ONE LUMP OR TWO?

We’ve been staring at the Oilers defense for what seems like decades. Six men who do the tough work every game, keeping themselves between the puck and their goalie. It’s a tough job in any sport, but hockey decided to make these poor men do it on skates and at lightning speed. How many "actual NHL players" do the Oilers have on D? How many more do they need in order to be average?

THE FOUNDATION

Edmonton has some nice things on the blue, and some are young enough to grow with the very good forward cluster that includes Hall, Eberle and the Nuge.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
  • Jeff Petry (age 24). Led all Oiler defenders in TOI per game in 11-12 (21:45) and one would think Petry could increase his minutes on the PP (1:16) and PK (2:29) next season. Right handed, played very well in all areas last season (and was effective) and should be considered a cornerstone for the blueline moving forward. Petry is RFA and should get a healthy raise, especially if the club plans on buying free agent years. Does $4M times 5 years sound reasonable for one of your 4 major pieces on defense?
  • Ladislav Smid (age 26). Played 20:54 a night this past season, his special teams strength is the PK (3:22) and Smid is now a quality veteran. I don’t think Oiler fans have much worry over this player aside from health. He is a UFA next summer but given the lack of depth at the position–and his relative youth–it’s probably safe to assume there will be a great deal of effort devoted to signing him.
  • Nick Schultz (age 29). Steady, reliable defender. He showed Oiler fans what calm feet can do during his late season showing after coming over from the Wild. 19:42 every night, and as with Smid he does strong PK work (2:25). Every successful team in NHL history has a couple of these guys, and coaching staffs love them for their consistent play. If he’s leading a rush he’s concussed. Schultz is a $3.5M cap hit and is signed through 2014 summer.

RYAN’S HOPE

When healthy, Ryan Whitney is easily the best defenseman on the club. Boasting a complete skill set, Whitney’s signature play is a stunning headman pass tape-to-tape on the fly. It’s gorgeous, beautiful, sublime. Whitney (age 29) has one more year at $4M remaining on his contract and played 20:57 when in the lineup in 11-12. His PK time (53 seconds) and PP time (2:15) were well back of normal for this player.

A key element of this team’s success in 12-13 rides on Ryan Whitney’s return to something resembling 100%. Jonathan Willis wrote a brilliant item on Whitney not long ago (it is here)

  • Willis: Whitney’s improved play late in the season provides reason for optimism that he can bounce back, at least to some extent, next season.  It would be best if the Oilers did not have to rely on him as heavily as they did one year ago, but it seems likely that he’ll be a better player next season than he was this year.

I think it’s reasonable to suggest that the Oilers would be wise to use Whitney in the third pairing to start the season and then move him  up the depth chart as he finds his way. If he can deliver at 80% the Oilers and the fanbase should be thrilled with Whitney. He’s a helluva player.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

THE REST

I thought Andy Sutton had a solid year in the 5-6 role and we can look forward to similar performance next season. After that, Theo Pechkam (rfa) will need to take a step forward and Corey Potter will also be in a battle for playing time despite coming off his best pro season. Minor leaguers Colten Teubert, Alex Plante and the recovering Taylor Fedun are also in the mix.

Which brings us to the question: one lump or two? If the Oilers decide to run a third pairing of Whitney-Sutton they’d need an addition for the top 4D to play with Smid, Petry and Schultz. I would like to see them bring in two defensemen this summer, but suspect it’ll be one NHL defenseman for the group. A second NHL calibre defender could arrive if Justin Schultz decides to sign in Edmonton. That should be considered something less than certain. 

THE RIGHT MIX

I make the same mistake every year: in discussing defensemen for next season, we only discuss the top 6 or 7. In fact, the Oilers are going to use a 10 or more defenders next year and that’s proven by history (it was a baker’s dozen a year ago) so we should be well aware of the names in OKC during the regular season.

I think the Oilers need to add a veteran for that top 4 role. Right handed, puck mover, he could play with Schultz until Whitney is playing at a level that allows him to be on the ice and effective for over 20 minutes a night. Justin Schultz is more of a third pairing option, certainly for the first year or two.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

That’s the challenge for Lowe, MacTavish and Tambellini. Two lumps, one a veteran and the other Justin Schultz or similar.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

I think there are three different discussions that always get caught under one subject line: defense. They are:

  • Acquiring an actual NHL defenseman.
  • Grabbing a quality defender in the draft.
  • Justin Schultz.

