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?
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.
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.
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
- Ladislav Smid
- Jeff Petry
- Ryan Whitney
- Justin Schultz
- Nick Schultz
- Andy Sutton
- Theo Peckhham
- Corey Potter
- Colten Teubert
- Alex Plante
- Taylor Fedun
- Martin Marincin
- Brandon Davidson
- 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."