BLUES CLUES

Lowetide
August 27 2012 08:13AM

In the classic version of Blues Clues, Steve (in photo) solved world issues using his brain, his handy dandy notebook and his sidekick Blue. The Oilers "Steve" has been working on Blues Clues since arriving, building from the ground up. How does the blue depth chart look today?

NHL BLUE

Eight deep and still in a state of flux, owing mostly to injury and waiver worry.

  1. Ladislav Smid: Defensive defenseman has emerged from a long development period at the NHL level to become a reliable player. The value of a defender who can do what sounds simple--separate the puck and the opponent in scoring areas--has terrific value. Signing Smid long term will be a big story when it happens.
  2. Jeff Petry: The best Oiler drafted D in forever, Petry has the skils to be a complete defensemen when he matures, and that looks like it could be very soon. Has excellent defensive instincts and a very good feel for when to jump into the play. An outstanding young defenseman.
  3. Ryan Whitney: The only thing keeping him from being #1 on this list is the injury concern. A healthy Whitney delivers textbook headman passes and can play the defensive game with aplomb.If he's healthy, we can expect the Oilers to make a significant improvement on defense this season. 
  4. Justin Schultz: The free agent prize of the off-season, he has the skills to be a complete player type. Schultz' offense will get him noticed, and we should expect rookie defensive mistakes, but the resume suggests there's a 2-way player here and as time marches on we should see it.
  5. Nick Schultz: Veteran defender can play anywhere in the lineup and is the perfect mentor for the youngsters. Schultz can also help on the PK and may end up being Schultz the younger's first D partner in the NHL.
  6. Andy Sutton: Big defender was a pleasant addition to last year's team and should be able to repeat in a 5-6 role. Sutton is a huge player, a big hitter and an intimidating defensemen. All of those things are good for the Oilers.
  7. Theo Peckham: Tough season in 11-12 means this one will be important for the young man. For fans, we would do well to remember that growing pains are a part of every defender's development. Peckham's size, strength and mean streak mean he'll be a useful player if he can master the difficult task of playing NHL defense.
  8. Corey Potter: A feel good story from one year ago, Potter's role will be usurped by Schultz the younger and there is a chance Edmonton will send him down at some point during the year. My guess is that they run 8 defensemen if everyone is healthy (and really, how long will it be before one of the top 6D  suffer injury?) to start the season.

BARONS BLUE

  1. Alex Plante: Had his finest pro season in 2011-12, playing in the mid-season AHL All-Star game. Injuries are piling up for such a young man (he's 23 now, and has suffered 4 concussions since turning pro). Footspeed appears to be the only thing holding him back now, as he knows how to play defense at the AHL level. Plante will be a waiver worry when it comes time to cut rosters to 23.
  2. Colten Teubert: Similar talent, in fact there's every chance the organization holds Teubert in higher esteem. Teubert is a tough defender with good footspeed, and the lessons Plante learned are the ones he'll need to assimilate before making it as an NHL player. He's close, could be a regular a year from now.
  3. Taylor Fedun: A difficult player to slot due to injury. Fedun looked very good last fall and was in the mix for a final roster spot when hurt. This season, the depth chart looks more difficult to climb and the club will no doubt want him to play in the minors for an extended period before recall. Still, a complete wildcard and someone to keep in mind.
  4. Martin Marincin: Marincin represents the start of the 'river of blue' who will arrive in the next few seasons. A big defender with a nice range of skills, Marincin's head start might be invaluable as he tries to establish himself in the NHL. A full season in OKC is likely, with a cup of coffee in the show possible.
  5. Brandon Davidson: Like Marincin, Davidson will turn pro this fall with a nice resume. At 21, he might surprise and move up the depth chart more quickly because of age and maturity, but his skill set is below that of the higher draft picks like Marincin and the other kids on the way.

OKC BARONS (AHL contracts)

  • Dan Ringwald:Solid defender at the AHL level. He'll give the Barons a consistent, reliable defender and can be paired with one of the younger group in a mentor role. One of the strengths Todd Nelson has shown in his time in OKC is getting max from this player type.
  • Teigan Zahn:Another AHL contract, this time for a throwback defender who probably reminds Don Cherry of himself at the same age. Barons won't have to worry about toughness with Zahn in the lineup.

