The Forgotten Taylor

That’s Taylor Chorney playing defense in one of the U of A-Oilers rookie games. Chorney’s slow adjustment to pro hockey is a major worry for the Oilers organization. He may not be good enough to play defense in the NHL. Ever.

Taylor Chorney is a minus machine. In his AHL career–spanning 100 games–he is a monstrous -49. So far in his NHL career, which incredibly stands at 44 games–Chorney is -25. It may be genetic, as Marc Chorney went -68 in 210 NHL games during the 1980’s.

Chorney got some heavy work in the NHL last season, paired with Jason Strudwick in what opponents must have considered prime time. I don’t blame Chorney, it is on the coaches. Top 4 minutes in terms of difficulty, plenty of ownzone faceoffs in close games. It was incredible, and considering Tom Renney was running the blue during games last season we have to openly question what the plan is for Taylor Chorney.

If Steve Tambellini’s stated rule in regard to players having success at one level before moving up the ladder holds, then Chorney needs a full season in the AHL. When he played in Springfield, Chorney actually faced the tougher competition as was proven wonderfully by Jonathan Willis here. In fact, I’d like to quote 2 items from Jonathan’s excellent piece:

  • Theo Peckham had an outstanding year and is clearly the best AHL prospect the Oilers currently possess.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to call him the best prospect in the system.
  • Taylor Chorney had an awful year, although he came around a bit in the second half.  He’s not close to the NHL roster, or at least, he shouldn’t be.

Now those numbers and words came after the 08-09 season and some things have changed (Peckham has endured some injury/conditioning issues and Chorney got the push from the new coaching set). But really, in the clear light of day, I think those words ring as true today as the moment Willis wrote them down. Peckham is certainly the most NHL ready defense prospect in the system, and Chorney shouldn’t be close to an NHL roster. 

Why does all of this matter? Because the Oilers badly need "NHL able" defensemen. Here’s a quick depth chart:

  1. Tom Gilbert (top pairing extremely likely)
  2. Ryan Whitney  (should see top pairing and special teams minutes)
  3. Ladislav Smid (will certainly face his toughest competition this season)
  4. Kurtis Foster (an astute signing, probably better served in the final pairing)
  5. Jim Vandermeer (tough veteran, solid option for the 5-7 axis)
  6. Jason Strudwick (he’s in a tough spot, might end up playing F or retiring)
  7. Theo Peckham (waiver eligible, so extremely likely to make the team)
  8. Shawn Belle (logical first callup, he could make the team)
  9. Richard Petiot (veteran AHLer, could be the next Arsene/Rourke)
  10. Alex Plante (calm feet in his cup of coffee)
  11. Jeff Petry (new pro has a wide range of skills)

Where would you slot Chorney? I’d have him near the bottom and would be very tempted to send him to the minors and keep him there for the entire season. So in a real way, he’s the 12th option on the list for me. As the summer wears on though, I think we can agree the Oilers probably have him much higher. If they don’t trade Souray and ask him to stay away from training camp until they can find him a home (the Comrie way to trade), Taylor Chorney could very easily break camp with the Edmonton Oilers.

Bottom line: It doesn’t look like there’s a Souray market and if true I think the Oilers need to sit down with Sheldon Souray and mend fences. The absence of alternatives clears the mind. And if that doesn’t work, staring at the depth chart sure as hell should motivate ST to pick up the phone.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    Too bad Taylor is having such a tough time adjusting. I remember hearing quite a bit of hype (from the Edmonton media that is) about him when he was in the NCAA, but it sure hasn’t translated. Same thing happened with Danny Syvret coming out of London and he’s fallen off the face-o-the earth as well.

    Hopefully the same thing doesn’t happen with Jeff Petry.

    I just hope Gilbert and Whitney can re-kindle the magic they had for the last 10-15 games of last year because it will be tough to watch Tommy Boy struggle like he did for 70+ games again. That and the team will be in 30th place come Remembrance Day if they don’t.

    If Souray isn’t playing here, I agree with Lowetide, the Oilers back-end may be a little tweaking to try and compete with the rest of the northwest (which Vancouver will run away with by the way) I’m not holding my breath!

  • Lowetide

    The one thing Chorney has on his side is a wonky fast track. If the organization sends him to the AHL, puts him on something other than the top pairing in Okla City, gives him plenty of PP time then his confidence will probably come along.

    Defensemen take a long time, but I think they need to start over with Chorney as a pro. Have him paired with Petry on the 3rd unit, that kind of thing.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    “The Forgotten Taylor”

    Trying to
    Believe me, I’m trying to.

    “I think we can agree the Oilers probably have him much higher.”

    Well, they re-signed Strudwick, so anything is possible.
    A team doesn’t end up drafting Taylor Hall by accident.

  • Lowetide

    With Souray in lineup to start last season we were respectable on defence , but not physical enough . This season , after gutting last years defence , is less than adequate to be honest . Had we kept Souray and added Mitchell we would have been better off than last years starting group . Both the above seem unlikely to be part of this season , however . Upgrade in toughness but huge drop in talent from last seasons start .

