O'Sullivan has the quietest 12 points I can remember an Oiler having in a while. Brought to the team as a goal scorer and on fire during pre-season, O'Sullivan his disappeared as a sniper, showing only signs of getting 20 goals for the Oilers during things like shoot-outs and 5 on 3 powerplays.

O'Sullivan does shoot. He's tied for the team in shots with Dustin Penner at 61, however; unlike Penner who has an extremely generous shooting percentage of 19.7%, O'Sullivan is finding the net at a whopping 4.9% which is good for 242 out of 276 players. This isn't counting games where he has point blank chances and missed the net completely. Last night against Atlanta was a perfect example.

As a coach you have to wonder what direction is best for a player like O'Sullivan. Is he snake bitten? If so, despite how often he shoots, you probably have to tell him to keep shooting and maybe more often. If he's just not what you thought he'd be, you have to wonder what you do over the next couple of games if the pace continues.

I still like what O'Sullivan brings. He's grittier than I thought he'd be, he's a couple goals away from having a pretty good run going, and seems to be the type of player who can add three goals to his total in one game. We're just still waiting to see that game. His effort seems to be there.

Patrick O'Sullivan -- B-

In our next quater poll rankings we'll look at the top stars of this team. At least by definition based on their salaries, those who are supposed to be top stars. Think hard enough, you can probably guess who'll we'll be talking about.


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