TANGLED UP IN BLUE

Lowetide
February 11 2013 05:25PM

"Your key guys are your defensemen. If you take care of defense and center ice, your team is strong. Everybody goes and covers down low, so what all the good teams do is have are good, mobile defensemen who know how to play the point."

-Scotty Bowman, Behind the Moves.

FOUNDATION

I count three current NHL Oilers as the "foundation" for the blue that will make the back half of the '10s a time to remember for Oiler fans:

  1. Justin Schultz ($3.775M cap for this and next season, then he's rfa). A monster addition, we're still getting used to how well he can play at the NHL level but any discussion about the Oilers blue for the rest of this decade starts with Schultz. Monster addition. Huge. Mammoth. Everest. 
  2. Ladislav Smid ($2.25M cap for this season, then he's ufa). Oilers need to sign him and right bloody soon. He has to be very close to the best free agent defender on the market this summer and is most certainly the youngest of the top end free agents at his position. Edmonton would be wise to get his signature long before the free agent season begins.
  3. Jeff Petry ($1.75M cap for this and nexr season, then he's rfa). Oilers got a quality player in the 2006 entry draft and now have him signed to a very nice contract. Two-way player with a lot of talent, he's going to be part of an electric top 4D for years in Edmonton.

SHORT TERM ROLE PLAYERS

Some of these guys could hang around longer, but may not be here when the times get very good in Edmonton.

  1. Ryan Whitney ($4M this season, then he's ufa). Whitney's name has been front and center of late, and not in a good way. There are certainly some issues, and for that reason I have him in this category. Were he healthy, I would consider Whitney a 'foundation' defender--he's that good when 100%.
  2. Nick Schultz ($3.5M this and next season, then he's ufa). Schultz has been solid for the Oilers, but is very likely a 5-6D on this team when they arrive as a contender. Schultz has been entrusted with the very important mentor role for Schultz the younger and has been excellent in the role. Biggest factors in his future are age and wear: Nick Schultz is 30 and has played over 750 NHL games.
  3. Mark Fistric ($1.475M this season, then he's ufa). A nice opportunity for the tough, stay at home defender to showcase his abilities before free agency. I like him because he can hit but doesn't take a lot of penalties. That has value, especially on a team that needs to win the special teams battles.
  4. Theo Peckham ($1.075M this season, then he's rfa). For a team looking for toughness and some intimidation, Peckham is an inexpensive option. Plus, they've suffered through the growing pains with him, it would be galling to see him blossom in another NHL city.
  5. Corey Potter ($775k this and next season, then he's rfa). Potter's roster spot is at the end of the depth chart, meaning he's more susceptible to waivers, being sent down and losing his job to a hotshot rookie. Credit where due, he's in his second season and on his second coach and still here. I don't think he's a long term solution.
  6. Brett Clark. Signed to an AHL contract by the Barons, I think there's a chance he ends up in Edmonton at some point this season (depending on injuries and what happens at the deadline). Clark has a lot of miles on him but can also play the position.
  7. Alex Plante: Played in 10 NHL games during his entry level deal, and that could be his career total. Plante was a raw prospect when taken in the 1st rd in 2007, and injuries have had a major impact on his lack of development. Concussions are the main culprit.

THE HOPEFULS

This group includes AHL players, Euro pro's and high end draft picks who wil graduate to pro in the next year or two.

