UFA Decisions: Jason Strudwick

UFA Decisions considers the unrestricted free agents on the Oilers’ roster, starting with the most expensive and working down. Today we consider Jason Strudwick.

Jason Strudwick is the kind of player who gets an NHL career because he’s coachable. He does whatever he’s asked to do, he chips in physically and in any way he can on the ice, and according to pretty much every report we hear from the Oilers’ dressing room he’s personable and an asset in the dressing room.

Strudwick’s now on his fifth NHL team; he was drafted by the Islanders, played long spells for the Canucks, Blackhawks and Rangers, but signed as a free agent with his hometown Oilers in the summer of 2008. Injuries have kept him in the lineup in Edmonton; he’d topped the 60 game mark just four times in a 10-season NHL career, and never played more than 65 games before joining the Oilers, but he’s played 71 and 72 games the last two seasons.

Strudwick provides negligible offence, has been a minus player for the majority of his NHL career, and looked especially bad this season when paired with Taylor Chorney, who was clearly in over his head playing NHL minutes. He ranks last or dead last in most advanced statistical categories on the Oilers’ blue-line, but admittedly would likely be better if paired with an actual NHL defenceman.

What I’d Do As G.M.

It’s no secret that I’ve been fairly critical of Strudwick’s play during his time with the Oilers. His foot speed is not very good, he often seems to hesitate before making decisions in the defensive zone and gets caught out of position far too often for someone with his level of experience. Balanced against that are the incredibly positive reports we get from the Oilers on his character and the way his attitude affects his teammates.

As G.M. I wouldn’t want to bring Strudwick back in an on-ice capacity; I’d rather use the bottom spots on the blue-line for players like Aaron Johnson, or to test-run this year’s version of Denis Grebeshkov or Jan Hejda. I recall Dan Tencer bragging how the Oilers felt they had two NHL-calibre defenceman in the AHL in Peckham and Chorney, a claim I viewed as dubious at the time and can’t be viewed as anything but ridiculous in hindsight.

There are going to be injuries on the blue-line, and the Oilers need a guy who can play in the seventh spot. I’d look to bring in someone else, either a late-blooming NHL UFA or a top European defenceman. As for Strudwick, I’d offer him a role in the Oilers’ organization, perhaps as an assistant coach in Oklahoma, and let him know that if he were able to get a contract somewhere else the door was always open whenever he wanted to retire.

What I Expect To Happen

I expect Steve Tambellini to re-sign Jason Strudwick, and that Strudwick will once again play significant minutes on the Oilers blue-line. I think the team views him as an important on-ice mentor for their younger defencemen, and will treat him accordingly.

  • Skidplate

    It’s some of the intangibles that we fans do not see that MAY make him useful back in Oiler silks. His on ice play, things we can all criticize, make him not quite as useful.

  • Bring him back as a 14th forward/8th defenseman and see what happens. Great guy for the dressing room… something this team has been lacking since Reasoner & Greene left. If anything, they need another character guy… someone that can play… maybe even win faceoffs & kill penalties… like Marty Reasoner, for instance.

  • God love him, but Strudwick is way too slow. One more year isnt going to help his foot speed.

    Front office job doing community relations when he’s done maybe. He seems like a really good guy with ties to this city and he’s really involved with the various charities and speaking engagements the Oilers do.

  • I think alot of Jason’s poor stats has alot to do with being played with extremely crappy partners and being given WAY more minutes (by necessity) than he would on a real NHL team.

    Cutting down his on-ice time and playing him with actual NHL linemates might make him a useful #7. Also, I don’t think you can underestimate character and mentorship in a team situation. Used properly, guys like this are extremely valuable to team dynamics.

  • He seems like a really good guy with ties to this city and he’s really involved with the various charities and speaking engagements the Oilers do.

    The Oilers have been blessed with guys who do these sort of things, but Strudwick does seem to stand out there, doesn’t he?

    • But how many of those guys actually call Edmonton home and are nearing the ends of their careers?

      Either way, I’m just throwing out other possibilities if he doesnt want to end one life on the road as a player just to begin another as a coach. All this assuming he doesnt find another NHL contract.