They are in fact three different issues, and each player should have far different roles in 12-13. One would play alongside Nick Schultz or Ryan Whitney; one would be mentored by Schultz or Andy Sutton.

And the other would play in junior.


  • Clyde Frog

    Lol DSF, you would pass on 70 point player at taken at 22nd! Because you knew there was a better kid still? Bullsh#t… I imagine you have a Facebook post or blog hate rant where you lambasted the Oilers for getting Eberle at 22nd?

    How bout we get a DSF draft prediction for this year? The 5 best kids outside of the top 10, so we can all capitalize on his crystal ball!

  • I Like the look of our potential lineup in 2 years but we have some holes to address through trade or free agency

    Paajarvi or acquired asset-Hopkin-Eberle
    Hall-Galchenyuk-Hemsky or acquired asset
    Hartikanian-Horcoff or Lander-Petrell
    Jones-acquired-acquired

    Gardiner-J Schultz
    Smid-Petry
    N shcultz-Whitney
    Klefbom

    Trade bait would be Paajarvi if we decide he is not top 6, Hemsky should he not regain full form this year or seem to want more long term. Eager, Belanger, one of Horcoff or Lander, Gordichuck, Gagner, Omark, Sutton, Potter, Barker, Peckam and a number of middling prospect or draft choices.

    Obviously we need to keep some call ups but that is some descent trade bait for the holes we have even without looking at free agency other than J Schultz because we would be fools not to try.

  • I don’t think Samuelson will be the best player outside the top 10 but for a 25 to 35 player he is absolutely the player I want. He would look great on our 3rd to 4th line of the future. He adds some much needed grit and looks like he can play as well.

        • DSF

          Or two.

          A good rule of thumb when looking at the draft is to pay close attention to the guys who are rocketing up the rankings.

          Samuelsson has.

          Here’s what his coach had to say:

          “A big, strong right-hand shot who can play the middle and adjusted very well to the wing,” Laxdal said of the 6-foot-2 forward. “He’s very strong on the puck and he’s a lot like [Todd] Bertuzzi with the big body and puck protection. He’s 215 pounds and still has a little bit of baby fat on him, but he’s starting to burn that off. And as he does that, he’s getting quicker. He’s got great puck-handling skills, sees the ice well and has great hand-eye coordination. He has a heavy release, defends well and doesn’t get bumped off the puck very easily.

          “His upside is incredible. He wants the extra ice time and he’s going to be hard to handle in the WHL. He’s going to be a special player.”

          Read more: http://www.theprovince.com/sports/Henrik+Samuelsson+following+father+footsteps+into/6698059/story.html#ixzz1xvBpWOlU

  • DSF I hope you are right as I would be going for him, but I did not see him playing that high in the lineup.

    He would be a steal at 25-35 if you were correct.

    I know he is a big mean hard working player and being Ulf’s son you would assume he knows what it takes and is prepaired for the work.

  • I don’t have a problem acquiring another d-man but what the Oilers truly need is some chemistry between the goaltenders & defencemen! More often than not, when the tenders left the crease to handle the puck it was a give-away! Better goaltender coaching or better puck hanlers in the net is one of the biggest improvements the Oilers can make!

  • shanetrain

    After a few pops consumed I have come to the conclusion MacT being back in this particular role is perfect.

    When/If Tambellini is let go, MacTavish easily assumes his role.

    New coach doesn’t work out, MacT again, slides in behind the bench.

    Man I’m glad he’s back.

    The Smyth signing isn’t looking good. MacT hopefully helps this as well.

    I give a rats ass who we draft if it comes to that. Gimme some big buggers who can skate and think one play ahead.

    A couple high end Dmen wouldn’t hurt either.

    *burp*

  • Clyde Frog

    Lol wait.

    You lambast the Oilers for picking wingers, even to the point of trying to say there were better choices at 22 then Jordan Eberle…! As if the 21 teams picking ahead weren’t jonesing for a mulligan after that draft… 70 pt production from a late 1st round pick is a home run for ANY TEAM IN THE LEAGUE..

    Then your top 5 players outside the top 10, is Samuelsson.. A WINGER and also is only comprised of 1 kid.

    So book it LT, DSF has gone on record the best player outside of the top 10 is the winger Samuelsson… Apparently he will be better then the next 4 players combined, lol.