  1. Oscar Klefbom: After 67 games in the SEL, Klefbom appears ready to join the Oilers organization beginning in the fall. He lost much of the season to injury, but was beginning to dominate defensively when hurt. Although not considered a lock to make the Oilers at the beginning of 13-14, Klefbom is close to NHL ready based on reports. The best defenseman in the system outside the NHL. 
  2. Martin Marincin: Enjoyed a fast start alongside Justin Schultz at the beginning of the AHL season, but fell apart in December and was demoted to the third pairing. He has recovered his game in a depth role and should be able to take on more difficult assignments for OKC in 13-14. Although he is likely to get a cup of coffee in the next 18 months, the Oilers will probably keep him with the Barons during his entry level deal.
  3. Martin Gernat: Finally healthy. Gernat lost some precious development time but appears to be returning to form (3 assists last night). The Oil Kings missed Gernat, who plays in all disciplines and displays a wide range of skills. I noticed last season that he is developing a bit of a mean streak, which will sustain him as he moves into pro hockey beginning in the fall. A real diamond.
  4. Taylor Fedun: Has recovered from his injury and at this point is a trusted blueliner for coach Nelson in OKC. Fedun has a nice range of skills and could get a call to the NHL this season. Fedun has passed some high draft picks on the depth chart since October.
  5. David Musil: When kids like Musil turn pro and begin to get comfortable, the Oilers are going to have more depth on defense at the pro level than they've had in a decade. Like Klefbom, Musil's calling card is defense and the young man is effective. Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal: “He’s a big Steady Eddy defenceman. He just battles down low, he’s an absolute warrior, you put him with Keegan Lowe and it makes a pretty decent shutdown pair.”
  6. Dillon Simpson: developing well in North Dakota. As with Musil, we’re going to be seeing a defensemen with footspeed issues and a ton of ability to read and react, but Simpson has been working on his skating and is improved in that area. Simpson has moved up the UND depth chart and at this point we should consider him a legit NHL prospect and a player who is lapping his draft number smartly.
  7. Colten Teubert: Big, tough defender whose window is now in terms of grabbing and holding on to an NHL job. His skill set is duplicated by men like Mark Fistric and Theo Peckham, so good performances in the AHL are vital as he waits for an opportunity. Teubert has struggled at times in OKC this season. 
  8. Brandon Davidson:Difficult player to slot because of the cancer, but if there was an award for the sheer number of people cheering for a specific Oiler prospect (the 'squee'?) Davidson would win in a walk. A good story if he makes the NHL, the depth chart is a high hill now and trending toward mountain status.
  9. Erik Gustafsson: Swedish puck mover had a terrific start and then settled in, but is on fire lately and I think they might bring this guy over soon. The Oilers are going to reach a point where they can't keep all these defensemen, but I don't think they'll pass on an opportunity to at least see Gustafsson for a couple of seasons. 
  10. Kyle Bigos: Bigos is a senior so will need to be signed during the spring. At 6.05, 230 I don’t think the Oilers think twice about signing him and bringing Bigos to pro hockey. He’s somewhat unique in that he’s big, strong and has a mean streak–something the organization doesn’t have a lot of in the pro ranks.
  11. Joey Laleggia: Undersized puck mover is a pretty incredible PP contributor. I don’t know that the Oilers turn him pro this fall–they have so many graduating blue–but this is an interesting player and somewhat unique among Oiler prospects.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

It's raining young defensemen. I'm reminded of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1968-1973, who brought about 15 young blue to the NHL between Jim Dorey's NHL debut in 1968 and Borje Salming's first incredible games 1973 fall.

Between the time Jeff Petry debuted as an NHL player in 2010 fall and the day Oscar Klefbom establishes himself as an NHL player, the Edmonton Oilers have/are debuting some impressive talent.

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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 Team 1260.
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#1 Eulers
February 11 2013, 05:31PM
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Schultz's play against CBJ to break up a break-away was a thing of beauty. So refreshing to cheer for a dream of a player that makes so few errors... AS A ROOKIE!!

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#2 Hammers
February 11 2013, 11:25PM
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Rumours from NYI that they would switch Visnovsky for Whitney . Both UFA's at season end . Vis got a point today 1st game back . I would jump on this .

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#4 Sliderule
February 11 2013, 06:06PM
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I don't know where all the negativism for Marcinin comes from.

He is plus 13 and the next best D on the roster who has played much is minus 3.

I understand Fedun is getting PP time since Schultz left but Marcinin has 16pts one more than him and leading the defence.

I watched about ten of his games and he didn't see any more mistakes than most 20 year olds.

Is it the somewhat mixed views expressed by Nelson because by my eyes I don't see the reasons for negativity.

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#5 Romulus' Apotheosis
February 11 2013, 08:14PM
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"so what all the good teams do is have are good, mobile defensemen"

either the copy editor went to lunch on this, or LT jumbled the quote... but damned if I didn't read that line over 4 or 5 times trying to make sure it wasn't me losing my marbles.

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#6 Archaeologuy
February 11 2013, 05:39PM
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There are so many young defensemen. The Oilers want to be good next year and if the Oil arent going to start next year with Klefbom you'd think that they will have to start trading some away. Not everyone will fit in OKC and real NHL bodies have to be playing on the big club.

