Life in the Fast Lane

The Edmonton Oilers best option for this fall on defense may include Jeff Petry on the top two pairings, Jeff Petry on the powerplay and Jeff Petry on the penalty kill. Is this wise?

Right at the end of the 2010 calendar, Jeff Petry made his NHL debut. He played 23 minutes and performed well.

  • Petry: "I was a little jittery but I think I settled in quite well."
  • Coach Renney"He moves the puck well, he’s got good range, he has a good stick, he has his head up …for a first game I thought he did just fine."

At the beginning of training camp, the Oilers (and certainly coach Renney) expressed that patience was the watch word when it came to the young defender with the complete skill set.

  • Coach Renney: "We have to make sure–even with a player who has been very impressive here–as more of an adult looking player here at this camp; Jeff is not an NHLer today. It’s not the wrong thing for us to make sure he goes to Oklahoma City, so he can get a feel for the physical nature of the game. We can expect too much of this player who is so good in so many areas, and then three months from now we’re saying ‘what happened?’ Well let’s not go there."

As the summer sun warms northern Alberta (let’s just pretend the summer sun is warming northern Alberta) and the Edmonton Oilers have completed their work on improving the roster, it’s interesting to hear msm discuss the team. Recently, Bob Stauffer and Ryan Rishaug talked (Oilers Lunch, Team 1260) about Jeff Petry and the fact that he might not make the team out of training camp. The discussion began with Taylor Chorney and his waiver worry, and then graduated to the college kid Petry and the thought that he needed some seasoning.

I found the conversation interesting for several reasons. First the players brought in to provide increased quality (Andy Sutton and Cam Barker) and depth are not clear ‘top 4D’ options who possess a wide range of skill:

  1. Petry isn’t really a young prospect. He’s 23 years old, 226 days younger than Taylor Chorney. That’s a wide margin at 18, not so much at 23.
  2. Petry’s AHL experience has been superior to Chorney’s. Petry in the AHL (49, 7-20-27 -16) is better than Chorney (146, 12-38-48 -50), at least offensively.
  3. Petry’s NHL experience has also been superior. Petry: 35 1-4-5 -12. Chorney: 56, 1-6-7 -30.

Now we don’t have toughness of minutes numbers for their AHL careers but there is some evidence that Petry had more success in the NHL this past season:

  • Petry: +2 CorsiRel; +1.4% Zone Start/Finish; 5th toughest competition
  • Chorney: -13.5 CorsiRel; -0.2% Zone Start/Finish; 6th toughest competition

I don’t think there’s any reasonable argument (beyond the Oilers being well established worry warts) that makes sense in choosing Chorney over Petry at the NHL level. No disrespect meant to Mr. Stauffer or Mr. Rishaug, they are reporting what they know and it jives with Tom Renney’s comments above.

But it doesn’t make sense. Taylor Chorney–unlike Theo Peckham and his battle with Shawn Belle and others a year ago (Belle outplayed Teddy Peckman)–is extremely unlikely to win the day. Petry’s range of skills, NHL success and the fact that he’s a RH option make him the better bet.

Chorney’s best chance to remain on the roster then isn’t Petry’s demotion, but rather injury to another defender.

Putting the Boots to the Competition

After that, I think there’s enough doubt about the rest of the blueline that we can start to move Petry up the depth chart in some of the defensive disciplines. Let’s look at how NHL coaches used these men in 10-11:

  1. Ryan Whitney 18:19
  2. Tom Gilbert 18:09
  3. Jeff Petry 16:54
  4. Ladislav Smid 16:50
  5. Theo Peckham 15:58
  6. Cam Barker 14:10 (6th on Wild D)
  7. Andy Sutton 12:16 (8th on Ducks D)

Both new hires (in italics) were third pairing options for their previous teams (although there was a lot of sway on both rosters). A guess would be that Barker will get a push at EVs, possibly playing with Whitney on the top pairing or teaming up with Tom Gilbert on the 2 pairing. Sutton would appear to be mentor, enforcer and designated sixth man most nights. In all cases, Petry would seem to be the first fallback option, either with Whitney or Smid. The fact that he’s a right hander offers the club more options and drives Chorney down the depth chart.


