Wondering (the Blue)

It’s been an outstanding 12 months for Theo Peckham. He scored an opening night assignment on the big club and played a more prominent role than expected during 10-11, and then cashed in as an rfa with a raise that nearly doubled his salary. What can Peckham’s season–training camp through this past week and his contract–tell us about this fall’s battle along the blue? A lot.  

When it came to cutdown time last fall, Theo Peckham was not an obvious choice to make the Oilers. He was in tough against the usual competition, but what made a difference for him was the fact that Peckham had to be placed on waivers in order to be sent down.

Early in the season, the Oilers were running Peckham heavily at even strength. After 4 games, here was the EV playing time for the top 6:

EVEN STRENGTH PLAYING TIME, GAMES 1-4

  1. Ryan Whitney 69
  2. Tom Gilbert 65
  3. Theo Peckham 60
  4. Ladislav Smid 60
  5. Kurtis Foster 57
  6. Jim Vandermeer 56

Pretty even by any metric, but that alone is fairly damning of Kurtis Foster even this early in the season. The kid Peckham is getting more playing time at even strength, and it would continue. And after 4 games, Peckham was struggling at even strength (as one would expect from a rookie player tougher than expected minutes). Here are Dennis King’s even strength for and against scoring chances for the group through 4 games:

DENNIS KING SCORING CHANCES

  1. Tom Gilbert 24-15 (.615)
  2. Ladislav Smid 18-13 (.581)
  3. Ryan Whitney 18-22 (.450)
  4. Theo Peckham 13-21 (.382)
  5. Jim Vandermeer 13-22 (.371)
  6. Kurtis Foster 12-21 (.364)

Peckham is struggling (as we should expect) but veterans Vandermeer and Foster are struggling more. Through the entire season, Peckham continued to play tougher minues than some of the veterans despite a final Corsi number that trailed the group.

Looking at the final stats, Peckham played more even strength minutes than both Vandermeer and Foster, Desjardins behind the net tells us his Qual Comp was second behind Tom Gilbert for the year. Here, let’s break that out:

10-11 QUAL COMP, OILERS BLUE (5×5)

  1. Tom Gilbert .044
  2. Theo Peckham .023
  3. Ryan Whitney .016
  4. Ladislav Smid .005
  5. Jeff Petry -.033
  6. James Vandermeer -.047
  7. Jason Strudwick -.080
  8. Kurtis Foster -.080

10-11 CORSI REL, OILERS BLUE (5×5)

  1. Tom Gilbert 6.0
  2. James Vandermeer 4.9
  3. Ladislav Smid 2.3
  4. Kurtis Foster 2.0
  5. Jeff Petry 2.0
  6. Ryan Whitney 0.6
  7. Theo Peckham -6.6
  8. Jason Strudwick -17.5

7 CONLUSIONS WE CAN REACH

  1. Don’t let anyone tell you Tom Gilbert is a poor even strength defenseman. Toughest competition, fine Corsi Rel for this team and miles ahead of Ryan Whitney. Sometimes luck screws over the facts and leaves them in a ditch. This is the story of Gilbert’s -14. He sawed off the toughs and sent the puck in the right direction but the results were poor. No matter, if he does this again (and he’s a very good bet to do it) everyone will be raving about him this time next year.
  2. Theo Peckham survived a tough season. He should not have been moved up the depth chart, but the absence of alternatives clears the mind. When we look back on his first full season, let’s remember that he played some tough hombres when more veteran alternatives were available. It will be interesting to see how coach Renney uses him in 11-12.
  3. Ryan Whitney had a fine season (well, half-season) but the club is not without quality elsewhere. The worry for Whitney is that the club needs his skills for more games in 11-12. If he can duplicate this season–and I don’t mean posting points like he did, that’s too much to expect–and play over 70 games the Oilers blue should be much better.
  4. Ladislav Smid played in the top 4 quite a bit and had some good results. Injuries are a worry because he doesn’t have what you might call typical survival instincts, and offense is a distant bell. However, he has shown improvement and may be able to help in a support role.
  5. Jeff Petry should be able to push Taylor Chorney out of the way with little effort. Bob Stauffer was talking today on Oilers Lunch about a battle for an NHL spot between Petry, Chorney and new hire Corey Potter. I don’t see it, even if Chorney needs to clear waivers and Petry doesn’t. The overwhelming evidence has Petry as being the much better player. Overwhelming.
  6. James Vandermeer, Jason Strudwick and Kurtis Foster are gone for a reason: they weren’t good enough, and that is made obvious by Theo Peckham’s spot on the Qual Comp list.
  7. Steve Tambellini can do his NHL team a huge favor by adding an actual NHL defenseman. Not a reclamation project and not an older hire who can mentor the third pairing, but a guy in the heart of his career with mobility and ability.
    • Lowetide

