The State of the Defence

Jonathan Willis
November 04 2013 10:38AM

No position represented more of a challenge for Craig MacTavish this off-season than defence. The Oilers general manager made a number of moves to address the situation; some of them have worked better than others.

The Current Top-Six

1. Jeff Petry. I’m no longer surprised by it, but I still struggle to comprehend the level of ambivalence some fans feel toward the Oilers’ best defenceman. Is the all-situations workhorse probably best suited to the two/three slot on a better team? Sure. But as it stands he’s the one guy who does everything well – he skates and moves the puck without being the defensive nightmare others are, and he’s really stepped up his physical game. He’s not the problem, he’s not part of the problem, and if the Oilers had three of him they’d be much better than they are right now.

2. Justin Schultz. Schultz ranks second in total ice-time on the Oilers’ blue line. that’s not an especially misleading figure either, because while Schultz does get massive minutes on the man advantage he’s also the Oilers’ most-used defender at even-strength in terms of ice-time per game (18:11). His talent level is undeniable, but he seems to perpetually be in ‘cheat for offence’ mode, which may work fine in the AHL but has yet to produce the desired results in the majors. No defenceman on the team is getting minutes more slanted to offence, yet somehow Schultz’s on-ice shot rates are miserable. At this point, he’d probably be playing the role of power play specialist on a good team – assuming he wasn’t in the pressbox.

3. Andrew Ference. The first of Craig MacTavish’s defensive fixes, Ference has at times looked overwhelmed. Some of that may be thanks to a regular partnership with Nick Schultz, a partnership that not only puts Schultz on his off-side but also forces Ference to be the primary puck-mover on the pairing. Regardless of the cause, Ference looks to me like a guy who could do what he did in Boston: fill the four slot on a deep blue line.

4. Anton Belov. Craig MacTavish’s other big fix has been a very pleasant surprise. The Russian rookie started slowly, but his play has continually improved – he moves the puck well, gets in shooting lanes, and while understated physically he has a penchant for making smart hits that separate the opposition player from the puck and take him out of the play entirely. On a deep team, Belov would be a wonderful asset on the third pairing; in Edmonton (assuming an injury suffered against Detroit isn’t severe) it wouldn’t be a shock if he eventually slotted in as the team’s top left-side defender.

5. Ladislav Smid. It’s been a bit of a rough year for the big Czech defenceman. He struggled early with Jeff Petry, got bumped down to (an awful) pairing with Nick Schultz, and has since rebounded when reunited with Petry. There have been indications that Edmonton’s new management isn’t sold on Smid, owing to his struggles with the puck; one wonders whether he might not be the centerpiece of a deal that brought back a better defender the other way.

6. Nick Schultz. My personal opinion: Schultz could still excel in a third-pairing role in the right situation, ideally as the left-side defender playing with a solid right-shooting puck-mover. Instead, he’s mostly played with Andrew Ference or Ladislav Smid, and he’s mostly played on his off-side. A high number of own-zone starts probably hasn’t helped matters much, either. He’s an NHL player, but he’s declining and his skill-set is a sub-optimal fit for the Oilers’ current group.

The Reserves

One quick note: the guys below are arranged in order of proximity to a permanent spot on the NHL roster (as judged by me) rather than by their overall potential or anything else.

  • Corey Potter. He’s played pretty well in the AHL early, but he still isn’t 100 percent physically after injuring his back in off-season workouts. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t work his way on to the Oilers roster at some point and stay there.
  • Philip Larsen. Flashy puck-mover has been a point-per-game player for Oklahoma City. He’s a nice fit anywhere from the seven slot on in an organizational depth chart.
  • Denis Grebeshkov. The hope was that a guy who had once been extremely effective for Craig MacTavish in the 4/5 slot would be again. Instead, Grebeshkov got behind the eight ball early thanks to injury and seems to lack the confidence of the coaching staff.
  • Taylor Fedun. All-purpose defenceman lacks size, and I wonder if he’s doomed to being a ‘tweener as a result. He does everything well but his offensive production isn’t what one would hope for from a smallish puck-mover.
  • Brandon Davidson. Defensive defenceman has been asked to do a lot by Oklahoma coach Todd Nelson, and he’s struggled with the workload at times. He does everything pretty well and has some size to boot.
  • Oscar Klefbom. Talent-wise, this guy is clearly the defenceman in Oklahoma to bet on; he has Smid’s strength and physical game but adds puck-moving ability to the equation. He’s also in need of seasoning because he makes questionable decisions sometimes but he’s a credible call-up option if the Oilers run into injury.
  • Martin Marincin. I wonder if Marincin might not be on his way out, just owing to the depth chart above him. He’s a big guy who can move the puck (he was great against the Chicago Wolves on Saturday) but he still has those occasional ugly hiccups and his offensive ability isn’t so amazing that he’s a must-keep player.