    Peckham is Strudwick without the hockey sense , offensive ability and mobility . Yet , he is probably the next best in line this season in the system . Right now , we have probably the worst defensive group in the NHL without Souray .

    Gerber should be better than all but Khabby . Not much of an upgrade , however, to make much difference . Defence is our achilles heel right now with little relief in sight . I am high on our offence , but just as disappointed in our weakened defence from the last season . Why did they gut it so extrensively in such a short time ?

  • Reggie

    From what I saw of Chorney last year in the show, he appears to be a one-dimensional offensive style dman.

    I don’t see him big enough or strong enough to defend well in his own end. A good skater, seemed to move the puck ok, but didn’t make good plays with it.

    Yes, he was over his head in the NHL last year, but I think this kid will never cut it in the show.

  • Lowetide

    Reggie: It’s a real concern. Defensemen take forever to develop (usually) but I’m not sure we saw Chorney have a good two weeks or even three games in a row.

    Now, he was playing some tough minutes (what was Tom Renney thinking?) but it must have been a blur for him.

    I’d love to know what the organization is thinking about Chorney’s role for this coming season.

    • Reggie


      You and me both. It’s like sending a rabbit in to feed the wolves …

      And they got the expected results. Let’s hope he finds some game in the AHL this winter.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    Caught “The Broad Street Bullies ” on tv movie channel last night . T. Hall reminds me of a young very talented Bobby Clark . Tenatious, bordering on nasty, desire and ability to drive the net to do what ever it takes to win . Hall might be comfortable down the line as a center with Penner and Hemsky as his wingers .

  • I think that unless the Oilers are willing to send Vandermeer down (I’ll single him out because Strudwick is a favorite of the brass for their reasons, as we know, and anyone else is too high risk for waivers), they’ll have no choice but to move Souray in some way. Whether it’s in a trade, waiving him (and hopefully him being claimed) or sending him to OKC, unbelievably, they’ll have to get him off the roster in some way. They don’t have much of a choice. We’re not going to carry one less forward so we can carry 8 d-men.

    Of course, an injury in the pre-season could delay Tambellini from having to do his duty too, mind you.

  • Lowetide

    Racki: They might carry 3G, 7D and 13F’s, though. Renney’s 4line won’t see the same number of minutes as Quinn’s group imo, not with Jacques and MacIntyre on it.

    Strudwick might make the roster as a forward, too. It’s a possibility.

    • Reggie

      Can’t see how they’ll be able to slot Struds in as a forward, it’s awfully crowded right now. Maybe on the fourth, but do you really want to see him there? If he’s not on the blue line, then really what’s the point?

    • Do you really think the 4th line will have BOTH Jacques & MacIntyre on it regularly?

      As it stands now…

      Top 9: Hemsky, Penner, Hall, Gagner, Horcoff, Brule, Pääjärvi, Cogliano, Eberle.

      Strong 4th line (10+ min a night): Jones/Fraser/Stortini

      Extra F: Jacques, MacIntyre, Strudwick (if he’s a F).

      That’s without a Comrie or Pisani or other vet or any other kids.

      It’s still too early to peg the lineup, but I don’t see Jacques & MacIntyre as regulars on the 4th.

  • Lowetide

    I completely disagree with the notion of the Oilers and Souray mending fences. The fan base is clammering for some pride in this organization. To that end the optics of welcoming Souray back after what Souray said is much worse then sending videos out to free agents. I’ll agree its not great asset management allowing Souray to languish in the AHL but cant he prove his value down there?

  • You might be right LT about the goalies, but the way I see it, I think that despite his high price tag, they’ll send JDD down… same with Gerber. Khabi and Dubnyk would be our NHL goalies (assuming Khabi is available for said duty).

    I’m going to have to admit that some of what Tambellini has done this off-season has made sense, but some of it seems like he overcompensated and picked up too many guys. I suppose that isn’t such a bad thing though, because injuries will happen. I’d still like to see Souray’s departure expedited, however (and I’ve always been a fan of his, for the record).

    And yes, you’re right that Strudwick may make the team as a forward. I guess if that is the case, it’s probably at the sacrifice of MacIntyre (which wouldn’t be such a horrible thing… as much as I like the on ice thuggery, it’s tough to see a need for MacIntyre). Really you raise a good point on Strudwick playing forward as well. I would think then in that case, we’d keep 13 forwards (including JFJ or Jones as the spare), 7-d men (not including Strudwick) and 2 goalies, and Strudwick would be a utility type player who can fill in on either side.

    Question though, can he play net too? (kidding..)

  • I should probably add too that myself, and several others have already inked all of MPS/Eberle/Hall in their mock lineups… that isn’t necessarily going to be reality either. So there might actually be room in the pressbox for someone.

  • Lowetide

    Quick, probably dumb question here.

    What are the possibilities @ converting Chorney to a forward position? Is it even feasible at this stage of the game? Or is his lack of progress as a pro (to date) an indication of some “coachability issues?

    I don’t necessarily advocate this, but, otherwise, this kid has shown — as a maximum upside — the potential to be another MAB.

  • Lowetide

    dawgtoy, others: I don’t think they should have signed Strudwick at all, so would prefer he retire. Let someone like Peckham sink or swim.

