The Oilers have announced the demotion of Anton Belov to the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) December 5, 2013
1. Did the Oilers need the roster space with their recent call-ups?
The Oilers official roster currently shows 14 healthy forwards, seven defencemen and two goaltenders. That’s a full NHL roster, but Boyd Gordon could easily be shuffled off to retroactive injured reserve (joining Tyler Pitlick, Ilya Bryzgalov and Richard Bachman on the list). As Bruce McCurdy pointed out on Monday, Gordon could go on injured reserve and be eligible to return for Saturday’s game.
So unless Gordon plays tonight, no the Oilers didn’t need the roster space. And even if Gordon’s ready to go, Edmonton could have avoided this situation by just leaving Martin Marincin in the minors.
2. This saves Edmonton money, right?
Yes it does. Assuming that neither player hits his performance bonuses, Marincin’s roughly $200,000 cheaper. It’s difficult to imagine that $200,000 being decisive in this move, though.
3. Does Belov need to clear waivers?
No. Belov is on his entry-level contract, so there is no risk of losing him on the waiver wire.
Why It’s A Bad Idea
The simple answer is this: there are not seven better defenders on the Oilers roster than Anton Belov. Here’s what the depth chart looks like today, based on total minutes handed out by the coaching staff:
- Jeff Petry: 640 minutes
- Andrew Ference: 595 minutes
- Anton Belov: 528 minutes
- Justin Schultz: 457 minutes
- Nick Schultz: 435 minutes
- Philip Larsen: 170 minutes
- Denis Grebeshkov: 96 minutes
- Corey Potter: 85 minutes
- Taylor Fedun: 49 minutes
We could point to Belov’s strong underlying statistics, his size and strength and ability to move the puck, or any number of other items, but the biggest point here is that the only left-side defender ahead of Belov in total minutes is Andrew Ference. The coaches have made it clear, by their ice-time decisions, that Belov is seen as a top-four defender on this team.
Now, nothing says the coaches can’t scratch a top-four defenceman, to try and get him to improve his game. But one does not simply demote a top-four defenceman for a guy who has never played an NHL game. It’s bizarre.