DEFENDERS

In some ways, NHL defensemen are akin to major league pitchers: you can never have enough of them. Last season Edmonton used 13 blue to get through the season and the club already has 8 under NHL contract for next season. Why does a team need so many defensemen?

INJURY

Edmonton seems to have more of these than anyone, although all clubs have injuries to defensemen each season. Racing back for icing with idiots in pursuit (see photo), shot blocking, fighting, general thuggery, cross checks along the boards, head hits, it all adds up.

POOR PERFORMANCE AFTER RETURNING FROM INJURY

I was at a game last season and Ryan Whitney was fresh off injury time. Buddy next to me says "he doesn’t look as good as he did before" to which the fellow behind me said something like "no shift, Sherlock" (it was pretty close to that, I believe) and we all chuckled.

Ryan Whitney is an example of a player who–maybe at the expense of his own personal well being, although I have no proof–attempts to come back and play too soon after an injury. This is a guy who has had 4 foot surgeries and is facing a period of transition in his style of play (covered very well by Robin Brownlee’s interview with Whitney back in April) and a lot of hard work lays ahead.

So when we see a dropoff in performance by a defenseman, when said player isn’t displaying his normal level of ability, it’s usually because he’s having trouble returning from injury or he’s playing hurt full stop.

  • Ryan Whitney to Robin Brownlee: "I think it all comes down to being better positionally. There’s a lot of players in the league who aren’t very fleet of foot–and even saying that I still think I’m a good skater–I obviously have lost a step but that stuff happens. You’ve got to become a better positional player. It’s kind of easier said than done; it’s one of those things where if you look at videos and guys who are good positionally if can help and that’s something I’m going to have to do."

My own feeling is that Whitney is being a little humble there, he’s a solid positional player and if he can turn he’ll make the play. I’m sure he’s working hard to make sure he can play at his best level in 12-13 and would guess we’ll see him much better than pre-Christmas last season. When healthy, Ryan Whitney is the Oilers best defenseman.

SLOW TIMELINE

This is Martin Marincin. He’ll turn pro this fall and based on recent history will likely get a cup of coffee in the NHL this season. Recent draft picks who played at least one NHL game in their first North American pro season (since the lockout) include:

  • Danny Syvret 05-06 (10 games)
  • Theo Peckham 07-08 (1 game)
  • Taylor Chorney 08-09 (2 games)
  • Alex Plante 09-10 (4 games)
  • Johan Motin 09-10 (1 game)
  • Jeff Petry 10-11 (35 games)

I don’t think any of these players were harmed by their cup of coffee in the NHL (Petry is the only guy who played an extended period and he was an older first year pro), but that AHL seasoning is very important to development.

PATIENCE…..

Jason Smith is a famous Oiler and a good history lesson about developing defenders. Selected in 1992 by New Jersey, he was in the NHL for a half season in 93-94 and traded twice in his first 6 NHL seasons. Regina helped develop him, New Jersey devoted hard work to move him to the next level, Toronto found him wanting and Edmonton enjoyed the fruits of all that labor for 7+ years.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The Theo Peckham signing gives Edmonton 8 NHL defenders under contract. However, any thought of flushing one or dealing off another for a draft pick is ridiculous. Remembering that Edmonton used one baker’s dozen last season, it won’t take long to get to Marincin if injuries strike (and we know they will).

Estimated Depth Chart

  1. Ladislav Smid
  2. Jeff Petry
  3. Ryan Whitney
  4. Justin Schultz
  5. Nick Schultz
  6. Andy Sutton
  7. Theo Peckhham
  8. Corey Potter
  9. Colten Teubert
  10. Alex Plante
  11. Taylor Fedun
  12. Martin Marincin
  13. Brandon Davidson
  14. Oscar Klefbom (likely to play in Sweden)

Edmonton will no doubt add one or two AHL veterans who will factor in, but it’s easy to see how quickly the depth chart can be strained even with a couple of injuries.David Musil is also a player of interest.

We began ths summer talking about the Oilers adding one or two top 4D. Justin Schultz has arrived. Is there another one coming? The depth chart says "yes."