  • SkinnyD

    He really is painfully slow…as much as I’d like him back just because he’s likeable, like JW I’m not convinced he can’t be a good dressing room influence in other ways. If he’s not making players around him ‘better’, then why bring him back? Only to fill holes…which really, should be filled with more capable skaters if we want to ice a competitive team.

    If being competitive isn’t the goal, put him on the 1st unit PK! 🙂

  • It’s too early to say how and if Strudwick fits in on defence next season. In any case, as Willis pointed out, Strudwick gets exposed if he plays more than 40-50 games and gets too many minutes.

    — It’ll depend if Tambellini moves Souray and who he gets for him if he does. Does Tambellini get a D-man who can play in the second pairing with Smid, plus whatever, or does he get a forward and maybe a solid third-pairing guy?

    — Does Aaron Johnson sign here?

    — Does Tambellini address a need for toughness by using a spot on defence for somebody like John Scott? If he does, is Scott and upgrade on Strudwick as the sixth guy in tandem with, say, Johnson, bumping Strudwick to seven?

    — If Peckham is lights out at camp, where does he fit in? How about Taylor Chorney (God help us) or Jeff Petry?

  • Hemmertime

    Im fine with him being 7/8th D man and 14 FW. As long as I don’t see Struds on D while Smid is moved to FW again… that was just awful. I know won’t happen, but the memories can never be erased.

  • Sometimes it astonishes me that the difference between an NHL career (and $millions over the years) and an AHL veteran (and $thousands over the years) is the ability to crack jokes in the room.

    Somehow I bet the Dean Aresne’s of the world don’t laugh at this.

  • JW, great great article. I love what you’re bringing here. I think Peckham and Chorney stay in the A, and as you have alluded to elsewhere, you fill out those bottom spots with proven vets out of the bargain bin in the UFA crop. A solid stay at home defenseman, A puck-mover and/or pp qb. And a 4th line centre that can win faceoffs and kill penalties a la Marty Sakic. These are the kinds of UFA’s the Oilers can sign and be next years Phoenix Coyotes (I believe in miracles…oh yes I do)

  • Bob, you nailed that one. Lets get Dean the Mean Machine Arsene in here instead. Or call up Allan Rourke, see what he’s up to, I’m sure we could sign one of these stay at home types to fill out that #6/7 spot and they would do better than old Strudsy, rest his soul. I think it was Staples who wrote a great article about this, you should look it up JW. It was a great read.

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      if arsene or rourke are anywhere near this line up you can be rest assured another year in the basement will be upon us.

      i, for one, am perfectly fine with that.

  • SkinnyD

    Maybe Alex Plante can make the jump next year? He had a great game vs Carolina…(I think that was the game he played?). As a stay-at-home guy maybe he gets that call sooner this year and splits time between the farm and the city.

  • NHL D: Whitney, Gilbert, Smid, ?? (Souray), Petry, Johnson, Arsene.

    AHL D: Peckham, Chorney, Plante, Motin

    14F: Strudwick

    Wonder what it would take to get a guy like Tim Gleason out of Carolina… he’d be an interesting target, imo.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    When Souray is dealt this offseason hopefully the Oilers can obtain another second round pick and select Johns, Tinordi, and Beukeboom to replenish the Oilers defensive depth in this organization.

    I agree with Willis on Strudwick, yes he’s a character guy but at this point he should be a coach not a player. It doesn’t matter who he’s paired with, many of his defensive breakdowns have occurred when Chorney was actually in solid defensive positioning not just when Chorney was caught up the ice, like he likes to do.

    Chorney at this point is an AHLer. Peckham actually looked solid as a 6-7 Dman before he went down with the seperated shoulder. And Petry is still a question mark because he’s played well in college but has never been to an Oilers training camp. His scouting report tends to make me think he’s actually a lot like a recent acquisition of the Oilers Ryan Whitney. 6’3, skates well, has a good point shot, occasionally lays the body. The only difference being Petry has good defensive positioning and thinks the defensive game well. Which shows that at the college level he has good defensive awareness, which Whitney was and is not known for.