      I’ve seen no evidence of it. I don’t follow Minny and Chicago like I do the Oilers, but a quick glance at behind the net on July 1 suggested to me that he was used in a depth role (third pairing) and then feature on the PP.

      Coach Renney might feel that Barker can play top pairing minutes, but he felt the same about Kurtis Foster based on his opening night lineup.

      We’ll see.

    • In Chicago when he had that great season, Barker had a lot of PP minutes/game (2nd for D behind Campbell) but really didn’t have a lot of even strength TOI/G (6th amongst d-men). He also barely had any SH TOI/G too.

      Soooo, I’d guess that he got a lot of the “cherry” minutes.

      Will be interesting to see how he handles things here.

    • fuck off

      Tommy G isn’t soft; he’s a buttery rubber IRONman amoung NHL defensemen! Blocks shots, greases his way out of checks, distributes the puck like a good communist and almost never gets hurt. Damn good defender even if he lays maybe 20 hits a year!

      • seto gooch gooch

        If by “greases his way out of checks” you mean gets bullied off the puck down low, I completely agree with you. His one saving grace is his ability to block shots which I understand is very important, but if he’s going to be logging 1800+ minutes per season(which are Lidstrom, Keith and Chara numbers) you have to play wayyyy more consistent and effective then he has.

        • fuck off

          Consider this; he has been playing 1800 minutes ever since he was a rookie with one of the worst teams in the league for the past 5 years. Faulting him for his consistency might be a legitimate argument but who has he had to learn from? Souray?? lol

          Now he is finally entering his prime(28y/o), on a team that is finally going to be considered competitive, where he won’t have an overwhelming work load and all you can say is “he’s too soft” “[ship him out of town]” because we have how many better defensemn??! One, Whitney.

          MAYBE if Tambo had managed to wrangle Kaberle the team could afford to trade him. But he sure didn’t and they sure beyound anything else can not afford to loose Gilbert. What’s even better is that (given his track record) he won’t be lost to injury.

          But of course, it’d be better to see him go so we can have a crack at Yakupov since we don’t have enough #1 overall pics.

        • justDOit

          Gilbert has been forced to play up one pairing too early in his career, with too many minutes most nights (IMO), and on the worst team in hockey.

          But even so, his stats are good, he blocks a ton of shots and has a good amount of skill with the puck.

          While we’re comparing him to Lidstrom, Keith and Chara, why don’t we compare him to Orr, Robinson and Coffey as well? Yeah, he REALLY sucks now!

          • Lowetide

            Perhaps if there was some “math” that involved coughing up the puck to avoid a hit/multiplied by GVA, we could get an accurate assessment of Gilbert.

            Alas, we’ll have to suffice with the current “math” which suggests Gilbert is a league leader in GVA although he is proficient at having pucks heading to the net after said GVA hitting him in the nether regions or glancing off his “active stick”.

            But that would involve “seeing him good” which apparently is verboten.

          • dawgbone98

            Are you suggesting Gilbert gives away the puck more often (factoring in ice time and arena bias) than other defencemen who lead their team in minutes played?

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Yes I am.

