Interview with the Minister of Defense

Jonathan Willis
July 25 2008 09:18AM

Dan Tencer had a nice interview with Oilers assistant coach Charlie Huddy (the man in charge of the defense) the other day, one that I actually missed and only went back and listened to after David Staples pointed it out on his blog. There were a couple of comments that stood out to me. On further trades/signings: “That’s in Kevin’s court, but I guess you’re always looking when you’re going through the summer, if there’s improvements you can make.” While it may seem like a no-brainer that Lowe is always looking for ways to improve the team, I found it interesting that Huddy didn’t preface his comment with some kind of “oh, we’re really happy with what we have right now” statement. Could there be something in the works? On Joni Pitkanen: “Joni did a lot of good things for us… sometimes guys have their own reads on how they should play and things like that, and at some point you have to be able to follow a game plan…” That’s pretty harsh criticism, although it was mixed in with “well, you have to give Joni credit…” and statements of that ilk. That comment tells me that Pitkanen was, in all likelihood, unresponsive to coaching, a player who did what he felt was best at the time, regardless of what the staff wanted him to do in certain situations. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he was dealt. It also doesn’t surprise me that his teammates wouldn’t embrace that sort of attitude. On Ladislav Smid’s tendency to turn into a wild dog after the whistle: “It can’t be after every whistle.” He also chuckled and said something to the effect of how it was difficult not to like his exuberance. I imagine this season that they’ll work and controlling Smid’s aggression, and getting more of it out during the play rather than after. On defense pairings: “It’s MacT’s choice” I hadn’t realized that MacTavish made the decision on who was paired with who; I’d always assumed that was Huddy’s department. As for the actual pairings, Huddy indicated that the thinking was to start the year with these pairings: Souray - Staios Visnovsky - Gilbert Grebeshkov - Smid Strudwick Looking at those groups, I can’t help but think that the Oilers plan to use Souray/Staios as a shutdown pairing. Despite David Staples error rankings, I really don’t think that it’s a role Souray can fill over an entire season. For that matter, I’m fairly confident that Staios won’t be able to handle that duty over the entire season. 20 games in, if these pairings stay together, I expect that Gilbert and Visnovsky will be taking over that duty. I suppose it was somewhat obvious as a choice, but I really like the third pairing. Grebeshkov should have no difficulty at all excelling in that role and I rather think Ladislav Smid should also be able to outmatch his opposition.. I’m expecting something of a breakthrough season from Smid. As a final note, for those of us who hadn’t already given up on Mathieu Roy, in a 16-minute interview about the defense, Huddy didn’t mention him once. —Jonathan Willis is the owner of Copper & Blue, a blog dedicated to all things Oil, and a frequent contributor to OilersNation.com.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, 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.
Avatar
#1 fyvmvv
July 25 2008, 09:59AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Somewhere in that D line-up within the next couple of seasons, you will have a chance of seeing Chorney, Peckham and Petrie. I have to say things are looking positive for the D. Huddy should have more tools to work with this year. Maybe more than any time since he started coaching.

On Eric Cole, it seems he has a sincere interest in making the best of his time with the Oilers. For some more cynical and jaded reporter types maybe everyone is suspect. This guy sounds like he may be for real. Looking for a new and presumably much more lucrative contract sometime in the next year should help the motivation for sure. The love affair would be complete if all the players had a real heart for the fans and the city. Cole is the first guy I can recall acknowledging the ownersiip on arrival in E town. I think Katz has got the attention of a lot of people around the league and I hope it continues. The jury is still out of course, but I think things are going in the right direction.

Avatar
#2 Tony Romo
July 25 2008, 01:50PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I like Souray, but shutdown man he ain't. The Oil need a defensive defenceman and STAT

Avatar
#3 David Staples
July 25 2008, 08:04PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Jon:

I don't think Souray is the answer as the shut down guy all year long either because his chances of remaining healthy all year long are slim to none.

As for Gilbert, he was bleeding goals playing tough minutes at the end of last year. Can he step up? Maybe, maybe not. I'd say Grebs is a good a bet to step up, though, as Gilbert is. He really took a bit leap forward towards the end of last year, I thought.

Smid will be really solid on defence this year and may have a break out offensive season, meaning 2 goals, 10 assists. Only after five or six years in the league would Smid have any chance of becoming a point-every-second-game guy, if the history of similar defencemen means anything (and it does).

Avatar
#4 Jonathan
July 26 2008, 12:21AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I don’t think Souray is the answer as the shut down guy all year long either because his chances of remaining healthy all year long are slim to none. As for Gilbert, he was bleeding goals playing tough minutes at the end of last year. Can he step up? Maybe, maybe not. I’d say Grebs is a good a bet to step up, though, as Gilbert is. He really took a bit leap forward towards the end of last year, I thought.

So who do we bet on as a shut-down defenseman?

Staios - nope Souray - nope Gilbert - maybe not Grebeshkov - maybe not Visnovsky - probably not Smid - nope

Avatar
#5 Eskimo44
July 26 2008, 08:41AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

you don't need a shut down defenseman per-se if you can effectively move the puck out of your own zone, while maintaining offensive pressure like a Detroit(although im aware the oilers d and team does not match up). Also if you can role three pairings without concern you'll win the match ups more often than not. too much is being made of this, the defence will be fine.

Avatar
#6 Dean
July 26 2008, 08:45AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I don't agree that because Staios is listed with Souray that they become the shut down pair. I've always viewed Steve as the "rock" they use to get guys back on their game or develop them. That pairing will only last as long as it needs to and then they will rotate Steve to someone else. I am surprised that Gilbert and Greb are not going to start together but we are a long way from October!

Avatar
#7 Jonathan
July 26 2008, 11:01AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I’ve always viewed Steve as the “rock” they use to get guys back on their game or develop them.

Yeah, Staios is the on-ice mentor of this group, and has been for a few years, especially hile MacT was using Smith as the first option against the quality opponents.

Staios does a lot of nice things and has a well-rounded game, but I think he's at the point where he's in over his head against really tough opposition. Nothing wrong with sheltering him a little bit while he trains the youngsters.

Avatar
#8 Dennis
July 28 2008, 01:33PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I'm a big fan of Staples error statistic and that tells me that 44 should be able to anchor a tough min tandem.

Comments are closed for this article.