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