  1. Ryan Whitney 4:19
  2. Tom Gilbert 2:59
  3. Jeff Petry 2:11
  4. Cam Barker 1:22 (4th on Wild D)
  5. Ladislav Smid 0:45
  6. Theo Peckham 0:06
  7. Andy Sutton 0:05 (7th on Ducks D)
Barker should more than double his PP minutes based on what the Oilers are saying about him. It’ll be interesting to see how they use Gilbert this season on the PP; I felt he should play more a year ago, but a lot of minutes went to Kurtis Foster. I think Gilbert could help, but Barker is going to get the push. Petry once again remains an option.
  1. Tom Gilbert 3:21
  2. Ryan Whitney 2:42
  3. Ladislav Smid 2:40
  4. Theo Peckham 2:31
  5. Andy Sutton 2:23 (4th on Ducks D)
  6. Jeff Petry 1:16
  7. Cam Barker 0:50 (7th on Wild D)

Sutton should be able to help, although his mobility is a concern. Barker has played some heavier minutes on the PK in the NHL and I think Petry is also a player who can contribute.


The argument these numbers make is that Petry is a solid 20 minute option for coach Renney based on last season’s roster and in order for us to believe that Petry is OKC bound we have to convince ourselves that Barker, Sutton and Chorney are able to block him.

I don’t see that happening. Jeff Petry should win a top 4 role on the 11-12 Edmonton Oilers based on the roster as it now stands. We can argue about the wisdom of such a move, but the evidence available points in this direction. Maybe not opening night, and maybe Cam Barker surprises with his ability to handle big EV minutes, but the back story suggests Petry is the smart bet in the group.

  • bigrroberto

    Last season seemed like the perfect “feet wet” season for Petry. He was fortunate enough to come into an unfortunate situation. He got prime minutes and was put into all sorts of situations. The fortunate part for him is he was given the opportunity to make mistakes. More often then not he played quite well, and by seasons end he was playing with confidence. I think he’s a lock to start and I can see him being this year’s Eberle, a pleasant surprise.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    When Chorney 1st started playin with the Oil i thought maybe he would be a poorman’s Vishnovsky, but after watching him the last couple season’s and with the emergance of Petry I think if ST put him in a package(without Gagner in the package) to get another top2-4 dman it wouldnt hurt my feelings to see Chorney get a fresh start somewhere else.
    He’s gunna have to have 1 hell of a TC to land a spot on the roster even with his 1 way contract IMO

    would Chorney, another d prospect(marincin?) and a 2nd land Bogosian?

  • bigrroberto

    Petry > Chorney for sure. One thing I predict to go along with this is that you will see Petry become clearly the 2nd best defensemen on this team by the end of the season (just behind Whitney). He’s a very well rounded player.

    • a lg dubl dubl

      Yea Id like to see what Marincin has to offer too but he was the 1st prospect to come to mind when i said that i should have said the Oilers are gunna have to include a dman prospect like Marincin with Chorney to get a guy like Bogosian.

      EDIT I would also hate to see the Oilers lose Chorney via waivers he still is a valuable trade chip

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Can’t believe how much rope these kids get. To be nearly 24 and not yet an established NHL player, are NHL clubs expected to wait close to a decade and see if these kids pan out?

    At 20 yrs old they should be all thrown in the deep end and see whom can swim and whom become fireman and cops. There’s too many teams in todays NHL and not enough talent to go around. If you need more than one yr in the AHL, you’re probably not a player to begin with….hope is a fools game.

