On about day two of the National Hockey League’s existence, someone said to someone "we need more size" and began a quest that continues to this day. The size/speed/skill prospect trifecta is so rare that NHL teams can go a decade or more without having one—Edmonton sent their last complete power forward away on November 15, 2000—and spend dozens of draft picks in vain pursuit of a successor.
DRAFTING COKE MACHINES IS A LONG SHOT
Jonathan Willis wrote an interesting piece on the subject of size recently, and it got me thinking about the discussion regarding the current Oiler forwards. Perron misses being a power forward because of size and speed (he’s certainly skilled enough) but has a definite role in the physical side of the game. A line containing Perron has the ability to score and agitate, and offers the opposition a unique set of challenges.
Tonight, Perron stood out in a big way, imposing his will on the other team, agitating the opposition and trying to get things going. He’s also a good hockey player, so he’s agitating other good players for the other side. The club could use more actual NHL players who have an edge, and size is fine but the idea is to acquire players who are difficult to play against, tough to defend, difficult to predict from shift to shift.
Perron’s style forces the issue, pressures the other side and causes errors, which means turnovers and chances off the rush. The NHL has all kinds of players who bring that extra element along with significant skill; I would include Sidney Crosby, Dustin Brown, Brendan Gallagher, Scott Hartnell, Ryan Kesler and others. How many of those would you consider power forwards?
This is an element the Oilers should have in spades, and they do get their chances, but there are also long periods when breaking out against Edmonton is a breeze (and at least some of this has to do with coaching style and the system played under a coach’s direction) and tonight is a perfect example.
I think that sometimes when we say "the Oilers need to be more physical" what we mean is "why can’t the Oilers be more aggressive on the forecheck, finish their checks and make sure that every pass is challenged when possible?"
That’s a major area of opportunity, and Perron’s really good at creating turnovers that can turn into chances. On a night like tonight in Columbus, when the Oilers aren’t really interested in competing for 60 minutes, a player like Perron stands out in a good way.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
You can’t just stand there and watch greatness walk away, playing NHL hockey requires a lot of work without the puck. The Oiler players have all of the skills, but for prolonged periods this season:
- They have been passive defensively
- They have looked like they are unsure of their next move
- They have not been making it difficult for the other team to execute passes
- They do not look like they’re engaged in each and every play in the game
The Nashville game was a golden example of pressuring, rolling four lines and allowing your best players to wheel. It looked like the coach and players had finally arrived at an agreeable system, and the learning curve for both finally arrived at something that could be successful.
Tonight in Columbus, the Edmonton Oilers were miserable again. The Oilers need more guys who get agitated at losing, and can agitate the opposition and are actual NHL players.
More David Perron’s, please and thanks.