            The three top giveaway artists in the NHL among defensemen were 1)Schenn 2) Beauchemin and 3)Gilbert.

            Your “arena bias” is poppycock since it will largely be smoothed over a full season and you can’t quantify it in any case.

            Gilbert was 17th in TOI/G among defensemen.

            Gilbert was tagged with 87 giveaways last season.

            Jack Johnson, for example, a player who is not renowned for his defensive prowess, was tagged with 59.

            Difference in icetime about 1 minute/game.

  • fuck off

    @ LT

    I was pondering this earlier after I read an article from the Journal that mentioned Chorney’s waiver necessity also. The question is:
    What would be the fair value return on a package of Cogs and Chorney?

    • Lowetide

      I think Cogliano is worth a solid 2nd rd pick and Chorney doesn’t have a lot of trade value. Not trying to be a jerk, but he was drafted in a perfect storm when NHL teams felt all of their defensemen would be fast puck movers. Chorney isn’t a big player, and there are other puck movers ahead of him.

      I’ll say a 4th rd pick.

        • Lowetide

          Oh, hell yes. Boston got Corvo for a 4th rder today. A 2nd rd pick is a very valuable pick. I think the Oilers could get a nice player for Cogliano.

          Certainly he’d be a large part of a payment for a #4D, especially if the salary/cap hit was high.

  • Since the Chorn-dog is waiver elegible, I wonder if the Oilers have been shopping him. I liked what I saw from him last year in his extremely short stint here.

    Petry looks really good too, and I’ve been pumping his tires like Luongo since we drafted him. However, I don’t want to really risk losing an asset for nothing. From what I saw, Chorney was a much better player last year than he was before, and it was a real shame that he went down to injury. The signs of improvement were definitely there, and I don’t think Chorney is a throw-away just because Petry has looked better on in the early goings of his career.

    I think the time in OKC did a lot for Chorney’s confidence though, as he was playing quite well there and it looked to me like it continued on when he came up here (despite playing a lot with that dud Foster for most of the evens here).

    Given our track record of injuries, Petry should be up here in no time anyways. Just my 2 cents… would hate for someone to come along and scoop up a player for free that could work out.

  • BTW, the one big consideration though for why I WANT Petry here is because he is a RHD. But yah, still not crazy about potentially losing a D via waivers (in Chorney).

    Anyways, I like the talk of moving some assets for a D. Another righty would definitely be what I’d be hunting around for.

    • Lowetide

      No, but you’d have to think he was a player of interest. I think I heard Ryan Rishaug say the other day that the Oilers had a list of centers they wanted and it started with Brooks Laich and then went Eric Belanger and they didn’t need to look any deeper.

      Konopka might have been the next guy on the list, you never know.

    • justDOit

      Treenasoil states that the report on Konopka is that he isn’t good with young players – whatever that means. Maybe he treats them as veterans used to, back in the day – as competitors for the same job.

  • fuck off

    @justDOit
    I’m sure Konopka is much worse the hockey player than dressing room player. There’s way more information on him being a good dressing room guy than there is on him being anything more than a FO specialist and fighter.

  • Shaun Doe

    Before you do anything crazy like this article on the defence again LT, you should prep the audience with a prior article suggestion that Tom Gilbert is not, in fact, the worst defenceman in the world.

    Oilers fans are still wrapping their heads around the idea that you can be an effective hockey player even if you don’t smash faces into boards on a daily basis or score 100+ points in a season.

  • justDOit

    Scott Hannan – the guy is a UFA, is still unsigned and played top 4 minutes last year. His scouting report reads that he plays a tight defensive game and can lay the body well with his frame. He’s my vote. If you could do Cogs and a 2nd *or something, for a top 4 younger D, then do it. But Hannan is there for the taking.

  • BArmstrong

    I say this completely without exaggeration:

    Say we had Pavel Datsyuk. Imagine that he developed as well with us as he did with Detroit. Except, that unlike with Detroit, he didn’t have the supporting cast, or the luck, or the coaching, and never won the Cup. Maybe we made Game 7 in ’06, maybe not, doesn’t matter.

