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.