‘Everyone has skill’

It has been a lot of fun watching these playoffs. There has been everything I like about hockey….hitting, lots of net front and corner battles and intensity.  The Cup final has been very good.

I watched Game five with some friends, and of course when a bunch of Oiler fans get together to watch the playoffs at some point the conversation comes back around to the Oilers. I really enjoy listening to the comments from Oiler fans about their team. This time the topics ranged from goaltending to coaching and everything in between.

I have heard this all before so nothing really new there until the topic of how the Oilers would do against the Bruins or the Hawks in a seven game series came up. This is where the inspiration for this article came from.

Two of my friends were going at it about how the Oilers would do. My one friend kept saying the Oilers would be fine, maybe not win, but fine because of all the skill they have acquired through the draft. The other said they would get run out of the building, most likely lose a seven game series in three games for the first time in history.

Finally the negative guy said this… ‘Yes they have skill but everyone has skill’.

Truer words have never been spoken.


Top teams in the NHL have skill in their top six forwards. That is why they are a top team. It is very rare for a team to have regular season and playoff success without a lot of talent. Here is the Oilers’ top-six compared to the same group on the Bruins and Blackhawks.

As of right now the Oilers top six:

  • Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle
  • Magnus Paajarvi, Sam Gagner, Nail Yakupov

The Bruins (healthy):

  • Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Nathan Horton
  • Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Jaromir Jagr

The Hawks (healthy):

  • Bryan Bickell, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane
  • Marian Hossa, Michal Handzus, Patrick Sharp

The Hawks and Bruins top six are a handful. They have everything you want in that group.

Super high end skill…Krejci/Jagr, Sharp/Kane.

Strong defensively…. Bergeron,Toews

Big Bodies/Battlers….. Lucic/Horton/Marchand, Bickell/Hossa/Handzus

We can all agree these are some of the best players at what they bring to a top six group. The only guy who is over his head is Handzus and that is because of age.

Here are the same skills sets broken down for the Oilers top six group right now.

Super high end skill… Hall/Nuge/Eberle/Yakupov/Gagner

Strong Defensively….

Big Bodies/Battlers….Paajarvi

How does the mix for the Oilers top six look now? Is the mix there to compete with the top teams in the league?


The Oilers are heavy in top-end skill but very light in other areas. This is no one’s fault in my opinion. It is just the way the draft classes have been the last few years. The challenge now is for MacT to get better balance in this group.

As time passes these guys will develop into more complete players. They will get stronger and heavier. They will have the chance to become more well-rounded players, especially on the defensive side of the puck. The goal would be for Dallas Eakins to feel comfortable putting them on the ice to protect a lead with a minute to go in the game. Learning that part of the game will take some time.

The issue for the Oilers in my opinion is this…who will be that big body and the battler in this group? Right now I don’t see a guy that fits the mold. I think Paajarvi has the size, but this needs to be developed as well as an edge to his game.

These types of players are so valuable in the playoffs that most teams will not part with them for free. Drafting is one option but then you must wait for them to develop. Adding this type of player is the biggest challenge for MacT and the Oilers brass.

It is clear that when you compare the Oilers to the two Stanley Cup finalist that the mix for the Oilers top six is not right. I have no doubts that all the players I listed for the Oilers are NHL players, just not on the same team and lines. The problem is they are all very similar. It is a recipe that will not produce success.

Moving forward MacT needs to evaluate what he already has, recognize what is needed and figure out a way to bring those skills in. This won’t happen in one summer, these thing take time.

Follow Jason Strudwick on Twitter!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Ooops, sorry Struds I forgot to say I disagree that our top six is that out of whack from a size vs balance perspective.

    All you need are average sized NHLers across the board, find the numbers and see if we are there if they make you comfortable, the principal remains the same.

    You dont need them bigger fellas they are just nice to have because their sphere of influence is so large. Not heavy, but large.

    Proper system acumen and execution wins every time over size.

    This is hockey and its all about who scores the most goals the fastest this defense first stuff is pure BS. You arent “wearing me down” using your size advantage if it is 3-0 at the end of the first period my friends, ha ha ha ha, never.

    Goals are thrown like jabs in hockey and land like George Forman right hands when they go in. Teams who look for size are looking for a knockout punch every time and are backwards in my opinion. No one is throwing bombs for 60 mins, simply no one. But any average sized team can throw jabs for 60 mins as long as they make them accurate.

    It is like Soccer talk, crap, you take the two most beautiful games god ever created and you make them defensive because you cant find enough beautiful minded coaches and Athletes to make it work, sickening, yes yes I know everyone wants to play right.

    Hockey games should always be 8-6 and so should Soccer games, with that many possesions it is actually a sign of piss-poor managment and coaching tactics when the scores ae 1-0 and 2-1, a travesty of the highest degree. Not good defense, a lack of ability to generate offense in an offensively catalysed sport, I call that utter failure.

    There is a huge organised coaching and product marketing and business and labor structure conspiracy to this whole issue we dont have time for.

    Set play perspectives were forced into these sports, these sports naturally cater to a creative and transitional approach, all set plays do is make it easier to play the game cerebrally for many men who cant think creatively and transitionally.

    Set plays level the playing field cerebrally,like it or not. They let slower adjusters find stability and success .

    Two more years and we will see a full blown switch to the NHS Adjusted-Hybrids transition game, remember Murphys Law? Well the europeans are just getting good at the set play systems so naturally it is time for the NHL to evolve again, ha ha ha . Now Don Cherry will have ammo till he retires.

    The full NHS is ready to go anytime now, it wont hurt to wait another year or two to utilise it, the more teams who now use a Hybrid or who adopt the Adjusted-Hybrid the better, the NHS feasts on them all.

  • OilClog

    In two years the super skill of those 5 guys will trump the other two teams hands down.. It’s icing 2 #1 lines. It won’t be those top 6 guys that lose the games for us.. Just like the story is now.. Hall was becoming a freight train out there, Yakupov is going to be incredible hard to check off the puck when a full grown lion. Ebs is magic hands, and in a few years time everyone will be talking about how RNH’s defensive game is the best in the league. He’s already ridiculous on the back check. It’s not the top 6 losing games for this team.. Pretty sure they light up Chicago regularly.

  • MarcusBillius

    I am not as worried about the top 6 forwards as I am about the blue line. Right now the Oilers are three regular d-men short of a functional NHL defensive corps, and even further from a playoff calibre group. This is one area where not every team has skill, and it shows.

  • Mike Modano's Dog


    I definitely would have added:

    Defensive specialist: Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson

    Physical: Hall

    But your story overall is Bang On.

    Just wait ’til we play NHL 14 next year. With the new ‘Enforcer Engine’ making fighting and intimidation a much bigger part of the game our Oilers are dead… lol! This might be the perfect time to come out of retirement for that reason alone, Jason!

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Super, non-related question:

    I just realized you were with the Rangers around the same time as my friend was, Terry Virtue.
    He had a great minor league career…and was up from time to time. Did you play with him, or know him?

    Just curious Jason, thanks!