    A significant and loud group of Oilers fans would HATE him. Hate him for not hitting, hate him for not going into corners and winning board battles, hate him for not scoring 40 goals and 110 points.

    “Sure, he scores a bit, but he’s soft.”

    “He’s too small to be a #1C, he’s a second liner at best.”

    “An under-sized Joe Thornton. Assists galore in the regular season, disappears in the big show.”

    “He’d never get 90 points if Smytty wasn’t popping in ugly goals left and right.”

    Those would be the comments we’d hear about Pavel Datsyuk, Edmonton Oiler. Arguably the greatest centre of the latter 2000s when you consider the complete game he delivers on both ends, and I am absolutely certain that we’d have a sizeable minority if not outright majority who’d ship him out for Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, or Heatley, because they’re all bigger and thus, more “physical”.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Nicely done!

      I always laugh when people say the Oilers have one of the smartest fan bases, if that were the case I’d hate to see what the dumbest fan bases have to say.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I take issue with that statement. Mostly due to the fact that Datsyuk does go to the tough areas of the ice consistently. Think Ales Hemsky with significantly more hockey IQ. His ability to roll off checks and his great balance help him take possession of the puck in the corner battles.

      And to address the issue of the hypothetical theory of “what if Datsyuk was an Oiler” I’m sure he would have detractors , much like every single NHL player has in the league. People/Fans love to complain as much as they love to boast about their clubs. And no player is perfect, everyone has a weakness. But like every other public arena where anyone can voice their opinion there are going to be idiots. Doesn’t matter what town or team, there are always going to be people like madjam or eklund. San Jose has Marleau and Thorton and look at how many people complain about them, does that mean that San Jose boasts the biggest idiot fans in the league? Marleau and Thorton are great players and their accomplishments put them in a select group when you’re talking about this generation of players like Datsyuk, Ovechkin, Crosby, Kovalchuk, Nash, etc. etc.

      Heck I’m complaining to you now about how I have issue about your complaint. People complain, get over it.

  • shau_co

    Hey LT,

    I like your thought of Alzner, but I am wondering if it would be better to get someone a little more ready from Washington like Schultz.

    With Washington basically at the cap, do you think there is any chance they part with him?

    Thanks!

    • Lowetide

      Schultz concerns me a little because of his playoff performance. Otherwise, yeah. But Alzner is the player I’d like to get (or Carlson, but they’re not trading Carlson).

      • shau_co

        True enough about his playoff performance, but I guess one point to consider is that Schultz is only 3 months older than Petry so he still has lots of room to improve.

        However, he is another lefty (as is Alzner) and I would think the next D-man almost has to be a righty…

  • O.C.

    Grrr…

    I am no Peckham Fanboy but these King Dennis stats and Jim Corsi stats are !@#$%^ useless when they overlook the one key element that a guy like the Peck brings to the game…

    …being that he can cause wingers to pull up lest they shat their pants after a bone crushing hit.

    So until that measures into this, it’s only part of the picture.

    And as others have pointed out, if the G-man would get a little eau de Curt Brackenbury in his game *with googley eyes and all*, that would only help he and his teamies as well.

    Not having an edge in your D man game is no diff than playing a soft neutral zone – makes it easy for wingers to take passes and skate through transition.

    Edit: “Oh look, an edit button” (classic… and props to whoever said that!)

    • dawgbone98

      Umm… wouldn’t that be reflected in the scoring chances and corsi?

      If what you are saying is true and that Peckham literally puts the fear of God into anyone foolish enough to enter his domain, wouldn’t that bear out in his numbers?

      If people were scared to play the game with him on the ice, wouldn’t the scoring chances against him go down? Wouldn’t the shots against him go down?

