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.
THEN WHAT ARE YOU COMPLAINING ABOUT?
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.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
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.