IN THE SYSTEM

  1. Oscar Klefbom must be very close based on how hard the Oilers tried to get him over to NA for 2012-13. I'd hesitate to call him a plug and play for 13-14 but it's also true that he impressed in the SEL post-season and at the camp right after this year's draft. Klefbom's offense is unlikely to wow fans after a year of Justin Schultz, but he can clearly play defense and move the puck effectively. Signed to an Oiler entry level deal this summer.
  2. Martin Gernat: Major draft success based on current skills and where he was selected. He's big, strong and skilled, with defensive reads another strength. Stick positioning and physical play are areas of work for this coming season. Gernat is a player Edmonton probably wants to sign in the near future.
  3. David Musil is a defense first blueliner with terrific instincts without the puck. Foot speed has been the only real concern, and Musil's intelligent play usually puts him in a good position to defend--a big advantage. Musil has already signed his entry level deal, a reflection of how highly the Oilers think of him.
  4. Kyle Bigos: Huge defender with another year in NCAA straight ahead, Bigos is likely to get a contract based on skill set. He'll be 24 when he turns pro, but the numbers Edmonton will be interested in are 6.05, 230. That's Jerry Korab!
  5. Erik Gustafsson: Puck moving defender who is already playing pro in the SEL, Gustafsson is something of a wild card. We'll get a better idea about him this coming season, but with the sheer number of top end prospects already drafted and outside NA pro hockey, Edmonton might leave him in Sweden for a couple of years before bringing him over.
  6. Dillon Simpson: The great thing about the Oilers stockpiling of talent since Stu MacGregor took over as scouting director is that there's no real hurry on any of these kids. Dillon Simpson is now a veteran of 2 NCAA seasons and is still 6 months from his 20th birthday. He has shown great improvement and moved up the depth chart smartly at UND. Edmonton can leave him in North Dakota for two more seasons and turn him pro at the back end of the cluster. Based on skill set and quick improvement, it looks like the Oilers have a player here.
  7. Joey Laleggia: I honestly have no idea where to place him. Laleggia is a 20-year old high end skill defenseman in the NCAA. He could stay there for another three years (Denver, a top flight program) if required. Having said that, a left handed puck mover is exactly what the AHL team could use and the NHL team would find room for if available. It's a logjam for sure. I suspect Lalaggia will stay in the NCAA at least a year, possibly two. He is not considered an outstanding defensive player, so we should assume he'll be handled as a 'Ruotsalainen-MA Bergeron' specialty item when he does arrive.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

There are some very good things happening here. Ladislav Smid, Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin and Martin Gernat represent the best bets, but of the 20 Oiler players listed here (plus 2 OKC Barons) only Andy Sutton is on the back 9.

There's something happening here.

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Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on TSN 1260.
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#1 Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
August 27 2012, 08:20AM
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If Potter, Peckham and Sutton are going to be playing regular minutes this year, the Oilers are well on their way to another fist overall pick.

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#2 engineer
August 27 2012, 08:30AM
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When the big man upstairs was done creating Miss Hathaway, he had a beer... and then he had another.

I still wonder about the timing of all these kids. Will they really be graduating Gernat, Marincin and Klefbom right on top of each other?

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#4 vetinari
August 27 2012, 09:07AM
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With the blue wave from the last couple of drafts on the immediate horizon, I suspect that at least 2-3 older bubble defenders will get turned into draft picks and/or depth players at other positions before the end of the season (assuming that there IS a season). I would think that at least one of Peckham, Potter or Sutton, and at least one of the current AHL boys (like Plante or Teubert) will be cashed in sooner rather than later.

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#5 D
August 27 2012, 09:20AM
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You know LT, for all the discussion out there about the weakness on the Oilers D, when you list the top eight the way you did in this article, suddenly it doesn't seem that weak.

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#6 Matt Henderson
August 27 2012, 09:21AM
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That's a lot of stockpiled youth at the D spot. This next calendar year is ripe for a "3 for 1" trade involving a few of those young defenders.

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#7 The Soup Fascist
August 27 2012, 09:32AM
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4.Kyle Bigos: Huge defender with another year in NCAA straight ahead, Bigos is likely to get a contract based on skill set. He'll be 24 when he turns pro, but the numbers Edmonton will be interested in are 6.05, 230. That's Jerry Korab!

If he has as good a 'stache as the Korabian One: SIGN HIM IMMEDIATELY!

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#8 Optimist
August 27 2012, 09:40AM
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So this basically means we're going to win a stanley cup in the next 5 years for sure right?

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#9 David S
August 27 2012, 09:51AM
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Optimist wrote:

So this basically means we're going to win a stanley cup in the next 5 years for sure right?

The common phrase you refer to is "BAM...Stanley Cup!".

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#10 David S
August 27 2012, 09:52AM
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Also, Anne Hathaway.

Dammmmn.

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#11 Spydyr
August 27 2012, 09:56AM
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Wish the team had the same stockpile of centers.Not looking so good up the middle.

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#13 book¡e
August 27 2012, 10:46AM
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I think we will see a healthier Whitney, but not necessarily a healthy Whitney.

The quality of the the Oilers blue is largely dependent upon how 'healthy' he is.

