HOW DOES THE "D" MEASURE UP?

Jason Gregor
May 22 2014 01:14PM

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I wrote an article earlier this week outlining the Oilers lack of size, strength and experience in their top-nine forwards. It is one element that Craig MacTavish will need to revamp in the coming years, but he will also need to improve his blueline.

Today we will take a similar look at the Oilers blueline and see how they compare against western division playoff teams.

Once again, I sorted them out with height, weight, age, but I also added in their TOI during the playoffs so we could see how the Oilers pairs compare to the other team's D pairings.

LA KINGS




Name  Height  Weight  Age GP TOI playoffs
Drew Doughty   6' 1" 213 24 16 27:21 min
Slava Voynov   6' 0" 194 24 16 21:29 min
Jake Muzzin   6' 3" 214 25 16 21:01 min
Willie Mitchell   6' 3" 210 37 8 18:54 min
Jeff Schultz 6' 6" 225 28 7 18:51 min
Robyn Regehr   6' 3" 222 34 8 17:11 min
Alec Martinez   6' 1" 209 26 16 17:06 min
Matt Greene "A"  6' 3" 234 31 10 13:37 min
Average  6' 2" 215.2 28.6

The Kings had the heaviest group of forwards and their defence is also the heaviest. They Kings only have one D-man under 209 pounds, Voynov. They have great puck movers in Doughty, Voynov and Martinez, (each on a different pair) and usually they pair those three up with a bigger, more defensive D-man.

It is interesting to note that Schultz has played seven games so far for the Kings, after not playing one in the regular season. Darryl Sutter wasn't scared to use him and he even played him more than Martinez. He didn't put Martinez in a situation where he would face tougher competition or be asked to be more defensive.

It helps having an anchor like Doughty on your blueline. He can play in any situation.

ST.LOUIS




Name  Height  Weight  Age GP TOI playoffs
Alex Pietrangelo "A"  6' 3" 201 24 6 30:14 min
Jay Bouwmeester   6' 4" 212 30 6 25:51 min
Kevin Shattenkirk   5' 11" 207 25 6 25:39 min
Barret Jackman "A"  6' 0" 203 33 6 19:55 min
Roman Polak   6' 0" 236 28 6 18:37 min
Jordan Leopold   6' 1" 206 33 6 16:40 min
Average 6' 1" 210.9 28.8


The Blues were the only team in the west to play the same six D-men in every game. Usually you need seven or eight, and the Blues had Coliacovo and Cole ready if they needed them. The Blues have a great combination of size, skill and speed. They have three Olympians and Hitchcock plays them a lot.

The Blues lost to the Hawks because their forwards weren't as elite finishers as the Hawks. I don't see the Blues needing to upgrade their backend very much. For them it might just be a matter of letting Tarasenko, Oshie and Schwartz mature a bit more.

COLORADO




Name  Height  Weight  Age GP TOI playoffs
Erik Johnson   6' 4" 232 26 7 26:12 min
Nick Holden   6' 4" 207 27 7 22:09 min
Jan Hejda   6' 4" 237 35 7 21:38 min
Andre Benoit   5' 11" 191 30 7 21:17 min
Tyson Barrie   5' 10" 190 22 3 18:17 min*
Nate Guenin   6' 3" 207 31 7 15:59 min
Ryan Wilson   6' 1" 207 27 4 15:27 min
Average 6' 2" 210 28.3


Many have suggested the Avs don't have a great blueline, and the Oilers could match them. I disagree. The Avs have a legit top-pair guy in Johnson. He has matured, and his size allows him to play against any of the elite forwards in the league and not be overwhelmed physically.

Barrie's injury, due to another Matt Cooke cheap shot, really hurt the Avs in the playoffs. He was their best puckmover, and  he was averaging 23 min/game until he got hurt. Patrick Roy challenged Barrie to be more aggressive offensively earlier in the year and it worked. Roy coached to Barrie's strength.

Hejda, who the Oilers let walk for nothing, is a solid top-4 defender, and his size and puck smarts make him very valuable. The Oilers have to hope Oscar Klefbom can develop into a player like Johnson or at worst, Hejda.