    • Wax Man Riley

      This is an excellent point. Everyone seems to be focused on the new coach, the Tambillini extension, Mac T back in the house, and the failed Smyth signing, why hasn’t anyone commented on the non-Gagner extension.

      Is this because every team is waiting for the new CBA / Lockout? Or is it because they already have a trade for Gagner lined up, ready to move Hall to center, and play Nail on the LW (which would be stupid in my humble opinion).

      Or Is Tambellini lining up the mother of all Burkeian trades, throwing Gagner into the mix in order to get the second overall pick, thus nabbing Nail and Galichuk, or is he going gangbusters, trading gagner something else, and our 32nd overall pick (do we have that this year? I think we do), all in order to get a defenseman and moving up into the top ten to nab the guy nobody seems to want anymore: Gregorenko. Because our scouts know any Russian that is coached by Patrick freakin Roy of all people, most likley plays a more Canadian 2 way gritty game than even most Canadians, and he’s big.

  • DSF

    I think DSF is smoking crack cocaine.

    1. Did he say shop Taylor Hall???? (our best player)

    2. Send Khabibulin to minors???? (Too old – one way contract)

    3. Get ri of Eager, Hordichuk And Sutton???? (all out toughness)

    4. Get rid of Belanger???? (Only face off guy we have)

    5. Lombardi has a horseshoe up his a$$.

    The only thing he was right about was trading HEMSKY.

    DSF, you must like Horcoff cause u didn’t mention him in ure rant. That Horcoff is making Sidney Crosby money. Get rid of the idiot that gave him that contract.

  • Lowetide

    There will be no crack cocaine smoking in this thread. I have a strict anti “crack cocaine” rule in all of my threads.

    I am however, pro “Jimmy Crack Corn” and the kids all seem to like that. Who wants to start?

  • DSF

    BTW Everyone ranting how Edm needs a defenseman.

    Whitney – Top pair any team in NHL

    SMID- top four on any team NHL

    SHULTZ – top four any team NHL

    PETRY – top four any team NHL (will be top pair this year. I’m saying it now)

    Tuebert – the next CHRIS PRONGER .. Wait and see!!

    WHAT THE OILERS NEED……. is HEART!

    • GVBlackhawk

      Just read the entire thread. There were some really unintelligent statements made.

      But there can only be one winner of dumbest post…congratulations.

      The Oilers need heart? You need a brain.

      PS. At least have enough respect for the players to spell their names properly. Nick Schultz. Colten Teubert.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    First, excellent assessment of the defence LT. You ARE the man.
    It seems that the masters want to move to the next stage of the rebuild, continuing to look to the future but putting a greater emphasis on winning now, which is reasonable. To do that they will have to shore up the defence, which as it stands is overall probably the worst in the league. Obviously they will try to sign Justin Schultz and have a decent chance of accomplishing it, but with him or without him they have to add AT LEAST one genuine NHL Top 4 D man.
    They could 1) Turn their back on a potential franchise player in Yakupov and select Ryan Murray first overall or 2) Swap the Number One pick for a young genuine NHL defender and a very high pick and maybe still get, say, Reinhart, Dumba or Reilly, none of whom will play in the NHL immediately but all of whom are quite good prospects, in the same league with Murray but less NHL_ready, or 3) Take Yakupov and commit to signing a Top 4 free agent defender, or even 2 if they don’t get Schultz. No more Barkers or Potters please. Another Sutton as a second FA bandage perhaps.
    Given Yakupov’s vast superiority as a prospect I think the third option is the obvious one, as long as they make sure to shore up the defence with a quality FA signing and hopefully get Schultz. Of course they will not know if Schultz in coming until after the draft and will also not know what they are going to get from Whitney until September at least.
    So its tough and we can only guess what the MB thinks at this time and whether they will take the player he identifies as the best available, which is surely Yakupov. It may come down to how closely he rates Murray to Yak. I would much rather rely on him then the management team.
    I think the third option is really the only one because you can not turn down a player with his potential, who has clearly separated himself from the pack. He will almost surely have an impact in his first season and if it does become necessary to trade an untouchable for a Top Two D man down the road that can still be done, or that can be the single big free agent signing the Oilers can likely afford, once it is clear to all that is the only think separating them from contender status.
    I have to say from what I have seen live at the WJC, watched on TV and read about Murray does not convince me he has more than a small chance of being a genuine Top 2 guy, though he looks like a very solid future pro with a good, long career ahead of him. Opting for him with the first pick would be panicking in my opinion, however, and is unlikely to improve the team more this coming season than adding Yak and is almost certainly not going to add nearly as much in the long term, which should still be the primary consideration.
    Finally the overwhelming evidence that it is much, much easier to predict how the top 18-yer-old forwards will perform long-term than D men of the same age cannot be swept aside. There are exceptions, like Orr, Potvin and Pronger who really were can’t miss future stars but no talent evaluator projects Murray anywhere near that level.
    We lucked out and won the lottery. Lets not outsmart ourselves. Take the Yak.