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#14 book¡e
August 27 2012, 10:51AM
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On another note, I think Steve was in over his head and that's why they had to turn the whole thing over to Joe. I liked Steve a lot, but he was starting to lose it near the end (the clues didn't even make sense anymore and you could tell that it had a really negative impact on the performance of Magenta). Since Joe took over, everything has been running pretty smooth, though mailboxes performance has gone way down for some reason. Lastly, I think MacT ruined Periwinkle.

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#15 RexLibris
August 27 2012, 11:07AM
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"What Does It All Mean?"

It means that Anne Hathaway, in that costume, could start a new religion and have a million disciples by tea time.

Also, it means all those "analysts" who harp on about the Oilers not focusing on defenceman are too myopic to see that the Oilers have taken a responsible approach in drafting and developing talent. Defense takes longer, but when fate gives you a chance to take a Taylor Hall or a Nugent-Hopkins in the draft, taking a defenceman instead is idiotic. Take your blueliners later in the draft and be patient. Same with goaltenders.

Hopefully it'll all come together at some point, but some recipes call for "let simmer" for a reason.

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#16 G Money
August 27 2012, 11:21AM
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Re: Peckham and "For fans, we would do well to remember that growing pains are a part of every defender's development."

We Oiler fans unfortunately have a well developed history of not showing patience in the development of defenseman, at least of the primarily defensive variety.

My comparables for Peckham's development are Staios and Smith, two stalwarts for many years on the Oiler blueline. (And yes, I recognize that both those guys had a bit more offense than TP, but all had a similar mean streak, and Teddy Peckman is I believe bigger and meaner than either).

My take on the careers of S&S is that the year that Smith joined the Oilers was really the first solid consistent year he had as a defenseman (which is why Toronto gave up on him). For Staios, the year before he joined the Oilers was his real breakthrough year as a defenseman.

For both guys, that breakthrough occurred SEVEN years after being drafted. In Staios' case, he had played something in the order of 150+ IHL games, 60+ AHL games, and about 200 NHL games. For Smith, he was at 27 AHL games and 300+ NHL games.

We've seen a very similar progression with Lady Smid, who broke through as a defensive stalwart in his seventh pro season, after about 80 AHL games and 300+ NHL games.

Peckham is in his 5th season and has played about 150 AHL games and about 150 NHL games. Perhaps its understandable that a process that takes that long would be frustrating for the typical fan. But given what he's shown in the seasons prior to last, I think TP has the ability to develop into a 2nd or 3rd pairing defensive lynchpin, and we'd be fools to give up on him at this point.

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#17 David S
August 27 2012, 12:20PM
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Nobody doubts that developing D-men takes a while. The difference between the Oilers and other teams is that our D are surrounded by other developing D-men, whereas most teams' developing D are surrounded by dependable, actual NHL D-men.

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#18 Cheap Shot Charlie
August 27 2012, 01:27PM
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engineer wrote:

When the big man upstairs was done creating Miss Hathaway, he had a beer... and then he had another.

I still wonder about the timing of all these kids. Will they really be graduating Gernat, Marincin and Klefbom right on top of each other?

I don't usually comment on women LT puts up but I'll take the bait this time. Anne Hathaway singlehandedly wrecked the Dark Knight Rises! Awful actress and I can't even see her beauty through the lack of skill. Very similar to Kristen Stewart and Paris Hilton!

So the reason God must have sat down and had another beer is because he figured "I'm drunk enough already I might as well call it the end to a bad day!"

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#19 TonyT
August 27 2012, 02:16PM
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@Lowetide

Great article. I'm assuming the Oilers did not resign that russian defenceman who injured Eager in training camp. Can't remember his name though.

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#20 G Money
August 27 2012, 04:02PM
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David S wrote:

Nobody doubts that developing D-men takes a while. The difference between the Oilers and other teams is that our D are surrounded by other developing D-men, whereas most teams' developing D are surrounded by dependable, actual NHL D-men.

There is a long history of vitriol by Oiler fans directed at the defensive shortcomings of young defenseman (e.g. Poti, Greene, Smid, Grebeshkov, Gilbert, Peckham). Not only that, but recent history suggests that these fans will continue to torch a player for *previous* defensive shortcomings long after that player has matured into a solid defensive presence e.g. Gilbert.

So I don't think it is at all accurate to say "Nobody doubts that developing D-men takes a while." I think many people don't realize that at all.

As to your other point - what is your intent in pointing out that other teams are surrounded by a larger number of 'dependable, actual NHL D-men'? Wouldn't that imply that our D-men would take even longer to develop, therefore reinforcing my point that in e.g. Peckham's case, more patience rather than less is required?

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#21 D
August 27 2012, 06:13PM
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Lowetide wrote:

The only real negative is the length of time it'll take to get the blue straightened away. Signing Smid and a healthy Whitney would make the transition much smoother and the Petry contract is silly good.

There are some nice things happening, it would be very good if one of the kids took a giant step forward this season (Klefbom, Marincin).