Just Wondering…

Recapping the list above puts some pretty solid conclusions in my mind, ones that I think will be uncontroversial with the readers here. The Oilers have good depth defensively, both in terms of players to fill out the bottom half of the NHL depth chart and in the minor-leagues. If the three through seven slots of your NHL team are filled with Jeff Petry, Ladislav Smid, Andrew Ference, Justin Schultz and Anton Belov, you’re doing awfully well. Having Potter and Grebeshkov and Larsen and Fedun and Klefbom and Davidson and Marincin all available in case a plague hits is an awfully nice luxury, too.

But all those depth players start looking like liabilities when they are forced into positions they simply aren’t ready to play. It’s much the same problem as last year: the top guys are slotting in one pairing ahead of where they would in a perfect world. The Oilers have more options, but they still lack top-pairing guys.

I wonder if one might not be available. A player like Nikita Nikitin or Braydon Coburn would help, but they also suffer from much the same problem Andrew Ference does: while good NHL players, they aren’t likely to fix the top pairing themselves.

The guy I have in mind is signed long-term at a reasonable cap hit. He’s 31, which means he should still have some good years left in him but he also has a wealth of experience. He’s played key minutes for good teams and while he isn’t a classic number one defenceman he’s a pretty solid top-pairing option.

Christian Ehrhoff isn’t a perfect fit, but it’s an imperfect world and I wonder if he isn’t the best alternative available to the Oilers. Shea Weber or Oliver Ekman-Larsson make for fun trade fantasies, but the odds of those teams moving those players have to be considered extremely low – and that’s even assuming Craig MacTavish is willing to move one of his core guys the other way. Ehrhoff, playing on the lowly Sabres and popping up in trade rumours, might be as good as the options get.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#2 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
November 04 2013, 11:02AM
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He didn't say Petry was a #1, he said the Oilers D is so bad that Petry is essentially our #1.

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#3 27Ginge
November 04 2013, 10:57AM
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The Oiler's blueline has an illness. In serious need of a Nurse.

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#4 DSF
November 04 2013, 11:04AM
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Unfortunately, Ehrhoff has a NMC and I would think it unlikely he would waive it to join the 6 Ring Circus ® in Edmonton.

More likely he is moved to a contender at the deadline.

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#6 Hemmercules
November 04 2013, 11:01AM
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Coming soon to a theater near you..........

"REBUILD, PART DEUX: CRAIG McTAVISHED!"

Watch in shock and awe as the one known as "The Silver Fox" pulls bold move after bold move. Stare in amazement as he pulls a rag tag bunch of Tambellini losers out of the ashes and into distant future playoff glory. Laugh along as Lowe and company try to ruin everything. The promise is compete. The guarantee is heart. The result is the worst season in franchise history. Starring a bunch of guys who will be playing for real NHL teams next season. Don't miss this reoccurring epic!

Just read the reviews!!

"K Lowe was my favorite character, he single handedly ruined that franchise in a few short years".......Calgary Flames fan.

"Those guys are so soft, I wish we played them every night".....Lars Eller.

"Thank god I got outta there when I did"....Every player who played on the Oilers in the last 20 years.

And don't miss the special sneak preview for:

"INFINIBUILD:6 MORE YEARS??" - Summer 2014

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#8 David S
November 04 2013, 12:37PM
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Protip: READ the article first. Then have your mom come down to the basement and quiz you on said article. Only when you've passed mom's quiz by more than 90% should you attempt to post up a troll comment.

Thank you for your compliance and god speed to you all.