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#8 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
February 11 2013, 05:42PM
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LT, haven't had much opportunity to watch David Musil this yr. Is he more project than prospect now with his footspeed issues?

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#11 GVBlackhawk
February 11 2013, 06:31PM
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Another example of why plus/minus is not a very useful stat. Marincin road the coattails of Justin Schultz for the first two months in OKC and his stats benefited. Mind you, he was playing reasonably well in the offensive zone during that time. Then the turnover machine showed up. He was coughing up the puck on a nightly basis and the team was losing games because of it. Hence the demotion to 3rd pairing. The coach was complaining of communication issues -- Marincin's English is terrible.

That said, his skillset is undeniable. His size and offensive instincts are above average. If he cleans up his defensive game, then he is a shoe-in for an NHL job.

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#12 The Oilers Shot Clock
February 11 2013, 07:03PM
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Marincin and Gernat paired together is something that might work out nicely....In a trade package. Gotta figure a few of these guys are getting new homes at some point if a 3 for one ever happens.

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#13 David S
February 11 2013, 07:46PM
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LT, I love your work but to my eye you have a tendency to hang onto players a wee bit too long.

Ryan Whitney is DONE. He's not going to get "healthy" and he's not going to be any semblance of the player he was (or we hoped he would be).

Any GM in the league can plainly see he's damaged goods. He's NOT trade material for anybody looking for even a serviceable D man. Yeah, I'd like to believe there's a sucker out there, but I also have high hopes Natalie Portman will be giving me a call in the very near future too. *Waits by phone patiently*

Every athlete comes to the point where his career is finished. Sometimes it's a graceful walk into the sunset, and in the case of Ryan Whitney, sometimes it's a slap upside the head.

Time to call a spade a spade and quit filling out line combos and trade suggestions.

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#14 Tayranchula
February 11 2013, 09:22PM
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I think the top 3 are great choices obviously. I really hope with all these top rated prospects and players the Oilers are accumulating that they dont over pay on players like Smid and Petry. Petrys contract is probably the best in the NHL right now based on the quality of play they get from him but along with Smid dont bring a huge number in the offensive category. In saying that I hope they dont sign them like top pairing offensive numbers guys.

The jury is out for me with Klefbom because of all the injuries he has had over the last 2 years. Gernat is a stud in the WHL and Musil will be taking Fistric Peckhams spots in the future. Tuebert I think has fallen off the cliff and same with Plante obviously. Marincin is interesting and maybe paired with Schultz when he becomes ready for the NHL might happen.

Whitney should get traded at the deadline and get something for him because he does not look anything like the player pre injuries. Before its to late get some value for him before he walks. I think Schultz senior would be an absolute great 5/6 guy when this team becomes competitive and I believe the Oilers feel the same since they have named him assistant captain this year. Bigos needs to get signed and get into the system with the pros ASAP. He would be great for a 7/8 dman along with Lellegia (Bergeron 2.0) I think Simpson gets games in the show cause of who is dad is and he seems like a legit prospect. and the rest I havent mentioned I dont think will have a wink of an impact for the Oilers.

Sleeper picks to have a career: Gustaffson just cause if he was in the Detriot system Im sure he would have a career and I think Teubert may turn pro with the Oilers and play a season before he gets dealt or walks.

Bust pick: Klefbom just cause of the injuries. I am curious with the type of injuries he has had in the past and if playing on a smaller more physical ice surface will plague him.

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#15 Moose
February 11 2013, 10:46PM
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Correct me if I'm wrong LT, but I think Musil already HAS a contract. Think they signed him to his SR last season.

To me the most important thing with this 'D' cluster is optimizing the value of these guys in a return for a need on the existing roster. The Woywitka and Lynch in the Pronger deal, if you will. We know ALL of these guys aren't gonna make it. Choosing the right ones, then dealing the others while their value is high is going to key.

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#16 Oiler Al
February 11 2013, 10:53PM
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The Team needs a couple of " I am going to hurt you, if you come into the zone" type of D-Men, but also have a decent hockey IQ and are able to skate. I guess that excludes Peckham and Tuebert. Smid is really the only guy that hits, but his hits are more bear-hug type.Fistric has that ability , but not sure if the rest of his game is that strong, but it is a start. At least he can fill the part while the young ones come along.