DALLAS




Name  Height  Weight  Age GP TOI playoffs
Alex Goligoski   5' 11" 185 28 6 28:30 min
Trevor Daley   5' 11" 195 30 6 25:48 min
Jordie Benn   6' 2" 200 26 6 21:56 min
Brenden Dillon   6' 3" 225 23 2 18:13 min
Patrick Nemeth 6' 3"  235 22 5 15:16 min
Sergei Gonchar   6' 2" 210 40 6 13:24 min
Kevin Connauton   6' 2" 200 24 4 10:44 min
Aaron Rome   6' 1" 220 30 1 8:51 min
Average 6' 1.3" 208.7 27.8

The Stars playoff chances took a huge blow when Brendan Dillon got injured late in the season and missed the first four games of their series. When he returned for the playoffs he wasn't 100% and he played fewer minutes than he did in the regular season.

Goligoski rebounded nicely after a tough year last season, and he is one of the few smaller D-man who can successfully play top minutes. The Stars have a good combination of size, speed and puckmovers on their backend. They will add Oleksiak this year or next and he will give them another big body, who can move the puck.

ANAHEIM 




Name  Height  Weight  Age GP TOI playoffs
Francois Beauchemin   6' 1" 207 33 13 23:57 min
Cam Fowler   6' 1" 207 22 13 23:51 min
Sami Vatanen   5' 10" 183 22 5 20:14 min
Ben Lovejoy   6' 2" 205 30 13 19:38 min
Bryan Allen   6' 5" 224 33 13 18:20 min
Hampus Lindholm   6' 3" 197 20 11 18:09 min
Stephane Robidas   5' 11" 190 37 3 15:51 min
Luca Sbisa   6' 2" 198 24 2 14:20 min
Mark Fistric   6' 2" 230 27 5 13:25 min
Average 6' 1" 205 27.5


The Ducks had a lot of depth. They used nine defenders in the playoffs, and they have Sheldon Souray returning from injury next year. They have a great combination of 30+ veterans, some mid-20s and three guys 22 and under.

Fowler has improved every year and along with Vatanen, Lindholm  and Sbisa their blueline should be strong in the future. They surrounded their young guys with veterans who are tough and competitive in Allen and Robidas, while Lovejoy has emerged as a solid defender.

SAN JOSE




Name  Height  Weight  Age GP TOI playoffs
Dan Boyle "A"  5' 11" 190 37 7 21:51 min
Justin Braun   6' 2" 205 27 7 20:54 min
Jason Demers   6' 1" 195 25 7 19:57 min
Brad Stuart   6' 2" 215 34 7 19:47 min
Matt Irwin   6' 2" 210 26 2 19:47 min
Scott Hannan   6' 1" 215 35 7 17:39 min
Marc-Edouard Vlasic   6' 1" 205 27 5 16:59 min *
Average 6' 1.5" 205 30


The Sharks were one of the few teams who had heavier forwards than defenders. I wonder if they would have beaten the Kings if Vlasic hadn't been hurt early in game five (which lowered is TOI/average). The Sharks will not be bringing back Dan Boyle, but they will replace him by moving Brent Burns back to the blueline. Burns is a 6' 5", 230 pounder who skates very well. Vlasic is under appreciated and the addition of Burns will give them more size to counter the big forwards of the Ducks and Kings.

CHICAGO




Name  Height  Weight  Age GP TOI playoffs
Duncan Keith "A"  6' 1" 200 30 14 27:26 min
Brent Seabrook   6' 3" 221 29 11 23:56 min
Niklas Hjalmarsson   6' 3" 207 26 14 22:54 min
Johnny Oduya   6' 0" 190 32 14 22:03 min
Michal Rozsival   6' 1" 212 35 12 17:48 min
Sheldon Brookbank   6' 1" 202 33 6 16:27 min
Nick Leddy   6' 0" 191 23 13 15:59 min
Average 6' 1" 203 29.7


The Hawks top-four moves the puck quicker and more accurate than any other team's top two pairs. Chicago is very unique in that Hjalmarsson and Oduya face tougher competition than their top pair. It allows Seabrook and Keith to be more offensive, but when needed the top pair is very good defensively.

The Hawks 2nd pair plays more than any other in the west, and their top-four depth is why they are one of the best teams in the NHL.

