Confessions of an Oiler Fan

My name is Lowetide and I haven’t thought about the Oilers trading for a defenseman in five minutes. (polite applause)

Since trading Chris Pronger (and allowing Jaro Spacek and others to leave without replacing them adequately) the Edmonton Oilers blue has been bluer than blue. Purple, maybe. As an Oiler fan, it’s like watching one giant experiment over many seasons. I know other teams have NHL defensemen, I see them all the time. But the Oilers keep moving out Vandermeers and shuffling in Suttons without ever really having a plan. I don’t recall the last time Edmonton acquired a quality NHL defemseman in his prime without also sending one away.

I think it is beginning to have an impact on me as a fan. I get all jittery when the opposition reaches center ice, and when said team gains the zone and possession my mind runs around in lock step with the Oiler defenders. Pell mell, that’s our blue.

What does the future hold? As always we look to the past. This 1979 preview of the Oilers defense offers us a clue about the current club’s future.

Over the hills added to fresh faced rookies with a giant dose of never weres.

There’s a good pairing here

True, the Oilers (when healthy) could cobble together a solid pairing from Ryan Whitney and Tom Gilbert. Also true that Ladislav Smid has improved over the last couple of seasons and could be considered an actual NHL defenseman at this time. Hell, I’ll even throw in Andy Sutton who blocks out the sun, blocks shots and blocks forward progress for opposition wingers.

After that, we’re developing at the NHL level while other teams are icing superior pairings. Theo Peckham is a horse and serves as an enforcer who can play the position. Still, as a young blue he’s in learning mode and could take a couple of years to reach Smid levels. Jeff Petry has stepped up this fall and gives us someone with a nice range of skills to look forward to watching for years to come.

Added to that is a long list of blue chippers, guys like Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin and others. These men will eventually emerge as useful NHL players and could be a big part of the cluster that begins winning playoff series toward the end of this decade.


I don’t love this defense even when it’s healthy. We don’t know how many puck movers or heart and soul men are coming through the system and we don’t know how many of them will be wasted on the way due to injury, ineffectiveness, etc. All we really know is that the Edmonton Oilers haven’t had a top flight defensive group in years and they are more than a Jason Smith away from being anything.


It means the forwards are miles ahead of the blue in this rebuild, and the prospects we’re going to see here in a few years will be ready to help a couple of years after Taylor Hall is getting paid in full. It means the plan is flawed, it means the Oilers are going to have to trade from strength to address weakness. 

I confess: I want the Oilers to made a trade for a defenseman today, and am terrified of the result if they do. The pro scouting department isn’t exactly Stu MacGregor-credible,  the last time the club made a big deal to acquire a quality NHL defenseman they sent a better one away and this is the exact time when other teams see the Oilers coming.

Getting 10 cents on the dollar for these fine forwards is not acceptable, but is very possible. Oiler fans are between a rock and a hard place this morning. It’s a big test for Steve Tambellini. Collecting assets is one thing, deciding on which ones to keep and which ones to cast away quite another.

In a very real way, this is opening day for Steve Tambellini as Oilers GM. Godpseed.

  • misfit

    I don’t think the forwards are ahead of the blue nearly as much as some tend to think.

    But, I do agree the potential of the young forward group two years from now looks much stronger than the potential of the young D group two years from now.

    The real issue with the D going forward is that, even of the guys you like, nearly all of them are UFA’s in the next couple years. All of Whitney, Smid, Sutton, and Barker are UFA’s after the 2012/13 season or sooner, with Gilbert a UFA after 2013/14.

    Whitney may be a guy the team likes but doesn’t want on a long term commitment, nevermind the fact that he may not want to be here anyways.

    • Lowetide

      Oilers should be able to sign the ones they want, certainly Whitney is the only one I see being more expensive (possibly).

      The gap is larger I think because we know defensemen are injured more often and even if they do stay healthy enough to play their level of ability is often tarnished by injury.

      Don’t see a complete skill set close to being able to help beyond Petry, which is also a concern.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Why is Tams so adament about keeping teams defence at a less than adequate rate for past and current growth especially ? For some unknown reason he is almost despicably against it . He has had plenty of time to address it and don’t buy into any of his B.S yet excuses for failure to do so . Our clubs ready to go but he’s not . Simple get rid of him for someone that is before it’s to late . Maybe he can’t move us , but Oilers can certainly move him even if he remains buried in organization like Quinn, etc..

