There’s little doubt the Edmonton Oilers are going to be looking for blueline help this summer. The club has enough assets–young NHLers, prospects and draft picks–to overpay for a legit impact defender. Is the shopping list a long one? Will any of these player types be available?
OH, THAT BACK END
Oiler fans know the club has some extreme needs on defense. Ryan Whitney’s injured and doesn’t look like he’s going to get better or quicker any time soon. Cam Barker has been a disappointment, Corey Potter started well but his effectiveness since returning from injury has been found wanting. Theo Peckham has struggled more than anyone.
That leaves Ladislav Smid, the trending Jeff Petry, new hire Nick Schultz and big man Andy Sutton to save the day.
That my friends is not enough. Over the next few weeks I’ll profile some of the players Edmonton may target this summer. I understand they may not be available–these players rarely are–but want to get an idea about what kind of talent pool may be out there when the trade market opens.
NO DAY AT THE BEACH
The available candidates have some things you’re not going to like. Some of them cost too much, others have injury histories that are cringe worthy and still others may not be as "high end" as Oiler fans would like to see incoming over the summer.
Note: For Leaf fans, I’m not suggesting Phaneuf is getting traded or that Brian Burke would even consider it. I’m suggesting Edmonton might be interested in the player.
CANDIDATE #1 DION PHANEUF
Dion Phaneuf is a very famous hockey player on a very famous team. I can hear howls from both Oiler and Leaf fans when reading his name as a possibilty, but there are reasons to believe he might be available over the summer. Toronto has not had success with Double Dion as their whammo captain and he doesn’t ka-bong like he used to. Moreover, Phaneuf takes home a mighty mighty paycheck every month ($6.5M times 2 after this season) and Toronto is paying a lot of money to their blue.
Let’s start by seeing how the Leafs use Double Dion:
- EV: 69, 3-15-18, 19:14 per game
- PP: 69, 6-15-21, 3:40 per game
- PK: 69, 0-1-1, 2:30 per game
Right away we see that this is a 25 minute a night defenseman and he plays in all three disciplines. Toronto boasts the 8th best PP and 29th ranked PK so there might be some question as to how much he’s helping 4×5.
At even strength, Phaneuf this season has performed well. The offensive numbers he’s delivering are well short of his contract, but he’s a more consistent defender and the numbers are good for a 9th place tie in the entire NHL. Edmonton’s current point leader from the backline has half the points (20) and is half as effective on the PP.
Phaneuf is having a good season by this metric, we see those big 5×5 minutes and a Corsi Rel in the black. This graph also shows us that the future of Toronto’s blue should be able to survive a Phaneuf trade–Liles, Gardiner, Gunnarson, Franson and Schenn should be the future. That’s a more cost effective group too, with Phaneuf’s contract down the line.
Komisarek and Gunnarson get the tough assignments and after that it’s pretty much random from what we see here. Ron Wilson certainly gave his 4 best offensive options the best chance to impact the game in a positive way with zone starts in enemy territory.
We see with Qual Comp the real pecking order for Ron Wilson. He put Phaneuf and Gunnarson out against the tough opposition and then rotated the soft parade among the rest. Interesting to see Komisarek getting soft minutes, tough zone starts and a terrible Corsi Rel–I’d be interested in seeing the quality of players he was out there with during those sorties.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
First, we wouldn’t have this conversation without Gabriel Desjardins and behind the net.ca but after that we get a look at a pretty nice NHL player. Is he worth the money? Well, I think we can agree not having one of these guys makes for a pretty crappy winter so I’d suggest we include him on the list and see how many we can find who are clearly better than Double Dion. Phaneuf has settled down defensively and his offense has returned to more historic levels–although he’s certainly not the PP monster of olden days.
I have no idea if Toronto would deal him, and whether Edmonton would have the assets to move in a blockbuster to bring the back man back to Alberta. We’ll deal with those issues after we identify the available talent pool.
Dion Phaunef must certainly a player of interest.