Signing Andy Sutton

Ladislav Smid is one of the more valuable players on Edmonton’s blue line these days. It’s interesting to see how much coach Renney relies on him and the situations Smid gets the most work. It’s also interesting to see how much Andy Sutton plays during a game.

EVEN STRENGTH OILERS BLUE

The Oilers top pairing at evens this season is 5-77. Smid’s 17:04 at even strength is tied for 77th in the league, Gilbert is the leading Oiler in this category–59th in the NHL. This suggests that coach Renney likes to roll three pairings more often than some NHL coaches, or that he doesn’t have a dominant defenseman or pairing to run out there to play heavy minutes at even strength. In fact, the even strength time on ice is actually divided fairly democratically:

  1. Tom Gilbert 17:35
  2. Ladislav Smid 17:04
  3. Jeff Petry 16:41
  4. Cam Barker 16:34
  5. Corey Potter 16:21
  6. Ryan Whitney 15:41
  7. Andy Sutton 14:44
  8. Theo Peckham 13:48

We know that Ryan Whitney’s number would be greater if he were healthy, but it is interesting to see that in the wake of the Whitney injury Andy Sutton’s even strength time (14:44) is still bottom pairing–in fact, Jeff Petry and Corey Potter are top 4 defenders at even strength this season for Edmonton. What does this tell us?

If the Oilers plan to sign Andy Sutton AND add another veteran top 4 defender, the numbers don’t work. Too many defensemen, especially for the bottom pairing. If the Oilers plan on keeping Smid-Gilbert and Potter, plus the younger D in Peckham and Petry, then adding Sutton means someone is a #7 unless they believe Ryan Whitney will not return. What do I suspect? Tell you in a minute.

On the PP, coach Renney once again has been forced to ad lib without Whitney, but Corey Potter comes to the rescue.

  1. Corey Potter 3:14
  2. Cam Barker 3:06
  3. Tom Gilbert 2:27
  4. Ryan Whitney 2:23

Jeff Petry ranks well behind in 5th but I think his time on ice 5×4 may increase as the season rolls along. Barker was hired to help the PP but his injury meant that he was not a factor in the season’s first half. When he returns, I imagine his PP job will be waiting for him.

Heading into this evening’s game, Ladislav Smid was averagine 3:44 on the penalty-kill. That total ranks him 7th in the entire NHL for time-on-ice shorthanded, and his partner Tom Gilbert isn’t far behind (tied for 10th with Eric Brewer. Here are the shorthanded totals:

  1. Ladislav Smid 3:44
  2. Tom Gilbert 3:38
  3. Theo Peckham 2:47
  4. Jeff Petry 2:08
  5. Andy Sutton 2:06

As with his even strength minutes, Sutton contributes on a per-game basis but does not appear to be a "go-to" option and you’d have a difficult time proving Sutton is a vital part of the special teams based on his shorthanded play.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The Ryan Whitney injury left a void in all three disciplines. Coach Renney has chosen to use Corey Potter, Jeff Petry and (on the PK) Theo Peckham more than Andy Sutton. Some of this may have to do with majors in-game, injuries and suspension, but it would seem reasonable to suggest that if the Oilers are going to sign Andy Sutton for another season  (or two, Steve Tambellini likes giving long contracts to old guys) then it’ll be in a depth role similar to the one filled by Jason Strudwick in the past.

WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN?

I think we’re headed for a 3-for-1 trade similar to the Pronger deal although unlikely on that scale. Edmonton is going to have a lot of defensemen signed for 2012-13 if they choose to sign Sutton. I count Whitney, Smid, Gilbert, Potter with Peckham and Petry rfa’s. That’s 6, add Sutton and there’s a full deck.

The Oilers have some new pro’s coming in plus a guy like Tulupov who might get a pro contract. It seems reasonable to suggest that a deal is available that might send a defenseman and a pick or prospect away for a better option.