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#9 TigerUnderGlass
November 04 2013, 11:54AM
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GriffCity wrote:

I also laughed out loud at how you stated whom Petry has been facing in terms of opposing forwards. What are you trying to prove by listing those players? That one can only do so well against tough competition like that? LOL, this is the NHL bud, get used to it. The competition is not going to get easier as the years roll by so why state the names of good players in an attempt to justify the poor play of others? " Oh well Petry was on the ice against Thornton so its ok that he got beat there cuz Joe is a good player". Do you see the obvious problem with that?

Sticking up for Petry how you do is honestly laughable.

FFS, because he is a #3 playing against #1 competition. If you can't see how that matters you are beyond hopeless.

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#10 andrewmk20
November 04 2013, 11:09AM
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@GriffCity

I don't think you read the article at all and just looked at the numbers beside the names. He said that presently Petry is the Oilers best defenceman and that it's a problem that he is. He said that on a good team Petry is a number 3 dman, which he is. Also we get to watch/listen to 82 Oiler games a year so we see and hear about every mistake the Oilers make. We only see highlights on other teams so we don't get the entire picture but dmen on other clubs make mistakes when playing 22-24 minutes a game. For the most part they are able to recover from their mistakes and can make good plays or their defensive partners are capable of bailing them out, which Smid does not seem able to do.

I know that Petry made an ill advised pinch on Detroit's first goal and the fact is he is being relied on too heavily by this team. If he was in the same position as Dan Hamhuis or any other no.3 dman than he'd be much better off. Presently Petry/Smid is still the Oilers best pairing and that's why they're 3-10-2.

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#12 Cold Hard Truth
November 04 2013, 12:32PM
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@Jonathan Willis

Oh really?

If MacTavish has done a reasonable job, then why are the Oilers last in the west?

If the players and the makeup of the team aren't good enough, then that falls on the GM.

If the coach isn't good enough, then that falls on the GM too.

It is not Tambellini's fault either because the team has regressed since Tambellini's record.

Now: who's fault is it for MacTavish being GM?

Kevin Lowe.

Now: Why is Kevin Lowe still in the organization after arguably the worst tenure in the NHL?

Because of patronage and the culture of entitlement that teems within the organization. There is no accountability.

That's the real problem with the Oilers that has undergirded the spectacular failure for the past 10 years.

Until that is fixed, more of the same.

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#14 K_Mart
November 04 2013, 01:00PM
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"Remember the days when an Oilers veteran would grab a teammate by the scruff of the neck and demand more if the guy wasn’t pulling his weight, or playing hard enough?"

Those days HAVE to come back. The journal's Robert Tychkowski wrote a great article on this.

Players have to hold each other accountable. One of a hundred+ things wrong with this team.

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#15 GriffCity
November 04 2013, 10:57AM
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You are really sold on Petry? Lol, anyone who thinks he is a viable number 1 defenceman on any team is either hockey illiterate or just simply not watching. While Petry does have an upside it in no way makes up for his blunders in other areas. For every good thing Petry does, he does 3 things poorly. He is consistently out of position, passing into shooting lanes, missing assignments and playing an overall weak game. Simply because he has made a few body checks this season does not take away from the fact that he gently caresses the other teams forwards in front of the net, clearing no one out of the blue paint and screening his goalie, causing goals against in the process. He turns the puck over at an alarming rate, nearly as much as N Schultz with his patented pass up the ice directly back to the other teams defence. Petry is not to blame for the oilers record but he certainly deserves no credit for playing well either. This is professional hockey and just because you show glimpses of brilliance (Yakupov) does not mean your overall game doesn't stink big time.

The Oilers blue line is a mess and they need at least 2 legit top defenceman to change that. How they attain these players has yet to be determined but the one thing we can say is that the Oilers D are among the easiest to play against in the entire league and your pal Petry fits that mold perfectly. He is easy to play against period.

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#16 DSF
November 04 2013, 01:46PM
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DoubleDIon wrote:

I do like Erhoff, but man that contract is lengthy. Erhoff and Myers could be good gets though if the price is reasonable. If you could get them both for Eberle and Smid would you do it?

That contract is why Gillis, reluctantly, let Ehrhoff go.

But, with the changes in the CBA that would require Buffalo to deal with the cap charges if he retires early, the contract is not an issue at all.

You'd be hard pressed to find a better D at a $4M cap hit.

But I doubt he would want to leave one mess in Buffalo for another one in Edmonton.