MINNESOTA




Name  Height  Weight  Age GP TOI playoffs
Ryan Suter "A"  6' 1" 200 29 13 29:13 min
Jared Spurgeon   5' 9" 168 24 13 24:03 min
Jonas Brodin   6' 1" 194 20 13 23:37 min
Marco Scandella   6' 3" 207 24 13 21:28 min
Nate Prosser   6' 2" 203 28 10 12:31 min
Clayton Stoner   6' 4" 216 29 13 12:16 min
Keith Ballard   5' 11" 199 31 3 10:44 min
Average 6' 1" 198 26.4


Minnesota plays a strong team game, and they are built to play in the Central division. If they had to battle the big forwards of the Kings, Sharks or Ducks in the first round I doubt they would have won. The Wild barely use their 3rd pairing, and they will need to upgrade that area if they want to take a run at the Hawks or Blues in the future.

It helps having Suter anchor their blueline and play almost half the game, but I won't be surprised to see the Wild try to add someone with some size/skill to complement Suter, Spurgeon and Brodin moving forward. If Scandella becomes their #5 defender, suddenly their team looks even better.

HOW DO THE OILERS STACK UP?

EDMONTON




Name  Height  Weight  Age GP TOI reg. season
Justin Schultz   6' 2" 188 23 74 23:20 min
Jeff Petry   6' 3" 195 26 80 21:35 min
Andrew Ference   5' 11" 187 35 71 21:03 min
Martin Marincin   6' 4" 188 22 44 19:09 min
Philip Larsen   6' 0" 182 24 30 17:10 min
Oscar Klefbom   6' 3" 213 20 17 15:47 min
Mark Fraser   6' 4" 220 27 23 15:29 min
Average 6' 2" 196.1 25.3


Eerily similar to the forwards. The Oilers are the lightest and the youngest. I didn't include Belov or N.Schultz, who played 57 and 60 games respectively for the Oilers, because they are no longer here. If the Oilers hope to improve their blueline this fall then Fraser and Larsen shouldn't be here either. The Oilers have a lot of height on their backend, but not much weight. It is difficult to break up a cycle if you don't have any weight behind you.

You don't need all your D-men to be heavy, but it would be nice to have more than one defender over 200 pounds next season. Size isn't everything, as Keith proves you don't have to be big to be effective. He is incredibly tenacious and competitive, which is something many of the Oilers need to add to their game.

The most obvious concern about the backend is their lack of a proven top-pair defender. Trying to find one via trade or develop one from within will be Craig MacTavish's biggest challenge moving forward.

Until the Oilers find a true top-pairing defender it will be hard to compete. If you look at the eight playoff teams each of them had at least one solid #1 defender. Most of them had two, if not three very good D-men.

The Oilers have a lot of potential in the organization. Klefbom, Marincin, Nurse and Schultz have the potential, in different forms, to become a top pairing D-man, but even in the best case scenario it is likely that only two of them emerge to be that good. Which is fine -- it is extremely difficult to be a top-pair defender.

Klefbom will get bigger and more experienced over the next few years, and Marincin needs to put ten pounds on his frame if he wants to be able to handle many of the skilled forwards in the Pacific division.

I expect MacTavish to try to upgrade his backend this summer, and I'd expect him to try to find some veterans who can move the puck, but are also heavy enough to battle the big, skilled forwards in the pacific division.

It is apparent the Oilers lack size and experience when you compare their forwards and bluelines to the playoff teams in the west.

It is up to MacTavish to try and find the proper way to improve his team, by adding skilled size that can play, while trying not to make a trade in desperation.

Improving the Oilers won't be easy, and I don't expect it to happen in one off-season. 

Recently by Jason Gregor:

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#101 GoEblad
May 23 2014, 12:34PM
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Sorensenator wrote:

How is his argument dishonest, give some examples?

Basically your'e saying the Oilers are not small and that their size is not at all related to being unsuccessful.

Doug,

Tiger likes to whine, but when pressed to show where Gregor was misleading he shows no proof. Typical. The guy is a troll.

Tiger, why don't you admit you like to whine and complain, but won't actually have anything back up your pouting. Show us which current Oilers are ahead of Arcobello? Oh right, you can't, so you accuse Gregor of making false claim, when in fact, his stats were all accurate.

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#102 Rama Lama
May 23 2014, 02:32PM
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This is what happens when you ban donuts............players get small. I say we make Katz sell this franchise to Tim Hortons and then our fortunes will change!!

