Godspeed

One of the true joys of living in Alberta is that glorious blue sky. Anyone who has spent a week on the coast during rainy season knows what a lack of sunshine can do to the soul. This week, blue skies across Alberta meant something special for Edmonton Oilers: defensive help is on the way, and blue, blue skies are on the horizon.

The Edmonton Oilers have drafted some of the truly phenomenal offensive players in the game’s history. However, they’ve wasted a lot of draft picks on defensemen who never developed. Between Kevin Lowe (1979) and Oscar Klefbom (2011), Edmonton hasn’t devoted a lot of picks to first round defensemen:

BARRY FRASER ERA

  • 1979 Kevin Lowe (1254 NHL games)
  • 1980 Paul Coffey (1409 NHL games)
  • 1982 Jim Playfair (21 NHL games)
  • 1983: Jeff Beukeboom (804 NHL games)
  • 1984: Selmar Odelein (18 NHL games)
  • 1988: Francois Leroux (249 NHL games)
  • 1989: Jason Soules (DNP in NHL)
  • 1993: Nick Stadjuhar (2 NHL games)
  • 1996: Mathieu Descoteaux (5 NHL games)

KEVIN PRENDERGAST ERA

  • 2007: Alex Plante (10 NHL games)

STU MACGREGOR ERA

  • 2011: Oscar Klefbom 

Incredible, isn’t it? The Oilers have used fewer than a dozen first round selections in their entire history on defensemen. Their success rate early was splendid, Lowe and Coffey with Beukeboom is just a really nice cluster. And you can’t get upset at some of the failures, because kids like Odelein were injured and lost along the way. It’s a tough damn position to play with everything in place, and some of these guys had severe injuries over the years.

Alex Plante’s story has yet to be written, and the Klefbom just started dropping around New Year’s.

WHAT’S THE TIMELINE FOR THE BLUELINE?

It depends on the player. Lowe looked like a veteran as a rookie, Coffey drove Slats around the bend and back again. You kind of knew footspeed would be an issue for Francois Leroux but I’m not going to pick on him because he’s played 249 NHL games than me.

A good rule of thumb is at least two year’s after draft day for defensemen to make their first NHL appearance, and then another one to three (entry level deal) in order to prove they’re worth keeping on the everyday roster. College kids trigger later because NHL teams often bring them out only when ready (some college players sign at 22 or later).

There is so much luck–good and bad–involved. Injuries, opportunity, events like this WJ championship that no doubt lend themselves to gaining experience. They all contribute.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

We have ways to measure these kids (boxcars) but the advanced stats aren’t really available. We don’t have time on ice, and in many cases the coach doesn’t say much about specific players in the media we read thousands of miles away. There are things we can track, I call them "arrows" both good and bad. Oscar Klefbom had some injury issues early in the season, that’s a down arrow. He was named to the WJ All-Star team today. That’s a good arrow.

Godspeed, Oscar Klefbom.

  • RexLibris

    It seems to me that bringing Klefbom in next year might be a little too early. I would be inclined to move Peckham at the draft with the intention of replacing him with either Plante or Teubert (it’d be break-even at the very least, if not an improvement) and then re-sign Sutton. Having Klefbom, presumably Marincin, and perhaps also Musil play in OKC for a year would hardly hurt their development.

    I would like to see Tambellini pitch the Oilers to Ryan Suter (if he is still available) in the off-season with the following idea that this is a young, upcoming team that needs a player of his abilities. If he is willing to sign a 4 or 5 year contract for, perhaps, 5 million a year then he is welcome to join our Quest for the Cup. If he wants to sign somewhere else for more, fine, but for this team, you have to want to win more than cash in. It might not work, but I don’t want us to have a Brian Campbell contract issue when we’re looking at RFAs and UFAs in our core.

    LT, any thoughts about Murray’s open-for-business sign and what they might ask for Fowler?

    • Lowetide

      Fowler would have a heavy pricetag imo, he’s got some experience and is still a long way from real money. He’d cost the first rounder plus a solid player imo.

      • RexLibris

        Thanks.

        Yeah, I wasn’t certain what the cost might be, but I was wondering about Paajarvi for Fowler. Their draft pedigree is very similar (both projected high and fell) and both would fit into the role required by either GM (for Murray a roster-ready player who has a promising future and is very affordable and for us, a D-man who can make a 10ft pass).

        I suppose if we were staring at a choice of Reilly or Reinhart when it comes time to draft then perhaps a trade like that might make sense (pick for player +), but I wouldn’t so much as breathe on a trade like that without heavy consultation with Stu MacGregor first.

        For the record, Boston isn’t one of my favourite teams (they were when Sinden ran them because it seemed like he and Sather were the only two sane GMs in the league, trying to keep salaries in check) but with them having now broken the hearts (and backs) of both the Canucks and Flames in under a year, well, it kind of makes me smile a little.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Good for OK. He looked good in the gold medal game. I saw him jump up in the rush a few times and lord knows we could use a D with a bit of offence down the road.

    I wonder if you could do a comparison with other teams… is 11 first round D picks in that amount of time unusually low? 11 in 33 is 33% or 1/3… as a pure guess that doesn’t seem out of synch with what I would expect (i’m guessing the majority of the rest of the picks are forwards with the rare G thrown in)

    Somewhat off topic…

    LT any word on Barker’s progress; and is Fedun up and walking yet? how’s his progress going.

    • misfit

      I believe either he or Bob MacKenzie said he only had one year left (the current one) on is deal at the draft.

      That only meant that if he didn’t make the Oilers, they would’ve had to return him to the SEL instead of being able to assign him to the AHL. I don’t believe they even had him in camp this year. That contract year is up, but I don’t think leaving him in Sweden for another year is such a bad idea.

      • Jason Gregor

        @freeze

        Klefbom has another year after his on his deal. He’ll be in the WJC again next year, just like Eberle was two years after he was drafted.

        No need to rush Klefbom. You will see him at Oiler camp in the fall of 2013.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Wait, isn’t 11 dfensemen as first round picks in 33 years about the same percentage as defensemen on a roster (8 out of 24 = 33%)? Isn’t that about what it should be? I mean, I see your larger point, but the overall that seems about right, no? The other question that I don’t know the answer to is how many first round picks they’ve had in all those years.

  • D

    LT,

    In your opinion, do the Oilers have to do anything else with the Forward position(s) to compete for Stanley down the road? Or is all that is left is work on the D and in goal?

    • Lowetide

      I think Pitlick and Hamilton will/could follow Hartikainen and Lander up the ladder, and there’s always a chance someone surprises.

      If they end up drafting 5th overall this season, I’d bet big money it’s on defense. I asked Jason Gregor the other day, and he said outside the top 3 it would be a Dman. That’s probably spot on.

      Meaning they’ll probably ride with what they have unless Nail falls in their laps.

      • D

        That’s good to know LT. I am fine with the Oil riding this new forward group. I guess that means we are a D or 2 and a solid goalie away from completing the puzzle. Probably looking around 2015 for a deep run?