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#17 Captain Ron
November 04 2013, 11:37AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@GriddCity:

You are really sold on Petry? Lol, anyone who thinks he is a viable number 1 defenceman on any team is either hockey illiterate or just simply not watching.

If only I'd addressed that somewhere in the piece... wait, what's this? "Is the all-situations workhorse probably best suited to the two/three slot on a better team? Sure." Huh. It's almost like that 'if you think Jeff Petry is a number one defenceman' argument is a total strawman.

As for the rest of your comment, do you know what happens when a number three defenceman gets asked to be a number one defenceman? Well, he does his best but he's not going to look very good.

Petry's most common opponents the last three years? Joe Thornton. Joe Pavelski. Henrik Sedin. Corey Perry. Mikko Koivu. Louie Eriksson. Daniel Sedin.

It's a lot harder looking good against Joe Thornton and Henrik Sedin than it is Daniel Winnik and Jiri Hudler.

Hey! Hudler would be leading the leading scorer on the Oilers by a full 5 points!!!

Leave Huds out of this haha!

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#18 Rheal1
November 04 2013, 11:05AM
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Trades? Seriously? Who the hell wants to be traded to Deadmonton? Just imagine for a second that you're a defenseman from Philly, Buffalo or even Florida.... Then your coach rings you only to tell you to report to Edmonton. How would you feel?

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#19 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
November 04 2013, 11:10AM
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Rheal1 wrote:

Trades? Seriously? Who the hell wants to be traded to Deadmonton? Just imagine for a second that you're a defenseman from Philly, Buffalo or even Florida.... Then your coach rings you only to tell you to report to Edmonton. How would you feel?

Fortunately for the Oilers, the only players who have a say in the matter are the players who have that right written into their contract.

If I were one of those players, I'd feel like it's time to start looking for a place to live in Edmonton, because that's my job.

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#20 DSF
November 04 2013, 01:06PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Ehrhoff's been a pretty legitimate top-pair guy for years now. Vancouver won the Presidents' Trophy and went to Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals in a year where no other defenceman on the team played more minutes than Ehrhoff. There's also little evidence he's declining.

You could have said pretty much exactly the same thing when the Oilers acquired Lubomir Visnovsky; you would have been wrong then too.

Ehrhoff was also the key to Vancouver's league leading PP.

It's never been the same since he left.

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#21 GriffCity
November 04 2013, 11:42AM
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I also laughed out loud at how you stated whom Petry has been facing in terms of opposing forwards. What are you trying to prove by listing those players? That one can only do so well against tough competition like that? LOL, this is the NHL bud, get used to it. The competition is not going to get easier as the years roll by so why state the names of good players in an attempt to justify the poor play of others? " Oh well Petry was on the ice against Thornton so its ok that he got beat there cuz Joe is a good player". Do you see the obvious problem with that?

Sticking up for Petry how you do is honestly laughable.

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#22 DoubleDIon
November 04 2013, 11:55AM
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Rating Petry as a 2/3 defenseman just shows how low the expectations have become for defenders in Oil country.

Mark Giordano is a 2/3 on a good team(Granted he's our #1). Petry is a bottom pairing defender on most teams, he'd be a 5 on a healthy Flames team and we lack a #1 so everyone plays a slot ahead of where they should.

Ideally Giordano is a 2 Brodie is a 3, Wideman a 4 and Russell a 5. I realize there aren't enough legit #1's that everyone in the league can have one, but surely no team serious about contending could think Petry is a 2. I do like Smid, Belov, Ference and in a specific role Schultz. But they are all #4 defensemen. You have a glut of them.

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#23 NJ
November 04 2013, 10:43AM
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Too bad Fedun is so far down the list. He would add a whole bunch of effort that Is missing in the oil!

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#24 loweblows
November 04 2013, 10:55AM
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Trade smid and one of the young d on okc (not klefbom)for erhoff. Next trade the 2014 no 1 pick to Philly for wayne Simmonds and Coburn-If they demand more we got lots of other assets that wont be missed.

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#25 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
November 04 2013, 11:23AM
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Rheal1 wrote:

I see you are not a NHL player... 'Cause if you were, especially in the southern USA your wife/girlfriend would not be very happy to move to the frozen tundra and you would join a perpetual loser that is the Oilers organization. As well your personal stats would highly likely go down and you would enter a dressing room every single day where a negative atmosphere would prevail.