  • Reg Dunlop

    @dougtheslug

    Curious that mention of a small gentleman’s wager went unresponded to by DSF. Why?

    a)past his bed-time,Mom already tucked him in.

    b)$200 is more than one years allowance.

    c)he finally realized the error of his ways.

    d)all of the above

  • Eddie Edmonton

    Petry, Klefbom,

    Smid, Schultz,

    Those four names/two lines are the Oilers plan for the future.

    Ryan Whitney is gone by this seasons end for sure.

    Nick Schultz in a needed presence on the team and the blue line and I see him sticking around for a bit.

    That only leaves one slot available for the future. That slot will be a Shea Weber type, someone you can rotate around all those players.

    That player will come next off-season. As a team and a defense the Oilers are still growing this year-there is no need for that player yet.

  • I agree completely that Whitney is the key to our defense. His ability to return to form will have the largest impact on the Oil’s place in the standings. After the last 2 seasons I feel as though he will never be as good as he was. Even if by some miracle his ankles were to return to 100% he’d still always have the injury affecting the mental side of his game. If I’m Tambi, I just assume Whitney will never return to form and make my moves with that in mind. If Whitney does come back it’s icing on the cake, but I’m not holding my breath.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    Reg Dunlop wrote:

    Curious that mention of a small gentleman’s wager went unresponded to by DSF. Why?

    a)past his bed-time,Mom already tucked him in.

    b)$200 is more than one years allowance.

    c)he finally realized the error of his ways.

    d)all of the above

    no no reg, you have got DSF all wrong. I finally managed to crack the DSF nut the other day when i called his BS and he actually responded.

    to me it looked like he admitted that he follows the george costanza opposite program. He mentioned that he always thought Schultz would sign here, even though i produced multiple quotes from him flat out saying schultz would not.

    essentially, had i followed DSFs opposite program, i would have been in tune to the fact he thought schultz would sign in edmonton.

    this opposite theory also works for his Wild contending for the conference championship this year.

    take what he says, and believe the opposite. so he says he would like to wager? Nope, he is scared s***less. says schultz isnt going to sign in edmonton? nope, he thought he would all along… and so on and so on…

    happy summer DSF!

  • Reg Dunlop

    Joey Laleggia has offensive prowess that might just crack Oiler lineup despite his size . He appears on paper at least to be the most offensively gifted defencman we have . Anyone ever seen this kid play ? Would he be a powerplay specialist ?

    Inclined to think one of Klefbom , Musil or Marincin(in that order) might make squad this year if no other defenceman come by way of trade .

  • If Potter and fedun are the Oilers starting 1-2 in OKC I will be happy. Potter may find himself in a numbers game. The Oilers are willing to spend money on the AHL and Potter seems slated to start in OKC. I would not trade him.

    Tuebert and Marincin,Musil and Davidson would be nice additions to OKC too.

    If we make a move for another top 4 dman its going to mean the loss of either Petry or one of Teubert or Peckham.

    I would rather stay status quo until a point where we are in a better position of strength. There’s no rush to expend assets at this point when we have no idea how our top 7 will perform under a new coach and with addition of JS and NY. Patience and confidence in those that we already have may pay greater dividends than going out and expending assets on a player who may not fit.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    FASCILITATE A TRADE AND UPGRADE for crying out loud . Four years now still stuck on draft and what’s in the system basically . FACE it , most are not going to make in their time here . Start recycling or discarding those likely not to make it here . We are inundated with nothing but prospects and maybe none of NHL quality other than on lowly teams . That’s the limit of upgrading -just what’s in our system ? We’ll never compete at this pace . Our veterans (generally part time or the “MASH UNIT ” ) spend a good portion of season in the infirmary – so we can’t even rely on them .

    Time to build a competitive team and not continue to do it with just what we have now , as it’s not working . The fab four were handed to us by being so bad a team . Other than possibly Schulz what have we done to give them some tools to excel ? Not much and certainly not enough to make much of a difference .

    What are we doing here ? Waiting for all the other clubs to collapse ? It feels like it .

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    It appears we have a lot of defenseman who may or may not be able to play in the NHL. There is only one way to find out.