Agreed. Hockey, like life, is a game of inches. If one of the prospects took a giant step forward, it could change the entire direction of the conversation.

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#22 pelhem grenville
August 27 2012, 06:51PM
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Ladislav Smid listed #1 by default LT is it cuz : Whitney and the Large Question Mark he carries around would have been your top of the list IF there weren't so many ifs' about him no?...it's a 50-50 bet on "a healthy Whitney"...what a shame, each time a new season starts he's gonna be the one with the Large [?] ...this is the year for him though... he needs to be playing up to the 4mil level again and for a complete, better still, injury free season to really be the #1 Dman...he has a lot to prove this year...if it doesn't go well we'll see it sooner rather than later...that sucks but its whats real on the blue...

I was also surprised to see that Smid was making a lot less than our new, yet-to-be & yet promises to be remarkable, Justin Shultz...

...so the organization should extend the best part of the Pronger trade other than Eberle "long term" and for what they're both worth...

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#23 Dog Train
August 27 2012, 07:55PM
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There is hope for the future on D but we are a few short of being able to make the playoffs right now. We need the old Whitney and Peckham to have any chance.

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#24 NewAgeSys
August 27 2012, 10:18PM
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We have great upcomeing talent,but the reality is that seeing it at the NHL level is a round table organisational decision.

At some point in a rebuild from "within"training camp has to come into play.I yearn for the days when players actually knew they had a shot at makeing the club,now its all decided beforehand with very few exceptions.It is a contractual minefield that handicaps all NHL teams.

How do you sit Whitney when Potter fills system requirements better?

And if you cant even do that how is Tuebert supposed to unseat Sutton as a tough hitting tough guy?

Maybe Schultz and Sutton and Whitney all need to be on short notice that they are the most easily replaced system dynamics because they all have younger and cheaper versions of themselves in the system right now,maybe the same applies to all our vets except for Smytty{to the last drop money or not}

I guess the coaches view on allowing players to play injured and allowing that backdoor to exist is a MAJOR factor here,right?

I mean if we roll guys over as soon as we see even a small dip in their on ice ability to provide consistant system support,then great we will see a lot of guys from the farm as we should if the coaches down there have them ready,it isnt usually the physical abilitys that keep players from makeing the big jump,its situational decision makeing.

If we see a season full of little nagging things that cumulatively through 23 players adversely affects system integrtiy ,with semmingly innocous injurys being the catalysts then we are in deep trouble from the get go.

Yessss I have already heard the olde "everyone plays with a few nicks and bruises"BS story many times.Its an excuse and an insult to all of the MEN working their buts off on the farm to even utter such blasphemy,useing injurys as bleedin excuses is not championship material.We have the manpower to decide our own fates,injuries to Whitney or Hall shouldnt be near enough to derail our path.And I heard those and more bantered around last year.

If I see a player loseing a step for more than one game it becomes a coaching issue not a player issue,coaches only get ONE GAME to make this type of assesmentafter two in a row its time to pull the plug.

We have a lot of defensive depth in the organisation so we should be alright for a few years,lets just not become a team that searches out gems then burys them forever---lets keep the men everywhere happy and the line moveing along nice and smooth,there have to be consistant movement with a game as tough as hockey,so we should be seeing these guys more.And for gods sakes if someone steps in like Potter did last year and does a better job than the status quo,then dont screw with the sucess please.Meaning that in the big leagues it needs to be a bit more like NFL football,injurys might cost you a season full of games because only an idiot messes with sucess,right??We did learn from last year didnt we or is everyone still in denial about how and why our season collapsed??

We already have the d-men in the system we need to win a Stanley Cup,they are on both of our rosters now ,here and on the farm , it takes both teams to win a Stanley Cup,not just one.

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#25 HardBoiledOil
August 28 2012, 10:24AM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

That's a lot of stockpiled youth at the D spot. This next calendar year is ripe for a "3 for 1" trade involving a few of those young defenders.

and this is what other teams trolls conveniently fail to mention when they bash the Oil as having "no D"...the fact that we have a huge pile of d-men coming in the next few years. i can see why the Oilers didn't take the bait in the 2nd round of this years draft and take d-men like Bystrom, Pokka, Thrower, Finn, etc., and i remember how outraged some fans were that we didn't, but the fact is, in my mind, we already have a bunch of these guys in the system, and management decided to go with big project forwards instead in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.

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#26 Oilers Al
August 28 2012, 06:16PM
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Good work by Big Mac and his team. A ton of young guys waiting to get in. The immediate future still needs Whitney to be healthy, and Schultz to be the messiah, people hope he will be, otherwise, still need that top 4 guy sooner than later.[ at this point there isnt one to be had ].I could be out in left field, but maybe Potter's game will be back to where it was in the first 20 games of last season.Not a top 4 but a solid veteran presence on the team.

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