  • Clyde Frog

    @DSF

    Post 15 he most definitely was, and there is no way you couldn’t argue he is the top 5 best for that draft class.

    Don’t tell me LA wouldn’t trade Voynov straight up for Eberle every day of the week. There was no one left on the table that holds water to what Eberle has done…

    Also you still ignored the part where you chose a WINGER as the best player outside of the top 10, In the same thread where you blasted them for selecting wingers like Hall & Eberle

    Lol, sometimes you like to rewrite history to prove your smarts, but damn you are off tonight in a bad way.

  • Actually I don’t think DSF is as far off as everyone thinks.

    Trade Hemsky, Gagner +++ for the best defenseman I could find.

    I think we need one of the 2 unless we sign a free agent. I would deinitely trade one and my choice would be Hemsky.

    get rid of Eager, Hordichuk, Belanger Jones, Barker, Sutton and replace them at the earliest opportunity with players in the age group that will be contributors when the Oiler will be competitive.

    I keep Jones and potential Eager if I can’t upgrade 4th line centre, but agree to get rid of the rest. I want toughness and even want an enforcer if we get a coach who will use him. Maybe Hordy, maybe Larague, mabe someone new.

    I would also sign the best UFA goaltender on the market and send Khabibulin to the minors.

    I agree we would love to get rid of Khaby. I would either like a vet goalie for back up or incase Duby falters or preferably another prospect that can push him for the starter role. If we couldn’t trade him I would bury him in the minors if you are allowed. If not we are stuck with him as our backup.

    At the upcoming draft, I would take Yakupov unless I could convince Burke to include Gardiner in a trade.

    Failing that, I would shop Taylor Hall at the deadline depending on how his season unfolds.

    I would be looking for a big #1C or a top pairing defenseman in return.

    Ask your self, “what would Lombardi do”?

    It certainly wouldn’t be adding another second pairing defenseman and another winger

  • Oops, didn’t resond to the last few.

    At the upcoming draft, I would take Yakupov unless I could convince Burke to include Gardiner in a trade.

    I have more options I would look at, but that is certainly one I would support.

    Failing that, I would shop Taylor Hall at the deadline depending on how his season unfolds.

    I would not shop any of the big guys unless we are unable to resign them. If it leaks all trust is gone and you have really hurt your future relationship. I would however listen to any calls on any player that come in. If we end up with 6 good NHL left wings and only 2 NHL centres or only 4 NHL D we will have to look at these options if we can’t attract free agents.

    I would be looking for a big #1C or a top pairing defenseman in return.

    Of course

    Overall, I actually thought he had some very valid points.

  • Alex: Lol, I don’t even know what to say

    Our D is certainly looking better foing forward.

    I agree with you on Perty Smid and Petry. All are top 4 players. If Whitney were healthy and at his best I would even give you that he is a top pairing Dman. Most don’t expect him to fully regain his mobility and power. Obviously everyone hopes he does because that would improve our D by double. At 60 to 80% I would say he is still serviceable but closer to a #4-6 Dman.

    Teubert is where you lost me. I wish with all my might that you would be correct on this because then we go from the weakest D in the league to the strongest. But……and this is a huge but. He is not even close. I don’t honestly know if he will ever be a fulltime NHL dman, but counting on him becoming one of the best in the league is like hoping Laraque will lead the NHL in points this season.

  • @Cody anderson

    You realize pretty much everything you said there was “well this is the way to do it, but if you cant do anything else”

    Make a choice. Stick with it.

    And sending Taylor Hall anywhere at the deadline is the probably the worse thing you can do. Teams do not trade #1 centers at the deadline. They usually need them to be #1 centers on their team for the playoffs if you catch my drift.

    Trading Hall is a bad idea no matter how you put it. It’s an exponentially worse idea trading him at the draft. Contenders are only going to be sending picks prospects back because they need their players for the playoffs.