    • French Toast Mafia

      More then one year in the AHL and they are done? Your usually a Debbie downer QB but this is an all time low. Check out some of the better D men in the NHL and the age they started to become everyday Dmen. Boyle- 24, Keith-22, Yandle-22, Giordano- 24, Lidstrom-21, Whitney- 22. Guys take time to develop. Not everyone can jump in and play everyday at 20. If hope is a fools game does this mean you would have thrown all of these guys to the wolves at 20 and if they didn’t make it well then ship em off?? Those are 6 pretty good Dmen that weren’t everyday players at 20.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Back to back dead last place finishes will do that to some of the fanbase. Jeff Petry has as much a chance of being out of hockey in 3 yrs than he does being a legitimate NHL d’man. In Edmonton, he’s the next coming of Gary Lariviere. The Oilers are so busy waisting their time on kids who may eventaully develope into a 4-6 d’men.

        Just tired of the B level guys Edmonton is trying to pass off as legitimate NHL talent, or maybe i’m one step closer to not caring anymore.

  • I’m of two minds with Petry. I’d like to see deeper defensive depth within the Oilers organization, either so Petry could play on the 3rd pair or start the season playing big minutes in the AHL, and if he plays well, come up when injuries hit.

    OTOH, my personal belief is that it’s (probably) generally best to move a player up a league as soon as they can handle it, all else equal*. so it’s not that I don’t think Petry could handle 14 minutes a night on the 3rd pair, but more an issue of what is better for him long term? A sheltered 14 min a night at the NHL level, or 25+ in all situations in the AHL?

    The same is true with Lander, but in my opinion the development argument is more important for Lander because he simply won’t get the ice time in EDM. With Lander, even if he plays well enough at camp to handle the 4th line C spot, I think it makes more sense to demote him to the AHL to play 3+ min per night on the PP and PK, along with 14 min ES, as opposed to 7 minutes of ES time and 1 minute of PK at the NHL level.

    However, with Petry, if he’s going to get 20 minutes a game in EDM anyways, and can handle it, I don’t think there’s much reason to demote him if he’s one of your better options, even though you’re not entirely sure how he will handle it.

    * All else isn’t equal, of course, and thus the CBA and developmental arguments for demoting Hall, Paajarvi, and RNH.

  • Horcsky

    A lanky d-man with a range of skills, who is silky smooth moving the puck, but isn’t physical? Sounds like Tom Gilbert v2.0.

    Now if we could just find one more Tom Gilbert to round out the top 4, we might actually have ourselves a real defensive corps!

  • WHA Oilers Fan

    Given the size and physicality of our centers, when the coach screams for the front of our net to be cleared, if both Gilbert and Petry are playing 20+ minutes in our top 4, I don’t like our chances.

  • horndog77

    If the oilers management could somehow trade Chorney and Plante plus a pick or maybe a foward to a team for a top four defenceman would be perfect not only would they get better defenseman but it would free up room for others.

  • Petry’s old enough, and his professional debut was better than anything Taylor Chorney’s ever done.

    Gregor floated the idea a few weeks back that Petry might be the #8 guy on the depth chart, but only so that he could play #1 minutes in the AHL and then if called up get regular NHL minutes (at least, that’s what I think Jason was floating; it’s always hard to tell with Twitter). There is some merit to that but I don’t think the Oilers defense corps is good enough to justify not including Petry.

    • I wouldn’t be against giving Chorney a last chance at bat. If he falters, waive him and bring up Petry. I don’t think top AHL minutes would hurt Petry for the first bit of the season, it may even be better for his development.

  • Eulers

    LT, I really like Petry, but I think he should start the season in OKC. You really swayed me that the Oil should grab another actual defencemen like Scott Hannan.

    If the last few years have taught me anything it is that we can count on at least one defencemen (and forward!) being injured at any given point in time. So, Petry will likely get called up most of the time if he does go to OKC. However, if he’s starting in the NHL, I just don’t see the depth down in OKC for a call up that can handle the big minutes required on the thin blue line.