    I say play guys like Tuebert, Marincin, Fedun, Klefblom, and let’s find out if these guys can play, it’s not like we are gong to win the cup this year any ways!

    Once we know what we have, then make a trade.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    I hope having a full summer to work on things will help Ryan Whitney. He needs to know what his body can do and hopefully he’s figured it out. Once you know what your body is capable of, then you can make adjustments in your positioning. He had to try and learn that on the fly last year. A long summer should give him ample opportunity to work on his game.

  • @OB1

    I don’t think its as bad as all that. Two top for dman would be a godsend and ideal but honestly if you are bringing in one guy who can play 25+ minutes a night at good level then that dcore is respectable.

    Smid-Petry (These two play very well together) Whitney-J Schultz (Especially if Whitney is recovered somewhat I love the idea of him mentoring J Schultz, I loved watching when Whitney got to help bring up Petry) ___________ + N Schultz (They dont haver to be the third pair, this whole thing can be fiddled with of course)

    That right there should comprise three NHL quality defense lines, definitely not brutal like last year. Rookies have to break into a lineup sometime so you cant just look at that and say its a lost spot.

    After that we have a gluttony of guys who could come in and play a #6 or 7 role decently enough.

    If we bring in another #4 Dman I think this Dcore could actually be considered “average”, Without someone else coming in we are probably “below average” but not brutal. If the season starts and Whitney still isnt right and Smid or Petry go down or Schultz really sucks or something we will be “brutal”

    If we brought in even someone along the JBo lines and avoid a stupid amount of injuries we might even be considered “a bit above average”

    I’m personally alright (not over the moon) with icing an average or above dcore that has some depth to pair with our escalating offense.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      When i read this and look at your proposed D lines the first thing that comes to mind is:
      With the exception of Smid there are no physical defenseman there. And you forgot Sutton.

      I really like a defesne line-up like this:

      Smid – Petry
      Whitney – N Schultz
      Sutton – J Schultz
      Peckham

      I would really like to see Peckham turn into a player like Sutton and hopefully this year he will be able to do that with some guidance from Sutton and Kruger. I think there are going to be a lot of teams looking to target J Schultz this year and you will need a guy like Sutton in there for some protection.

      If Whitney is back to form I think this is actually a pretty decent setup. Potter I don’t think is needed not with the likes of Marincin, Teubert, Plante, Musil, Gernat, Gustafsson, Fedun, and Klefbom all being in the mix. I would prefer calling up one of the young guys to get him some time instead of Potter and see who steps up thier game.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    @Bookie…[Quick, say “Taylor Fedun to Fedor Tyutin” really fast five times. ]

    Taylor Fedun to Fedor Tyutin,Taylor Fedun to Fedor Tyutin,Taylor Fedun to Fedor Tyutin,Taylor Fedun to Fedor Tyutin and Taylor Fedun to Fedor Tyutin!

    How’d i do, book?

  • IF,IF,IF is the problem here . We need to have all the players as a team to overperform or we are not going to be competitive . 30 ,30 , and 29th shows us moderate and underperforming not good enough no matter how you coat it . Action has to be taken to avoid another lost season , and not of the miniscule action variety either . Time for results , as hype and hope getting tired of .

  • Four years now we watch as management tries to assemble a more competitive club . Only one upgraded/noteable addition of note in all those 4 years ,which is J.Schultz(if he pans out ) beyond the automatic prize of finishing in basement . Do we have to wait another 4 years to get another or second upgrade ? Looks like no magic bunny coming out of managements hats as per usual . Almost forgot the IF FACTOR – can’t make any major changes when they are still trying to figure out what the iffs or whifs are going to do – neverending story . Trades they have made they got the worst of and very few even lateral/equal value exchanges .

    Faith in management almost terminally low and not expecting they’ll ever do much to ice a contender at the rate and assessments they work at . They finally found all the problems but lack the forray to fix it year after year after year. No it’s not the players or coaches fault for continued poor results , when these are the types of personnel and skill they give them to work with .

  • 16konst

    ..and your “weber type” defensemen is off the market. Unless of course the league squashes his deal. Weber just trying to get in before the bell or what?

    Any chance at all the Preds don’t match?