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#17 Bonvie
February 11 2013, 11:26PM
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I definitely think Whitney is by no means done, he is still a serviceable 3rd pair defenseman. He is better than last year, but I think it is clear that he will never play as a top pair D-man again. I think the Oilers still need another top 4 and if Whitney can be packaged with an enticing prospect that another team has interest in I think there is likelihood of a deal being out there. I think right now all of Whitney's shortcomings are under the microscope, as I have seen over the past 20 years this is the way it goes in Oiler town. Arnott or Penner have a couple floater shifts and everyone is saying they are a floater, and every time it appears that he isn't flying around the ice then all people can focus on is how it sure seems that he is floating, even though alot of time it is about positioning if your in the right position then you don't have to run around.

If Whitney cannot be traded I think he is fine as a bottom pair as long as Oilers do not have injuries in the top 4 and think Whitney will be the answer.

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#18 Bonvie
February 11 2013, 11:32PM
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Hammers

This would be the type of trade that would work for the Oilers. Maybe they would bite on Mr. Razzle Dazzle over there in Switzerland. I mean they loved them some Schremp a few years back. I think they are similar but Omark is not so one dimensional.

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#19 Bonvie
February 11 2013, 11:35PM
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Oiler AL

I think we have the physical guys already we need the mobile guys now to support them. Peckham looks good if he can play with someone with some mobility to skate the puck and move it up ice.

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#20 andrewmk20
February 12 2013, 12:16AM
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I agree that Whitney should be done with the Oilers at least because even if he started to recover he's in the last year of his deal and Edmonton would have to re-sign him to keep him around. Just because Hemsky bounced back doesn't mean Whitney will and given that ankle issues have affected him his entire pro career re-signing him is a very risky move. I'd rather the Oilers use the 4M in cap space to find capable defenders and to re-sign Smid. Going after Ian White and Ryan O'Byrne would be a good idea.

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#21 @Oilanderp
February 12 2013, 12:57AM
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HOLD ON A SECOND... are you suggesting we shouldn't trade Omark and Troy Hesketh for Shea Weber?!?!!?

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#22 northof51
February 12 2013, 08:15AM
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I've only seen Musil live once this year, and then there were the World Juniors - I have yet to watch a game where he wasn't victimized by his lack of foot speed, and that has poured cold water all over my expectations. For all the good I hear about him, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for him to make a meaningful impact in the NHL. (Maybe a good trading piece?)

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#23 Old Retired Guy
February 12 2013, 09:28AM
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@ 14 Moose has nailed it.

We are deep in numbers of prospect D-men. We can't possibly develope them all.....most D Prospects should have some value.

Also, Whitney for Visnovsky sounds reasonable. Visnovsky could be your 2nd best offensive threat after J Schultz and could serve in that capacity for a year or two until our own troops develope or we make a move for a legit 1-2 D man.

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#24 NsxZero
February 12 2013, 12:01PM
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Sounds like Whitney's frustration is making it into the media.

"Whitney very frustrated and not feeling great about his future in Edmonton. Says he wont ask for a trade, but thinks its a possibility." - Ryan Rishaug

I don't know what he think he's worth right now, but I thought he would be working harder to get back to his former self.

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#25 Cowbell_Feva
February 12 2013, 03:26PM
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Not that it's rocket science, but Scotty Bowman is somewhat of a guru when it comes to hockey methinks. Saying this, the Oilers are in a shat pile of trouble. The Ebs/Hall/RNH grouping is the present. J Schultz is already NHL ready. If this group is forced to wait for some of these defensive maybes that have been drafted, they better get used to losing....and losing for a long time. Our current NHL defence corps is pretty bad. A bunch of 5 or 6 dmen pretending to be top 4 (excluding J Schultz).

Couple this with the issues up the middle and its clear that this team has been built back asswards. Too many soft skill types and no size or grit. As you have seen, they aren't exactly filling the net this year. The PP isn't winning them games anymore. Team systems are way too good nowadays. Until management realizes our defence is weak, and we have big issues up the middle, this team will toil in the bottom half of the conference. It scares me to think that they could have screwed up the past hard times (ie. being a pathetic team) and don't really have the right direction going forward to build a team properly.

Tambellini will have to get creative and eventually part with some of the skill set player in order to get size with skill. Hope this year he can make a move or two to address these glaring holes in a hope to maybe think about the playoffs next year...because this year is looking to be lost....again. Sigh.

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