    I guarantee you if we traded Hall for picks/prospects it would be the worst disaster this team has had for a long long time.

  • Beaker, I was actually using DSF’s post I listed his opinions and then mentioned where I agrees or how they differed from his. I said I would never shop any of our big 4 and I would go further and include Schultz, Schmid, and Petry on that list. That is 7 players I would not shop unless I was aware I was not going to be able to resign them.

    I think in the media you say they are untouchable but if someone makes an offer what does it hurt to listen. If we are unable to attract free agents which I think will get easier each year, and unable to trade spare parts to fill holes it could become a reality that we have to trade one of them to become a cup contender.

    For the record unless injuries pile up Hall would be the last one I would want to lose.

    I also agree with you the only way you trade at the deadline is role players for huge future potential or if it is a star player it would only be if they were becoming an unrestricted free agent and you risk losing them for nothing. Otherwise you are far better to do a hockeytrade of one start for another in the off season.

  • Reg Dunlop

    @DSF comment 57

    If by Sammy Snowpants you mean the esteemed Samwise Gagner, I certainly think he has a 47 goal season in him. Let me know when you plan the naked cartwheel thing, but first are you an attractive woman or one of those cottage cheese thighed, man-hating,Oprah-watching carpet munchers? While it is clear you are a woman by the way you argue non-stop, what remains unclear is what type of woman are you?

  • Iceman1975

    I think the Oilers need a number 1 goalie not a has been like Habby…and 3 shut down defenseman and 3 offensive defenceman and one extra who can be both…thats my opinion…

  • fuzzy muppet

    Take Yakupov and work on new core after they rid themselves of 3-4 albatross contracts before season even begins . The rebuild starts now , as the past three years failed MISERABLY ! Horcoffs contract has to be priority one to dump as it sends a negative message to rest of team .Hemsky’s contract seems ludicrous considering his last two seasons contribution , especially defencively, etc.. Why overpay Smyth to stay here in a transition stage , when he’s likely to be of much benefit in long term . Defence is like a pile of pilons that lack shots and mobility . Whitney overated . Trouba would be my priority beyond first pick . To many holes to fill this season anyways . We may have gone up one spot last year , but in a lot of ways we are far behind the competition , and they are not all going to get fixed this season anyways . Thats the sort of mess Lowe and Tams have left this club in and only our youth is holding us temporarily up above the water.

    Everyone beyond our youth needs upgrading . Let the youth take over direction of new club along with a new base . Coaching unlikely to make much of a difference at this stage , as we reinvent the rebuild that hopefully works this time around .

  • fuzzy muppet

    My vote heading into teh next two months is to go after 2 defencemen. NHL defencemen.

    From there you head into the season with Sutton as your designated 7 (knowing full well that probably still puts him in the line up for 60 games) and give Peckham every opportunity to take the 23rd roster spot.

    If he outplays the 14th best forward then start the season with 8 D and if not start with 7 (maybe you extend that to Schultz instead if you sign him in which case you may need to look at moving Peckham so you don’t lose him for nothing).

    Considering how the last few seasons have went I would really like to see this team start the season with 8 legit defenders. If after 1 month or so everyone appears healthy and most importantly Whitney looks to be in improved form then switch it around as required. Look to move a guy or try and sneak one down to OKC to correct the roster make up.

  • fuzzy muppet

    What the Oilers NEED are more NHL quality hockey players.

    Not guys like Peckham, Teubert, Jones, Belanger, Petrell, Hordichuk

    They need guys like Jay McClement, Matt Carle, Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll, Domonic Moore, Rosival, Wideman, Jackman etc.

    They also don’t need to be taking 18 year old Defensemen in the top 5. This DOES NOT HELP THEM WIN

  • BurkeTheTurd

    I wish I was Jeff Petry, played 108 games in the NHL, half most would say at a poor NHL level or good AHL level. Yes the last half of last year he played very well. But to offer 20 mil for 1/2 a good seaon of NHL work and talk about top D pairing for the rest of his carrer?? Are we kiding, have we seen this story before (penner, Gilbert) putting the cart before the horse. Guy could step back and be in the AHL by next Feburary. I hope not but it is a possibility, if so, imagine you’re the GM who just gave him 20 mil. Adios!

    Wait till he has proven himself with a year or two of great seasons before dumping the big salary on him. It may cost more but risk is much less.