  • misfit

    I still don’t get the fascination with Carle. I wouldn’t want to give real assets and/or money for a player who needs Chris Pronger to look like he belongs in an NHL top 4.

    Petry should’ve been on the team already, and apparently Whitney is expected back for, or shortly after, the season opener. So really, we’re looking at finding a stopgap replacement for Smid. A guy like Shaone Morrisonn has already been waived once, and would be a more than adequate replacement until Smid gets back.

    Of course, our defense needed improvements before hand, but, like others have said already in this comment section, those kinds of deals just aren’t there to be made this time of year, and if Tambellini had any intention of upgrading the D in that way, he would’ve done it before camp.

  • Douche Nietzsche

    You know the Oil looked pretty good last night, despite a few extended Head Up A$$ shifts.

    If we call Gagner and Kesler both missing a wash. Hemsky is a much bigger hole than Raymond, and we’re still down Whitney and Smid and had Khabeeb smoking the pipes rather than Doobie in net.

    We lacked a little finish last night, could’ve scored more ourselves and by no means were we blown out.

    They competed with a team that 4 months ago was one game from being Stanley Cup champions. If that game was representative of what we can expect this year, and its moments of mediocrity sure mean it might be, then we should be able to compete in most games this year.

    If the special teams can get turned around, the D stay healthy, I think there’s every chance we’ll compete for the playoffs.

    The D staying healthy is a big IF. This team needed a top notch RHD, but couldn’t offer what it took to get Burns or Franson or allegedly Bogosian. I would have been happy with some Whitney insurance, as it seems pretty clear that Barker is not that guy. He’s got talents but in the same way that a three legged dog has talents–they’re mitigated by its lack of mobility. But alas, no Whitney insurance either.

    Special teams… Well the PK looks like it is going to better. But last time we had a good PP, Doug Weight was still learning to shave. So another huge If. Hopefully Nuge, Hall and Ebs can get the PP turned around, but the Oil have always seemed to be able to negate all manner of talent with the man advantage.

  • John Chambers

    @ OB1 – Team Hall

    Hey, I agree that a move needs to be made. But clarify for me what move we should’ve made for a D-man, and where we missed an opportunity?

    We didn’t have anyone of James Neal’s calibre to obtain Goligoski. Take on Kotalik’s salary to get Regehr? No thanks. Pay a ransom for a decade of Christian Ehrhoff? Or maybe we should’ve traded a 30-goal scorer like Grabner to have Keith Ballard become our 6th defenseman.

    There are opportunities out there – I’m just glad that while we’re re-building we haven’t been so impatient to force a move on D that would actually set us back in the long term.

    • John Chambers

      Impatient ? You don’t think sitting status quo over that time hasn’t hurt us enough , or the worst equivalent of the two ? We are not bubbling with much to begin with, and arguably the worst when you consider most of them have injury issues a plenty to begin with . Our 2-4th best projects are still aways yet in Teubert , Musil, Klefbom and Marincin . Conventional wisdom of buiding from backend and center obviosly is not and does not sit well with Oiler management for some unexplained reason ?

  • mick swagger

    This team is ready to compete for the playoffs, the management isn’t.

    How hard is it to set up the D core to allow for the promotion of the prospects as they push guys off the roster and be reasonably competitive at the same time? Another LD better than Smid, a RD at least at Gilbert’s level and we’re there, decent enough to compete. Let Peckham or Smid and Petry play thirds. To see the playoffs we don’t need Webber. To win the Cup perhaps. We just need guys better than Sutton etc. at his age now.

    It’s not brain surgery. I think it is important to allow the forwards to have mountains to climb soon and gain the experience they are going to need when they can contend. I’d rather have more years with a real chance than watching them learn playoff lessons in years they may have had a chance to push but hadn’t been there enough times yet.

  • Douche Nietzsche

    There is no light at the end of the tunnel of this rebuild road Oilers fans are being taken on.

    These poor kids/prospects are being used more to build an arena than they are to build a championship contender.

  • book¡e

    I think too many of you are buying into the ‘This year we are targeting the playoffs’ line. The playoffs are not the plan, 23rd through 26th is the goal. The GM can talk about how much the team improved while getting one more good pick in a deep draft. The forwards will put on an exciting show while defence and maybe goaltending ensure the team loses enough to get a good draft pick.

