The date was August 3rd, 2005. Mike Peca was a New York Islander at the time but Oilers GM Kevin Lowe was feeling particularly active that day given just hours before he’d acquired the deadliest defenceman in the NHL, Chris Pronger, and signed him to a 5 year deal; Lowe decided to make another call to the Islanders and offer centre Mike York and a 5th rounder for two-time Selke Trophy winner Mike Peca.
The rest is history and Peca only spent the one year in Edmonton but if you remember Mike Peca’s career, he was a tough as nails shut-down centre (hence the Selke trophies) that concentrated his talents on keeping the puck out of the net as opposed to putting it in the net. He was quite valued around the league spending time in Buffalo, Long Island, Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, and Columbus. Not only that but he was part of the 2002 Olympic team that brought Canada the gold medal.
THE LATVIAN PECA
Why am I talking about Mike Peca when the picture above is of Zemgus Girgensons? Because when the Latvian was just draft prospect in 2011/2012 he was compared to Mike Peca. A hard-hitting, incredibly intense pivot who’ll probably be a great no.3 centre and maybe a good no.2 centre.
So far, he’s had his highs (played in the All-Star game in 2014/15) and his lows (seeing his TOI drop from 19 minutes to 15 minutes per game this past year). The 14th overall pick in Yakupov’s draft year of 2012 has seen his stock fall off a cliff with the Sabres since they acquired Ryan O’Reilly and the selections of Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.
The Latvian Peca is an RFA this season and things aren’t looking pretty for him in Buffalo. He’s apparently been reduced to competing with Johan Larsson for the third line centre role or accepting a place on the 4th line… Pretty sad if you ask me.
Therefore I want to float this idea past you and get your feedback.
The Oilers should attempt to acquire Zemgus Girgensons to play third line centre.
In this scenario a right-wing from the Oilers would have to be moved because Leon Draisaitl would be tasked with taking one of those spots and Girgensons would take his centre spot. A problem I have with this is that, and I’ve said this before, Jesse Puljujarvi should be put on a line that is getting mad offensive zone starts and cherry opposition and unless Yakupov is unloaded somehow, the Grinning Finn is set to start the year in Edmonton. Basically, the Oilers should not follow the Dallas Eakins model and do the opposite with Puljujarvi as they did with Yakupov.
We’ll see how the Oilers feel about Yakupov when the puck drops in October and the line-ups are announced eh?…
WHAT DOES HE DO?
The one thing that Girgensons does well is that he stops goals from taking place, the issue being he prevents them from being scored on his own team too. He’s a mad shut down forward. Highly skilled on the defensive side of the game like the previously mentioned Mike Peca.
His possession numbers look healthy and as you’ll note below, his teammates have a tough time keeping the shots off the board when they’re separated from him. That being said, Buffalo has been nearly as bad, if not worse, than the Oilers recently.
Gotta keep those dots down around the 50% mark folks
Now check out this chart below that tells us about his expected goals against per 60:
Without Girgensons, the Sabres’ players selected (for the most part), are worse off! But like I said, this Sabres team right now is quite poor. But just imagine how much worse it would be if “Z” wasn’t there.
THE SITUATION IN BUFFALO
A quote from The Hockey News paints a clearer picture regarding his status with Buffalo at the moment:
As beat writer Mike Harrington reports, the team and the player are in a bit of a spot when it comes to a new contract. Girgensons naturally wants a multi-year deal, but the new brain trust of coach Dan Bylsma and GM Tim Murray is still trying to figure out where Girgensons fits on the team.
I think some Sabres fans will see him as an important cog but in reality he’s most likely expendable given his diminished role. He could sign with the Sabres for $2M per year short-term in an attempt to work his way up cheaply towards a bigger payday. Surely the Sabres would prefer to see him do that as well given the contracts of Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, possibly Jimmy Vesey, Hudson Fasching, etc. will be coming up in the next two-three years and it would be much easier to move a value contract at that point.
Now to swing this back to the Oilers, we know that Leon Draisaitl cannot be saddled with the responsibility of shutting down the other team’s best centres right now. Even Ryan Nugent-Hopkins shouldn’t be getting that job full-time and no doubt he will. Adding Girgensons will give the Oilers a specialist of sorts. A younger Boyd Gordon sans the ridiculous face-off skills.
The Oilers could send Yakupov over but that’s a much too convenient play in the minds of Oilers fans. If it sounds good in your mind, that probably means it’s horrible to the other team’s fans. So this is what I suggest.
Sabres may still be in the market for a LHD. So what about Sekera? He was previously a Buffalo Sabre before bouncing around to Carolina and Los Angeles. The reason I say Sekera is three-fold.
- If Brandon Davidson continues his rise, he’ll be a top 4 shut-down dman. No doubt about it. Fancy statters would agree there.
- It would relieve the Oilers of a player holding a no-trade/movement clause and going into an expansion draft year, that would be a very valuable play.
- It would cull the herd the Oilers have built up on left-side defence…
- It would give the Sabres a very nice looking top four of Kulikov/Ristolainen/Sekera/Bogosian.
Reasons I wouldn’t send Andrej Sekera are:
- The Oilers need veteran dmen like Charlie Sheen needs hookers and blow. Experienced defenders that can skate and move the puck are very high value.
- Trading him a year after signing him long-term would be somewhat a dodgy manoeuver. Might send the wrong message to future free agents (*cough* Brent Burns *cough)
- ‘Rej might just be the only guy on the team that can effectively play with Mark Fayne, so we’re stuck with him until Fayne is gone at least. Ha!
I wonder what Buffalo Fans would want for Girgensons. The man is such a huge draw for the blue-collar types. I want to say the Oilers should offer Reinhart and Yakupov to be honest but it feels like it would be sending the Sabres the Oilers’ garbage. But even then, there’s tons of room for improvement and their ceilings are still high. It would be a good move on Chiarelli’s part to distance himself from failed moves be it from his tenure or other previous ones.
Then again, maybe this Girgensons fellow is falling off the map a bit and is deserved of a 4th line role…
As you can see, I’m a bit on the fence about it now after looking into the Latvian’s stats a bit. But I still feel that if the Oilers are going to build a defensive team around McDavid and Lucic, that their bottom six is going to need a major upgrade, right?
THE FINAL STAT
The last stat I want to give you is from the new WoodMoney chart and we’ll make our conclusions from there. The main numbers I want to focus on are G Money’s Defensive Fenwick For and Against per 60. If you’re reading the charts, they’re the last two columns.
Dangerous Fenwick tries to adjust for that issue by deliberately accounting for the danger level of the shots taken.
Vs Elite (476 minutes) – DFF/60 = 28.6, DFA/60 = 39.5
Vs Muddle (532 minutes) – DFF/60 = 31.9, DFA/60 = 34.2
Vs Dregs (458 minutes) – DFF/60 = 33.4, DFA/60 = 30.1
He’s not Pavel Datsyuk, Anze Kopitar, or Patrice Bergeron because he doesn’t bring that offense to the game that they do. Also they are/were no.1 centres in the league. But he can compete with them versus the top 6 of any team in the league with regards to shutting them down. Something that the Oilers have trouble with and as I earlier noted, something Nugent-Hopkins shouldn’t be tasked with. According to the WoodMoney chart, Girgensons is a better option that RNH in a shut-down role.
My apologies if this post was a bit jumpy! I woke up with Girgensons on my mind and I was bound to make a case for the Oilers making a move for him. But what do you think? Is the Latvian Peca of interest to you? What would you pay to get him on the Oilers? Let me know in the comments below!