    KSC: I think that’s an excellent question. Chorney might be a better forward based on skill set.

    • D-Man

      I don’t necessarily think Chorney would be any better of a forward. On the point, his skating is above average but not enough to earn top 6 minutes and with his lack of aggression, he’s not a bottom 6 forward either.

      I do agree with you about Strudwick. Sounds like he’s a great guy to have in your dressing room, but we’ll have enough vets in the dressing room for the rebuild. Peckham is probably your best choice as your #6 (assuming Souray isn’t here). Petry might be the better player, but considering we’re in rebuild mode, a year or two at Oklahoma would only help him out.

  • I agree on the Strudwick signing, but as Jason Gregor pointed out here, they’re in love with him due to how well he deals with the rookies.

    I don’t know, at this point we’ve filtered out almost all our older players. Do we really need that guy around anymore? Not sure.

    Anyways, interesting interview in the Sun today with Rick Olczyk. One of his comments made me believe that they’ll send Gerber down and also one of Dubnyk or JDD when Khabi is in the lineup (“we’ll have two darn good goalies in OCK this year” (not exact quote) )

  • gibshot

    They need a guy like strudwick. Not just for his play but also for his veteran pressence in the dressing room and for his contributions of the ice with charities and so on. I think he is good for the team and the organization as a whole, a true definition of a role player.

  • Reggie

    Brian Rafalski had one more year of university, and played four full seasons in Europe before attempting the NHL.

    So if Chorney were on a Rafalski’s time table, it would mean, 3 more full years in the AHL.

    Chorney has skills, but he has to learn how to defend against players who are bigger than him.

    Hopefully, the Oilers will take Chorney off the fast track, and put him back on the slow road.

  • @ LT,

    The Oilers emphasis on toughness isn’t Chorney’s game which lowers him on the depth chart.

    Why not put him on PP2? *unless they use a forward or keep Souray*

    #8 to start camp with soft minutes

    He’ll be a useful NHL’er just not in Edmonton.

    Adam Larsson will crack the roster next year anyways….right???

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans


    Ive gotta have Chorney higher on the depth chart than Petry and Plante based solely on NHL experience. Heck I’d probably put him ahead of Shawn Belle too. Chorney was really bad last year, but he was over his head on the worst team in the NHL. I doubt he lost all of his game in the last year.

  • Reggie

    There are quite a few decent, tough 4-6 D men still on the UFA list, not even including trying to move with the Nucks for Mitchell or Bieksa. A little more grit would be nice, as really, of D who are ACTUALLY likely to see good time, we only have Smid and Peckham who have an edge to them. Gilby, Whitney, Foster are all less intimidating, and Struds and Vandy (hopefully?) will see limited time. Of course, that group doesn’t look very useful on a PK, so… yeah. Another move has to be coming, unless the Oil are going to give Shawn Belle a good strong look (which I think they should anyways).

    As for goalies… I fully expect that the only reason JDD was signed to a 1M contract was so he’d be very overpriced when we went on waivers. Who wants to pick up a 1M backup prospect off waivers? At least, that’s Tambys thinkings. JDD clears, gets a good solid season as the AHL starter with Gerber mentoring him, and is 100% more consistent when he comes back up next year. Dubs gets a good handful of games to see if he’s still got what he had last year.

    Now, the real question is… what’s Gerbers waiver status?

    • The way I understand it (and that could be wrong), is that Gerber would have to clear waivers before the start of the season (if they’re sending him down), and that if he clears once, he doesn’t have to clear again all season (unless he exceeds X amount of NHL games played)… meaning he’s the yo-yo that’s going up & down in the event of injuries.

      I could be wrong.

  • Lowetide

    Ross Creek: I think there will be games where the 4th line dresses both JFJ and MacIntyre.

    In 06-07, Renney gave Ryan Hollweg 642 minutes in 78 games. That’s only 8 minutes a night but he dressed for pretty much the whole season.

    Same season, Colton Orr played 53 games and was on the ice for 282 minutes. Basically 5 mintues a night.

    But they both played for much more than half the games.

    And you can say “Hollweg and Orr were better players” and you’re right, but the fact remains that in those 950 or so minutes those two were fighters for Renney (16 for Orr, 15 for Hollweg).

    The 4th line won’t be used as much this season, unless Renney plans on dressing more fighters on defense.

  • Lowetide

    Max: Good point. If the Oilers could use Strudwick on the third pairing with a veteran defender (NOT Strudwick, someone who can play) his numbers would no doubt improve.

    Especially if the pairing was playing the poorer competition, which is what third pairings are for.

  • oilerdiehard

    IMO Chorney will prove to be a decent NHL D man down the line. My personal feeling is they threw him to the wolves from day one in the AHL and NHL.

    Todd Richards had the right idea when we had Tom Gilbert with the baby Pens. They started him on the 3rd pairing. He got some 2nd PP unit time. Let him get comfortable and confident over time. Only then do you move him up the line up in his own time.

    With Chorney they threw him in the deep end. When he sputtered and started to sink. They told him to just keep trying you will be fine kid and left him there.