    Steve Tambellini is not going to ‘fix’ the defence because that might mean that the Oilers don’t get their good draft pick. Instead he will pick up someone who is a borderline AHL/NHL player and someone who is an AHL depth player to help out the AHL club.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Brule is 1 of the latest cuts sent to OKC kinda interesting IMO. He didnt play great and Lander out played him in pre-season but I thought for sure Brule would have been traded instead, especially after all the Dman injuries.

    *goes back to being an NHL12 gm*

  • mick swagger

    Lt. The oilers put brule on waivers and harki is going to the farm this all but guarantees RNH stays but does this mean that there is a real chance for lander to make it to? Or petrell?

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ John Chambers. I’m thinking if Hannan signed in Calgary for a million, Edmonton for 2 rears at 1.75 per would have looked good. We could have cashed in on the Hawks fire sale from last year or when a guy like Mesaroz gets moved for a second. Or we could just continue to make excuses.

    • Little Buttcheeks

      Steve will begin jamming his fingers in the holes in the dyke this year once he knows where we will settle in the standings.

      I imagine this start to the year couldn’t have been better – no waiting to see if the usual suspects can get hurt. They have, and will. When Whitney gets wonky around Christmas, Hemsky gets too sore, Gagner restrains his ankle, Horcoff’s leg or arm falls off, Smid gets a concussion, Peckham gets hurt trying to annihilate someone, Dubnyk gets a strain, OKC gets depleted, ya, we’ll Nail that draft pick.

  • Little Buttcheeks

    Teams aren’t usually willing to trade top 4 dmen at this point in this season. Unless something unexpected happens it will likely be sink or swim with the current D until around the trade deadline. Then, if we are somehow still in the hunt, maybe we can add a blueliner or something. I wouldn’t hold my breath for a Ryan Suter or anything though.

  • D


    I know it’s late in the comments thread, but I would like to throw something out there for the fans to consider. I believe the current state of the Oilers (stronger on offense, weaker on D) may be coming right from the owner. It is no secret that Katz is very much into the “80’s” Oilers – uniforms, professional relationship with the glory day players, etc. I also believe that Katz is also interested in recreating the offensive juggernaut, if not to the extent of years past, at least something similar to the Washington Capitals a few years back.

    What better way than to keep adding skilled forwards who know that the only way this team can win now with such a weak D is by scoring a lot of goals. If Hall, RNH, Eberle, MPS, Omark and the gang know that the Oil are going to allow 3 or 4 goals a night, then they know in order to win, they have to score 5. Additionally, there is no pressure to worry about being good defensively because the expectation is already set that this team will be poor on D.

    I bet Katz would rather have the Oil known as the team that can only win by offense rather than the balanced approached propounded by many others.

    • D

      Interesting take.

      I have a silly theory that maybe they are trying to force the young players to learn/respect the defensive side of the game. Weak D (all D really) need good forward support. You want to win in this league, you have to learn D zone play. Put Pronger, Lidstrom etc. behind these younglings and they won’t learn too too much.

      Renney somewhat alluded to this in a post-game (can’t recall who the forwards dressed were) when asked about the poor performance of the D and he wasted no time in talking about the forwards.

  • D

    Who do we move for a defenceman? And who do we get? Tough to say. I’m less concerned about goaltending this year, but how much rubber will our tenders face before they start to look like a horror show? We need not only a blue chipper on defence (Doughty-esque, Weber-esque, dare I say Pronger-esque) . . . we need some depth on the farm. Marincin et al are solid prospects, but not ready to jump in at the 34 game point and bring what’s needed.

    On another note . . . how are you doing Marbles??

    Great to see you here. HAHAHAHAHA!

  • Bucknuck

    As much as I hate to say it, you have to give up something to get something (unless you are getting Ryan Smyth, apparently).

    The Oilers had a ton of depth up front, and they needed to trade from that strength to get some depth on the blue line.

    But now is not the time.

    The question is, why are we discussing this now. Everyone on this forum knew that the D-Core was 1 or 2 men short of being adequate, particularly with Smid and Whitney being often injured. How come Tambellini couldn’t see it?

    I wonder, is the plan to have high entertainment value with the forwards being stellar but still losing thanks to a bad D and a Khabibulin between the pipes. Is that the plan? It kinda seems so.