With so much focus on the three-headed goalie monster, Sam Gagner’s slump, the MacBlender and Wanye losing another bet, hardly anyone has mentioned one of the few consistent positives for the Oilers this season: Sheldon Souray.
Souray has lived up to his contract this season. Not only is he tied for the team lead in goals (with five), he’s +1, is second in shots and ice time and most important he has the fewest giveaways of any defencemen. In fact, according to www.nhl.com he only has four in the first 14 games.
We shouldn’t be surprised with his goal production, since he scored 26 one year in Montreal, and averaged 18 goals over his last three seasons for the Habs. But during those seasons he was +4, -11 and a gross -28 the year he scored 26.
Souray admitted that he was cheating defensively with the hopes of producing more offence. When he signed with the Oilers last season he vowed that he would better defensively.
“I have to find the right mix of the game I played early in my career in Jersey with the offence I have added in the last three years. I haven’t forgotten how to play defensively, but I did think offence too much in Montreal at times.”
Souray said that at the start of last season, and due to his nagging shoulder injuries, he never seemed comfortable. This year he looks like a completely different player. He is making the right decisions more often than the wrong ones, and he is playing with an edge.
Currently Souray is sixth in scoring amongst NHL defencemen with 11 points, and his five goals are second behind only Nashville’s Shea Weber. In his three seasons with the Devils, he played 182 games and scored only four goals. He was a stay-at-home defenceman, with little to no offence and was a combined +17 in those years.
Clearly Souray knows how to play defence, but now it seems like he’s figured out how to mix solid defence while contributing offensively. Up until this season, Souray was either good defensively with no offence, or good offensively with shoddy defensive play.
So far he seems to have found the perfect balance to be a go-to-guy in both ends of the rink. Souray’s brute strength and toughness give him the attributes to be a true #1 D-man who can produce offence but can still shut down the opposition’s top line.
Souray’s play has quieted many who questioned whether the Oilers had a true top-end D-man, but as good as he has been, even he can’t supply the answers to the other questions that still linger.
- Do the Oilers have a #1 goalie?
- Can the Kids produce?
- How many line combinations will we see before December?
- Will Wanye be wearing a Flames thong this year, as opposed to his regular thong?
The Oilers will need to find answers to the first two questions sooner than later if they want to compete for the NW division, and not just their usual scramble for eighth place.
I hope we never hear the answer to number four!
—Listen to Gregor weekdays from 3 to 6pm on the TEAM 1260 or online at www.justagame.ca