With all the free healthcare up here I guess they could get their feelings checked out on the cheap.

What you're getting at really has nothing to do with anything. If you don't have a NMC/NTC in your contract, your opinion of the destination city does not factor into the discussion.

Additionally, being a professional hockey player involves periodically relocating. That is part of their job.

I'm going to Churchill, MB (an actual frozen tundra) on Friday for work and leaving my girlfriend down south. That is my job, though, so I suck it up and enjoy the polar bears.

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#26 Johnny
November 04 2013, 11:45AM
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I thought this piece was written by Lowetide, based on the assessment of Petry.

# 2 / 3 slot on a better team???? Are you kidding me? This guy is a bottom pairing blue-liner on a decent team. # 2 means top pairing blueliner. I will assume that was a typo.

We have been watching bad hockey players for so long, anybody that can skate and handle the puck a bit deserves 3M +.

The closest thing we have to a top 4 defenseman, based on past performance, is probably Ference, and he is a 5.

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#27 Cold Hard Truth
November 04 2013, 12:05PM
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Jonathan,

Here's a scoop for you:

1. The season just began, and now you're already discussing the off season. Speaks volumes.

2.If MacTavish is still here by the end of the season, then the Oilers haven't begun solving the real problem: The old boys club.

3.If MacTavish is still here by the end of the season, you may as well start writing about the off-season after next, because it will be more of the same.

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#28 DoubleDIon
November 04 2013, 12:12PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

FFS, because he is a #3 playing against #1 competition. If you can't see how that matters you are beyond hopeless.

#3 defensemen play against top competition. You're entire top 4 does. Petry isn't a top 4 defenseman.

In San Jose the second line is Couture Marleau and Havlat.

In LA it's Richards Carter and Brown.

In Chicago Kane Pirri and Saad

That's a pretty tough assignment for Petry. If you want to contend, your second pairing needs to be able to handle those types of lines.

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#30 Spydyr
November 04 2013, 11:23AM
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Jamang wrote:

1st 2014 , hemsky, ganger, larson

Couburn, simmonds, courourier

I don't agree with trading the first. It could be another first overall pick. I do agree with a trade like you suggested needing to be made. The make up of the team is wrong. It is obviously not working.

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#31 27Ginge
November 04 2013, 11:37AM
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Rheal1 wrote:

Trades? Seriously? Who the hell wants to be traded to Deadmonton? Just imagine for a second that you're a defenseman from Philly, Buffalo or even Florida.... Then your coach rings you only to tell you to report to Edmonton. How would you feel?

I would still feel pretty good probably. I don't think I would be crying my self to sleep every night just because the signature on my paycheck is D. Katz instead of E. Snider.

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#32 Manfly
November 04 2013, 11:59AM
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in my opinion, Petry and Belov have out played the rest of our d-men this year, which is sad when you think of it. good for them but not good for the Oilers when the rest of them can't play defence.

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#33 pkam
November 04 2013, 12:19PM
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GriffCity wrote:

I also laughed out loud at how you stated whom Petry has been facing in terms of opposing forwards. What are you trying to prove by listing those players? That one can only do so well against tough competition like that? LOL, this is the NHL bud, get used to it. The competition is not going to get easier as the years roll by so why state the names of good players in an attempt to justify the poor play of others? " Oh well Petry was on the ice against Thornton so its ok that he got beat there cuz Joe is a good player". Do you see the obvious problem with that?

Sticking up for Petry how you do is honestly laughable.

If we agree that Petry at best would be a 2nd pairing defense, then why would we surprise that he play poor against top forwards.

If all 2nd pairing defense should be able to play well against top forwards, can you tell me why do teams still need to sign top pairing defense?

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#34 Sidd
November 04 2013, 06:53PM
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Brian Burke was soo right about Kevin Lowe.

Wonder how Lowe feels now with Burke in his division.

Resign Kevin L do the Oilers fans a favor.

Maybe it is time to cheer for Calgary.

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#35 Hayek
November 04 2013, 11:02AM
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I never understood the Smid signing at the end of last season. I thought it was an overpay, as people seemed to forgot how badly he struggled for the 1st half of last season. Everyone was extremely loyal to him in the fanbase, saying we need this tough defender, who hits, blocks shots, etc while choosing to ignore all his shortcomings. Offence dies on his stick on the offensive zone, and he is terrible at making outlet passes.