  • Lowetide

    I think Petry still his 30 something games until his waiver eligiblility expires…so I could see him going up and down all year and sticking around xmas depending on the injury sitch

  • Hemmertime

    “Steve Tambellini can do his NHL team a huge favor by adding an actual NHL defenseman. Not a reclamation project and not an older hire who can mentor the third pairing, but a guy in the heart of his career with mobility and ability.”

    I think the same can be said for 27 other teams.

    • O.C.

      True. But there are decent deals that are missed.

      Now Toronto has a habit of overselling the talent of their players. I always thought McCabe was brutal, and he didn’t prove me wrong.

      Then Burkie kept saying to his fans that he couldn’t understand why teams weren’t offering the moon for Kaberle. In reality, he also knew that, but he had to appear dumbfounded, so that Leaf fans would not realize that they were fleeced again by Leaf Mgmt.

      Back to the point.

      Kaberle was a decent defemceman, certainly a number three, maybe even a two. He signed for three years at Gilbert salary w Carolina.

      A decent FA missed? Probably not a great use of cap room but, if a 2/3 is available on market for 4M a yr, maybe a 3/4 for 3M is a smart play.

  • shau_co

    You know what, the more I think on it they should just make a huge swing for Green…

    Washington probably needs to clear about 4 million in cap space to re-sign Brouwer and Alzner and we now have a lot of assets that could be moved in a package. But, I’m not sure if we would have the right ones for them.

    Plus Green is right-handed!

  • Shaun Doe

    Off topic but when do tickets go on sale for regular season games? I clicked on the tickets link on the schedule posted at the Oilers website and it gave me nothing. Any help would be great, thanks!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    @DSF

    I have no problem if people want to use subjective assessments of what they see a player do. There are several weak points to Tom Gilbert’s game, there are also several aspects which are top notch.

    Things he does well:
    – retrieval under pressure – if he is first into the corner with one or two forecheckers, he is one of the few oilers who can make that short pass off the wall to his center. unless you like watching oiler defencemen throw it up the wall “hoping” the winger can get it — this is an undervalued skill. watch how many times in a game that Gilbert will do this compared to the other oiler d.
    – blocking – whether he is achieving this accidentally or intentionally, doesn’t matter – he got in the way of the shot
    – sneak to the slot for a shot, he hasn’t done this nearly as much as in his first year, and it must be a coaching thing in their system that has prohibited this play

    Things he doesn’t do well:
    – break cycles – this is what fans see when they say “too soft” – he chases, but can’t get the puck back by stopping the forechecker, tries the stick retrieval instead
    – PP – way too passive, not strong enough stick to prevent aggressive PK forwards, not quick enough passing to force an aggressive PK to back off

    Makes him an above average defender at even strength, less effective on special teams. That’s a strong 2nd pair D by any definition.

    That ain’t math – but I believe its a fair assessment.

  • shau_co

    Isn’t Scott Hannan still available? Not a big point producer by any means but a very solid stay at home type guy with some skill. Im not saying the guy is the answer to all our problems but a guy like that certainly couldn’t hurt the development of some of the young guys, and if it was to a short-ish contract it couldn’t really hurt

    • O.C.

      never thought of that. That’s actually a good option. At 32 he’s still in the prime of his career. He ranked 3rd in ES ice time for a deep Capitals squad, trailing only Green and Carlson. Also he averaged about 2:22 mins/game on the PK so he would help in 2 much needed areas as the Oilers only really have two guys that could reliably fill PK mins and that’s Whitney and Gilbert. Smid did fill alot of PK mins too but he’s still a little weak on understanding how to recognize weak side coverage. Not as bad as he used to be in terms of puck watching and moving himself out of position, but there’s a reason the PK was last in the league and the defence definitely played a role in that.

      With 7.9M of cap space and only 1 more spot to fill he’s a viable option. Especially considering the Oilers still have to move out bodies.

  • shau_co

    I actually like the Gilbert – Smid pairing for our second unit.

    What we really need is a 1A or No. 2 defensman to play with Whitney.

    Then we could see Peckham and Barker as our 3rd pairing and Sutton as our No. 7.