Breaking the Oilers Down By Age

The Edmonton Oilers are a team struggling to pull themselves out of the NHL basement. Management has committed to a long-term rebuild, and that means that many of the older players playing significant roles now – including the team’s (arguably) starting goaltender and their two big-minute forwards – probably won’t be when the team is eventually ready to contend for a playoff spot.

We spend a lot of time talking about the Oilers’ young core, but who are they, really? What does this team look like when we break them down by age? What I’ve done is divided the team’s current players by their age on July 1, 2012, the date the team can address some of their needs via unrestricted free agency. The purpose here is just to get a clearer look at how players fit into the Oilers’ age strata.

Age 23 and younger

  • 17/18: 2012 First Round Pick
  • 19: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
  • 20: Taylor Hall
  • 21: Magnus Paajarvi, Anton Lander
  • 22: Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Colten Teubert
  • 23: none

When people talk about the core group of the rebuilding Oilers, this is typically the set of players they have in mind. Nugent-Hopkins, Hall and Eberle are the trio the team should eventually be built around offensively, while the future is less clear for Magnus Paajarvi and Anton Lander.

It’s easy to forget how young Sam Gagner really is; he’s just nine months older than Jordan Eberle, despite the fact that he’s 300+ games into his NHL career.

Ages 24-29

  • 24: Jeff Petry
  • 25: Linus Omark, Theo Peckham
  • 26: Ladislav Smid, Devan Dubnyk, Cam Barker
  • 27: none
  • 28: Ales Hemsky, Ryan Jones, Corey Potter, Ben Eager, Lennart Petrell
  • 29: Tom Gilbert, Ryan Whitney

The players in this age range are still young enough to play significant minutes if the Oilers are going to compete for a playoff spot five years from now. Some of these guys don’t have particularly sure futures – it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to picture any of Omark, Peckham, Barker, Potter or Petrell outside the league five years from now. On the other hand, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to put most of those guys on a contending team in some role. Jeff Petry, while still full of rough edges, increasingly looks like a guy who will play a key role on the blue line going forward.

Among the older veterans in this group, the duo of Tom Gilbert and Ladislav Smid are probably the most important. Both players are young enough and good enough to play tough minutes on a weak blue line, and both should be regarded as essential elements in the rebuild, and untouchable unless replaced by someone who can play the same minutes.

Ales Hemsky and Ryan Whitney should be in the same group as Gilbert/Smid, but Hemsky’s frequently injured and appears likely to be traded before the deadline, while Whitney had significant injury problems prior to joining the Oilers – and it wasn’t long ago that he was saying that he could still play in the NHL even at “80 percent.”

Also in this group are useful role players Ryan Jones and Ben Eager, as well as Devan Dubnyk. Robin Brownlee wrote an article on Dubnyk not long ago, but this quote basically sums up my feelings on the player:

Is Devan Dubnyk the man for the job? I don’t know the answer to that, but if the Oilers don’t give Dubnyk every chance to address the question in their final 32 games, starting tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks, then they’re making a huge mistake in how they are building this team for the future – and that wouldn’t be a first.

Ages 30-35

  • 30: none
  • 31: Darcy Hordichuk
  • 32: none
  • 33: Shawn Horcoff
  • 34: Eric Belanger
  • 35: none

In a short-term turnaround – something that would see the Oilers contending for a playoff spot in the next two seasons – both Horcoff and Belanger will be under contract and likely playing significant minutes in certain situations.

Age 36 and older

  • 36: Ryan Smyth
  • 37: Andy Sutton
  • 38: none
  • 39: Nikolai Khabibulin

The return of Ryan Smyth was welcomed by many – including yours truly – but given his age it’s hard to imagine him playing a significant role in a prolonged rebuild; one would imagine his minutes are reduced and his role becomes more specialized over time. This is even more true for Andy Sutton, who is both a year older and a lesser player today. It’s very difficult to imagine Khabibulin playing an important role on a good Oilers team.

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      you are more than welcome to start your own blog and write articles that you deem to be informative to the masses.

      please post the link here, i would love to read it.

  • Beavis

    Was everyone commenting on here at a Super Bowl party and thus posting drunk? Weirdest bunch of random/off topic/non-sensical comments I’ve ever seen on here.

    • book¡e

      Canadians sometimes watch football, at other times we watch the ads, and sometimes we just watch ladybugs on walls. Its just what we do in the winter. I know that’s a strange thought about winter, but there is always time for thoughts about winter, but not when its February in Edmonton feeling like its late March. In like a lion and out like a lamb is what they say, but I don’t believe Hemsky’s body-language when it says that the Penner trade was fair trade. If it was, I say “Show me the Coffee!”, you know what I mean, just show me the fair trade coffee. That second cup I never have at home. That’s the one, that’s the one that will put Kevin Lowe and his six rings back in Mordor with the rest of his muppet gang where they belong!!

  • Roadhouse

    I hope to god that was a typo when you said “If the oilers are to compete for a playoff spot in 5 years”

    If that’s the plan I should kill myself now.

  • I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m pretty pumped that Ladi Smid is as good as he is at only 26. That’s nothing that’s absolutely extraordinary, but I think it’s an extremely big positive on a team with not too many immediate positives.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      And… that’s about the right age for a D to mature anyway. That’s why young D are so hard to figure out… they take so long to develop and it’s a huge gamble as to who will wake up into the roll and when…

      Smid is a godsend to the Oilers. He’s no Pronger, but considering the situation (and the other gems we got in that trade) he’s turned out very well for us…

      Smidster is everyday in my house!

  • Just another quick post illustrating my man-crush on Smid:

    Previous #5s who played for EDM in recent memory:
    – Alexi Semenov
    – Tom Poti
    – Greg deVries

    ……I think Smid is the favorite out of the lot, for me at least.

  • vetinari

    Hopefully some of the defencemen in the pipeline develop and become regulars on the roster in the next few years (Klefbom, Musil), otherwise, we’ll have this bubble of youth at forward and nobody to grow with them on defence or in goal.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      There was no Oilersnation radio last weekend. Time off for good behavior for LT.

      Could also be that or Mrs.Lowetide put a blue pill in his morning Lucky Charms. Those pills tend to motivate and get things done….around the house i mean.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      You forgot to use those ~ things!

      Are you serious about this? If so, that’s not the take away I got from your article.

      You say:

      Ales Hemsky and Ryan Whitney should be in the same group as Gilbert/Smid

      after saying:

      both should be regarded as essential elements in the rebuild, and untouchable unless replaced by someone who can play the same minutes.

      about Gilbert/Smid. Then you say:

      but Hemsky’s frequently injured and appears likely to be traded before the deadline

      which says nothing about age.

      If we look at the last several cup winners and contenders I bet we can find a few players over 35 making major contributions (you’re not going to make me look are you… you know they are there). In five years (your projection) Hemsky will only be 33, how is that “too old to help this team”?