The only positive is his contract isn't so much where he is untradeable, but it's going to be tough.

I just question how much of an improvement Smid is over Fedun or Marincin currently?

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#36 John Chambers
November 04 2013, 11:48AM
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JW - very talented piece of writing.

I've been on the Ehrhoff bandwagon for a while now. His cap hit is a dream, and the end of his contract screams buy-out, so the contract doesn't actually plague the team for more than four seasons beyond this one.

Get this guy. Get Coburn. Keep Petry, Belov, and Ference, and add Klefbom and Nurse over the next couple of seasons and we actually have a defense that rivals '08-'09.

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#37 Micbilly99
November 04 2013, 12:00PM
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The Oilers have completely mishandled and overstated their defense for several years now. Petry is just a younger version of Gilbert, not physical and shows very little offensive traits. He is what is and has not improved. Smid keeps trying to lay down on the ice in front of his goaltender on each and every power play. Don’t believe me, check out the wings power play on Saturday night. There he is making upside down snow angels on the ice. Justin Schultz is a great skater but shows not defensive side to his game. He is very poor defensively and is caught up ice all the time, and yet gets more and more ice time..

But those issues are not new and the Oiler still think these players can do if for them. The bigger problem is that none of these players are getting better. Over the past two years the defensive corps has regressed significantly. Steve Smith has not been able to improve these players, teach them or even improve the defensive scheme. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and that’s what Smith has been doing. You can’t change all the players….so bye bye Mr. Smith……..or alternatively just continue doing the same thing and continue to lose.

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#39 oilerjed
November 04 2013, 02:35PM
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@ JW

At what point do we look past the point where we have to over pay to improve our team and do it anyway. Is the market going to improve for us anytime in the future as the holes in the line up become more obvious. Quality is worth it, is it not? Is the development of our young players being impaired by not being able to ice a competitive hockey team?

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#40 Sloppy Joe
November 04 2013, 04:22PM
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Yes to Erhoff. All day long.

If we accept for the sake of argument that MacT has to be extra cautious about getting fleeced in a trade (i.e. other GMs will be throwing boat anchors at him because they sense the desperation), then Buffalo is an ideal trade partner - an equally crappy team with an equivalent amount of desperation.

Flyers would also be a good trade partner on this logic, for obvious reasons.

Also: JW: I appreciate your response to Cold Hard Truth falls into the category of "not suffering fools gladly," but I think there is clearly an organizational lack of accountability. Bucky and Smith would have been long gone on any other NHL team. As would Lowe. And a competent owner would have actively pursued Nill (who was available) before hiring MacT. Croneyism is rampant in this organization. For christ's sake, is Will Acton's presence on the roster not proof enough?

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#42 DoubleDIon
November 04 2013, 12:25PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Actually, in Los Angeles it's generally been Carter/Richards/rotate-a-winger. Brown generally plays with Kopitar and Williams on the top line.

But in any case: there's a big gap between Hossa/Toews/Sharp and Kane/Pirri/Saad. I'd be pretty comfortable with Smid/Petry out against the second group, and not very comfortable at all with them primarily matching against the first.

In LA it's been Brown/Toffoli on that line with King once. I'd be OK with Smid playing against those guys, definitely not Petry.

There is a difference between Chicago's 1st and 2nd line, but that second line will be lights out by the end of the season I think. You can see the skill and high end hockey sense already. I deliberately left out some other prime examples in the east obviously. At any rate, as a Flames fan I hope things get better for you guys, but if management and the fan base continues to think like you do about guys like Petry they won't.

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#43 Jamang
November 04 2013, 11:16AM
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1st 2014 , hemsky, ganger, larson

Couburn, simmonds, courourier

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#44 Rheal1
November 04 2013, 11:24AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Buffalo is Edmonton, except they're just in their winter 2009 phase. You tell me which you'd prefer?

Almost too cute...:)

In any case I believe - and strongly do - that the problem is not the players. I am also very confident that readers will concur. The problem since post 2006 playoffs directly points to one man: Kevin Lowe. For the past seven seasons Kevin "I know a thing or two about winning" Lowe has done repeatedly, absolutely nothing beneficial for this organization. Nothing. Except perhaps to devide the fan base with his "we have two types of fan" horsesh$t.