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#103 ?
May 23 2014, 02:38PM
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@Jason Gregor

Point is, you can't compare playoff teams current roster to the Oilers future roster. Comparing apples to oranges.

Also, why did you only look at the top 9 forwards, but looked at the every member of the D-corps?

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#104 ?
May 23 2014, 03:14PM
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One thing I would also like to add is that this analysis, while thought-provoking, isn't complete without relative information. I'd like to know the average weight of current NHL defence man who have played, let's say, 82 games as minimum. If the avg. weight is 205 pounds vs 200, that means something.

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#105 TigerUnderGlass
May 23 2014, 03:25PM
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Sorensenator wrote:

Ok average out the "biggest" players on the team by weight and its still not close, You don't have one leg to stand on

Whoosh.

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#106 TigerUnderGlass
May 23 2014, 03:28PM
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Sorensenator wrote:

How is his argument dishonest, give some examples?

Basically your'e saying the Oilers are not small and that their size is not at all related to being unsuccessful.

I gave very specific example of what made his argument dishonest.

You have interpreted my comment to mean "the Oilers are not small", but I said no such thing.

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#107 TigerUnderGlass
May 23 2014, 03:37PM
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GoEblad wrote:

Doug,

Tiger likes to whine, but when pressed to show where Gregor was misleading he shows no proof. Typical. The guy is a troll.

Tiger, why don't you admit you like to whine and complain, but won't actually have anything back up your pouting. Show us which current Oilers are ahead of Arcobello? Oh right, you can't, so you accuse Gregor of making false claim, when in fact, his stats were all accurate.

I provided very specific reasoning as to what tainted his argument. I don't think "pressed" means what you think it means.

You'll notice Gregor only really responded to the Arcobello bit, which was an afterthought, but there is no valid way to claim a player was one of the top 9 forwards when he spent most of the year in the minors.

I didn't say his claim was false FFS, I said his argument was dishonest. Those are very different things.

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#108 TigerUnderGlass
May 23 2014, 03:39PM
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? wrote:

Point is, you can't compare playoff teams current roster to the Oilers future roster. Comparing apples to oranges.

Also, why did you only look at the top 9 forwards, but looked at the every member of the D-corps?

Don't you know that pointing out flaws in Gregor's reasoning means you believe the Oilers are actually a big team ready to win the cup?

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#109 Casey
May 23 2014, 04:12PM
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Can we just pilons with wheels on the bottom? Atleast they can actually do something

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#110 Sorensenator
May 23 2014, 08:55PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

I provided very specific reasoning as to what tainted his argument. I don't think "pressed" means what you think it means.

You'll notice Gregor only really responded to the Arcobello bit, which was an afterthought, but there is no valid way to claim a player was one of the top 9 forwards when he spent most of the year in the minors.

I didn't say his claim was false FFS, I said his argument was dishonest. Those are very different things.

I re-read your posts and you didn't provide any examples that support your argument.

The two centres you could pencil in for Arcobello to increase the overall top 9 average weight is Ryan Smyth (now retired) and Anton Lander. Your average might go up from 191 to 192... lol

The two biggest guys on the backend, Anton Belov and Mark Fraser were routinely healthy scratches so I can understand why Gregor left them out when calculating the average weight on defense. Oh wait, Fraser was included! Obviously Phillip Larson was scratched often too but Belov is no longer with the organization.

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#111 TigerUnderGlass
May 26 2014, 09:19AM
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Sorensenator wrote:

I re-read your posts and you didn't provide any examples that support your argument.

The two centres you could pencil in for Arcobello to increase the overall top 9 average weight is Ryan Smyth (now retired) and Anton Lander. Your average might go up from 191 to 192... lol

The two biggest guys on the backend, Anton Belov and Mark Fraser were routinely healthy scratches so I can understand why Gregor left them out when calculating the average weight on defense. Oh wait, Fraser was included! Obviously Phillip Larson was scratched often too but Belov is no longer with the organization.

1. I don't think "examples" means what you think it means.

2. Math is fundamental.

3. "2 of the biggest" does not equal "2 biggest". N. Schultz was left off of the list with Belov. ie. 2 of the biggest (and oldest) were excluded to prove how light and young the D is using a mean calculation. This is the very essence of a dishonest argument.

4. I took no position regarding the size of the defense so your attempts to explain to me how I am wrong because they are too small are irrelevant.

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