July 24 2011 11:10AM
The Edmonton Oilers best option for this fall on defense may include Jeff Petry on the top two pairings, Jeff Petry on the powerplay and Jeff Petry on the penalty kill. Is this wise?
Right at the end of the 2010 calendar, Jeff Petry made his NHL debut. He played 23 minutes and performed well.
- Petry: "I was a little jittery but I think I settled in quite well."
- Coach Renney: "He moves the puck well, he's got good range, he has a good stick, he has his head up …for a first game I thought he did just fine."
At the beginning of training camp, the Oilers (and certainly coach Renney) expressed that patience was the watch word when it came to the young defender with the complete skill set.
- Coach Renney: "We have to make sure--even with a player who has been very impressive here--as more of an adult looking player here at this camp; Jeff is not an NHLer today. It's not the wrong thing for us to make sure he goes to Oklahoma City, so he can get a feel for the physical nature of the game. We can expect too much of this player who is so good in so many areas, and then three months from now we're saying 'what happened?' Well let's not go there."
As the summer sun warms northern Alberta (let's just pretend the summer sun is warming northern Alberta) and the Edmonton Oilers have completed their work on improving the roster, it's interesting to hear msm discuss the team. Recently, Bob Stauffer and Ryan Rishaug talked (Oilers Lunch, Team 1260) about Jeff Petry and the fact that he might not make the team out of training camp. The discussion began with Taylor Chorney and his waiver worry, and then graduated to the college kid Petry and the thought that he needed some seasoning.
I found the conversation interesting for several reasons. First the players brought in to provide increased quality (Andy Sutton and Cam Barker) and depth are not clear 'top 4D' options who possess a wide range of skill:
- Petry isn't really a young prospect. He's 23 years old, 226 days younger than Taylor Chorney. That's a wide margin at 18, not so much at 23.
- Petry's AHL experience has been superior to Chorney's. Petry in the AHL (49, 7-20-27 -16) is better than Chorney (146, 12-38-48 -50), at least offensively.
- Petry's NHL experience has also been superior. Petry: 35 1-4-5 -12. Chorney: 56, 1-6-7 -30.
Now we don't have toughness of minutes numbers for their AHL careers but there is some evidence that Petry had more success in the NHL this past season:
- Petry: +2 CorsiRel; +1.4% Zone Start/Finish; 5th toughest competition
- Chorney: -13.5 CorsiRel; -0.2% Zone Start/Finish; 6th toughest competition
I don't think there's any reasonable argument (beyond the Oilers being well established worry warts) that makes sense in choosing Chorney over Petry at the NHL level. No disrespect meant to Mr. Stauffer or Mr. Rishaug, they are reporting what they know and it jives with Tom Renney's comments above.
But it doesn't make sense. Taylor Chorney--unlike Theo Peckham and his battle with Shawn Belle and others a year ago (Belle outplayed Teddy Peckman)--is extremely unlikely to win the day. Petry's range of skills, NHL success and the fact that he's a RH option make him the better bet.
Chorney's best chance to remain on the roster then isn't Petry's demotion, but rather injury to another defender.
Putting the Boots to the Competition
After that, I think there's enough doubt about the rest of the blueline that we can start to move Petry up the depth chart in some of the defensive disciplines. Let's look at how NHL coaches used these men in 10-11:
- Ryan Whitney 18:19
- Tom Gilbert 18:09
- Jeff Petry 16:54
- Ladislav Smid 16:50
- Theo Peckham 15:58
- Cam Barker 14:10 (6th on Wild D)
- Andy Sutton 12:16 (8th on Ducks D)
Both new hires (in italics) were third pairing options for their previous teams (although there was a lot of sway on both rosters). A guess would be that Barker will get a push at EVs, possibly playing with Whitney on the top pairing or teaming up with Tom Gilbert on the 2 pairing. Sutton would appear to be mentor, enforcer and designated sixth man most nights. In all cases, Petry would seem to be the first fallback option, either with Whitney or Smid. The fact that he's a right hander offers the club more options and drives Chorney down the depth chart.
Ryan Whitney 4:19
Tom Gilbert 2:59
- Jeff Petry 2:11
- Cam Barker 1:22 (4th on Wild D)
Ladislav Smid 0:45
Theo Peckham 0:06
Andy Sutton 0:05 (7th on Ducks D)
Tom Gilbert 3:21
Ryan Whitney 2:42
Ladislav Smid 2:40
Theo Peckham 2:31
Andy Sutton 2:23 (4th on Ducks D)
Jeff Petry 1:16
Cam Barker 0:50 (7th on Wild D)
Sutton should be able to help, although his mobility is a concern. Barker has played some heavier minutes on the PK in the NHL and I think Petry is also a player who can contribute.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The argument these numbers make is that Petry is a solid 20 minute option for coach Renney based on last season's roster and in order for us to believe that Petry is OKC bound we have to convince ourselves that Barker, Sutton and Chorney are able to block him.
I don't see that happening. Jeff Petry should win a top 4 role on the 11-12 Edmonton Oilers based on the roster as it now stands. We can argue about the wisdom of such a move, but the evidence available points in this direction. Maybe not opening night, and maybe Cam Barker surprises with his ability to handle big EV minutes, but the back story suggests Petry is the smart bet in the group.