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#45 DSF
November 04 2013, 11:29AM
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The Oilers are on the ice for practice at the Florida Panthers practice facility in Coral Springs, FL.

Line combinations based on jersey colour:

Smyth-Gagner-Yakupov (white)

Eberle-RNH-Hemsky (light blue)

Jones-Gordon-Arcobello (dark blue)

Gazdic-Acton-Eager (black)

Joensuu, Hall (yellow)

Wearing orange are defencemen Petry, Ference, Larsen, Smid and Nick Schultz plus winger Ryan Hamilton taking a turn on D.

Goaltenders: Dubnyk, LaBarbera

Justin Schultz and Anton Belov are not skating. David Perron is not on the trip.

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#46 Chainsawz
November 04 2013, 12:00PM
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@They're $hittie

If that's our defense next season, that'll set the record for being out of the playoff race at 0 regular season games. We would be serious contenders for McDavid too.

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#47 @stevegregson02
November 04 2013, 01:06PM
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Hey Jon, two points. It seems to me on paper that the Oilers D shouldnt be as bad as it is. Right now, it seems like Smid, JSchultz and NSchultz have all sort of fallen off a cliff. Belov has been a nice suprise, Petry has been solid, and Ference looks to be what he was in Boston, no more than a #4 D man. I've recently had the revelation that a lot of the oilogosphere might have overrated Smid. This includes my own personal take on who he is as a player. Maybe instead of a top 4 guy, he's more suited for a Matt Greene role. This isn't a bad thing, but it means the Oilers have 4 D on the roster that should be playing in the bottom pairing and Ference and Petry, who are cogs of a number 1/2 pairing. Erhoff would be a hell of a pick up. I went to school in Van, watched the Canucks regularly. I think its easy to remember Erhoff turtling to adam Mcqaud in the cup finals versus Boston, but a lot of the Canucks-ogosphere remember him as probably the best D man the team had during that season. Edler was sort of expected to fill the void offensevily along with the Garrison signing, but the team's D has never been as mobile without Erhoff. That 2010 D core included Bieksa, Edler, Hamuis and Salo. Erhoff was by far and away the most consistent puck mover that core had. It could be argued Hamuis was the best D man, but since Erhoff's removal and Garrisons insertion, the Canucks have never quite been the team they used to be with him in their line up.

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#48 Neal
November 04 2013, 01:19PM
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And further to my earlier point about dealing with the existing problem, why are we crucifying the D-men? Were all the missed assignments from the D? It seems to me the forwards have to contribute a helluva lot more while Mac fences with his fellow GM's offers to "help us out".

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#49 Zarny
November 04 2013, 03:54PM
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I agree with JW; Petry, Smid, Ference, Schultz and Belov are a solid 3-7 D group. The problem is no legit 1-2 pairing D.

The real void on the Oilers' blueline is a guy who can shutdown players like Crosby, Toews, Datsyuk, Getzlaf etc for 25 min a night.

I don't see any of the top 10 D in the league being available. Certainly not 15 games into the season.

Which is why I would target both Ehrhoff and Coburn.

The cap recapture penalty worried me with Ehrhoff until I saw his contract was only front-end loaded during the first 2 years. He doesn't have the physical shutdown abilities of guys like Chara and Weber but he's a solid top pairing D.

Coburn can handle the physical workload. Big, strong, mobile and able to physically battle big F like Getzlaf, Perry, Toews etc.

Neither is worth Hall, Ebs, Nuge, Yak or Schultz but everything else is on the table.

Certainly prospects like Marincin and Simpson should be moved to upgrade the D. The core group of kids will be ready to contend in 2-3 years. They can't be supported by a younger group of D still learning the ropes.

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#50 HeavyChevy
November 04 2013, 06:27PM
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Mr. Willis, Yes changing personnel after 20 games isn't wise but changing after 48 might not have been wise either. Unless Krueger and Eakins would have been Oil and water, maybe Eakins as assistant to Krueger would have at least maintained some stability going into this season instead of yet another coaching change. Don't bring up Chicago's success as a measuring stick to the mess the Oilers are in. Kevin Lowe is a far cry from the advising Scotty Bowman provided to Stan! I hope MacT will right the ship, but don't mistake the fans frustration as a knee jerk reaction to what's happened at the beginning of this season alone.

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