  • CanaDave

    I think that Petry and Chorney are competing for the same spot on the roster in training camp this season. If Petry clearly beats out Chorney then he deserves to be on the opening night roster but if it’s close then I think the Oilers will take advantage of Petry being able to go to OKC without having to clear waivers.

    Maybe if Chorney clears waivers and starts the season in OKC it gives him the kick in the butt for motivation to take his game to the next level. Or else he proves that doesn’t have another level to his game and the Oilers can wish him well on his future endeavors in Europe.

    This has to be the last season where fans are asking so many questions about so many of the players on the roster. It’s time for answers and I look forward to watching the team and getting them.

  • Eulers

    Really, if Chorney has to clear waivers who is going to claim him? If he’s getting cut from our powder blue, it’s hard to see another team picking him up. Seems to me that everyone cleared wavers last year.

  • French Toast Mafia

    Definitely agree with Eulers. We need to sign or trade for another veteran defenceman, both to provide for a stable, more reliable presence in the top 4 as well as to mentor the young guys like Peckham and Petry. If not Hannan, then maybe someone cheaper, like Rivet or Sopel? As long as its someone more reliable (in their own end) than McCabe or Campoli. A one-year deal wouldn’t hurt, unless ST is looking to deliberately tank ANOTHER season, but this team has to get used to winning some games and tanking just makes mediocre play seem acceptable to young players (see Gagner and Cogliano).

    As for Chorney, I have no idea why he’s on a one-way contract. Nothing in his measurables or in his play in the juniors, minors or NHL has indicated that he will be anything more than a bubble player / 8th/9th dman on any team’s depth chart. If he’s claimed on waivers then I can only see that as a good thing; it means more ice-time for better prospects in OKC.

  • With Petry having such nice rounded skills and with any growth in his game a solid top 4 D why are the oilers trying to move him and why did the other team want nothing to do with him? ( twitter rumours of trade with the Jets for Bog )

  • @ Wes Mantooth

    That’s his skillset. If they are developing him to be a 5-6 guy they shouldnt bother. We can argue if hes capable but to my eye it would be like trying to develop omark to be a third or fourth line winger.

    • That is what I’m getting at Beaker, the Oilers have 3 or 4 players with the same skill set.
      Petry,Chorney,Tuebert,Smid,Barker,Sutton. it becomes a huge long jam. The team has to many like players on defense and the Oilers should be looking for a legit top 4 right handed defense man, a trade would seem logical given the current defense roster and I don’t see a legit top 4 in the group right now.

      • I never said a trade wouldn’t be warranted. Develop doesn’t mean they have to be there tomorrow.

        I do think Petry will be a second pairing guy in his career. I’m curious as to what you define his skillset to be because as far as I can tell the list of names you’ve given here for the most part are all very different players. Petry and Sutton are really nothing alike. Just like Chorney and Tuebert aren’t really alike as far as I can see.

  • These are top 4 pairings in the league from playoff teams, can you see Petry, Chorney,or Teubert replacing anyone of those players?

    Do you need 3 of the same player? No.

    LAK-Doughty, Johnson, Mitchell,Greene






    I realize Kaberla is no longer a Bruin but he was part of there top 4 pairing

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Ya, theirs alot more teams then that in the PO, McDonagh is a good prospect but hasn’t really done anything.

      He’ll be a different type of player but I don’t think it’s unresonable to see him in the came class as guys like Greene, Boychuk, Leddy, Hamrlik, Salo, Mitchell (last three of today, not in their prime).

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I couldn’t agree more about Petry being a top 4 guy. He was the most reliable d-man in most of the games he played last season. Aside from the odd badly timed cross ice pass out of the zone (which happened maybe 3 times), it is pretty obvious that he is going to be a top 2 guy very soon.

    The fact that he is a bit older than other rookies isn’t a huge issue. He has been playing high quality hockey for a long time. Aside from Doughty and Myers, which other teenage D-man have broken into the NHL. D take longer to develope and its such a wildcard as to which ones really work out, case&point…..Cam Barker.