WWYDW: The Long-Term Defensive Depth Chart


Over the course of the Edmonton Oilers’ error-prone rebuild, two positions have been and remain particularly weak: centre and defence. The centre position has been debated to death, but less time has been spent discussing the defence, which general manager Craig MacTavish took some pains to address in the summer.

How should the Oilers proceed at the position, both in the short- and long-term?

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Dramatis Personae


Currently in the NHL, the Oilers have as follows (players ranked more or less by ice time):

At the team’s disposal in the minors the picture is slightly less clear cut, but it includes the following players:

Still in junior, of course, is top prospect Darnell Nurse.

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The Problem

Craig MacTavish6

The Oilers are trying to do two things at once here, and it’s difficult to find the right balance.

First, the team wants to be competitive in the here-and-now. That means drawing up a plan that makes use of the currently available players (the list above, minus Nurse, plus anyone potentially acquirable through trade) to provide a competent defensive group that can get the job done in the interim.

Secondly, the team clearly plans to build around their best young defencemen – in the team’s eyes, I imagine that group would include Schultz, Nurse and Klefbom – with the veterans on the club the kind of guys who can mentor the young guys and then transition to supporting roles down the road.

Is that the right approach? Is trusting in the prospects the way to go, and if so how does the team transition them into place while still icing a competent group in the meantime? Does there need to be more of a focus on the here-and-now – which might potentially mean trying to acquire a high-end defender to hold the fort right now, even if it means sacrificing futures or strength at another position?

In short: what should the plan look like right now, and what should the team look like down the road?

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  • 1979

    Read the quote from MacT from October 16th:

    “We’re all at the point where we want to see results, words are empty, but I very much believe in what I’m telling you. You can criticize me and you can criticize some of the things I’ve done, but I’m always forthright. I’m forthright with what I’m saying right now, I’m very optimistic, very bullish about the future of this team. There has been a lot of pain and suffering, but at the end of the day, the failure gives us great opportunity to continue to get better.

    “We’re way further ahead, in my mind, right now than we were at this point last year. We have consistency of messaging, continuity of coaching, developing players, big pieces. I’m very optimistic on the future.”

    Sounds like MacT is blinded by his optimism. Two more, very likely, losses on this road trip and we could be dead last in the 30 team league, yet MacT like DE’s “messaging” and he is “optimistic on the future.”

    WTF holy christ?!!!

  • 1979

    This D core is by no means perfect but I would focus on Center depth instead and then re-evaluate Goaltending/Defence. So my moves on D would be somewhat subtle…

    1. if possible, sign Petry and Schultz long term.

    2. wait for Nurse to develop.

    3. anticipate the replacement of Ference by one of the youngsters.

  • Armchair_Gm

    This article almost pointed out the biggest problem with the team. Which is trying to have a strategy to win and be successful and at the same time youre also trying to develop really young players and insulate them whenever you can. Draisatl should have either went to junior or played with a good centre and played on the wing. Galchenyuk and seguin come to mind.

  • Armchair_Gm

    Our Defenceman plan looks ok


    We are going to have to trade Petry for a late first round but probably a 2nd or 3rd round pick in January.

    We are going to sign Jshultz to a short term expensive contract, because he is an RFA and his agent is better than MacT and team at negotiations

    Buy out Ference, because that has not worked out well

    Next Season

    Marincin – Fayne

    Kelfbom – Shultz

    Nurse- Nikitan

  • Ever the Optimist

    Damn i hate the oilers ….. hate em but will continue to watch this train wreck for the inconceivable future.

    We have seen it here many times ….. trade ideas get ripped for being foolish ….. gotta give to get right?

    needs …. top goalie, top dman, 3C (going forward)

    for that DMan hate to say it but maybe moving hall for this piece might be the BOLD we need …. yes we all love hall … 2nd best lw in the game yada yada. Defense wins games and with Hall as bait you could expect a youngish top defender.

    3c …. lots of guys fill this and can be gotten for decent prices or wait till FA

    Top Goalie …. How does Fleury sound? He gets ripped on every year during the playoffs and if he tanks again he could possibly be had for pennies on the dollar. Before we worry about his bad playoffs lets worry about getting there first

  • Ever the Optimist

    Willis : The here and now after 8-9 years has failed miserably , and waiting on defensive personnel is just as disasterous . Get a decent goalie and two top defenseman for atarters . The problem with management is they are to patient and have become complacent about making moves because most are poor judgements when they do . Waiting on status quo and default players has kept us in the basement for almost a decade . The longer we build against conventional wisdom the longer we remain a basement club . Keep Perron , Hall and maybe Hopkins being as he is only decent center and finally build a decent back end .

  • Am I the only one done with debating what the team should do? Like seriously, even if we came up with a GREAT plan, no one in management is going to follow it, and their track record indicates they’d mess it up if they did.

    I’ve grown so disinterested with this team. I have season tickets, and I had more hope than most. Hockey looks like a stupid sport right now to me.

  • How to fix D and Centre:

    Fire KLowe

    Sign Petry long term.

    Graduate Marincin to the NHL permanently, now.

    Graduate Klefbom to the NHL permanently, after.

    Graduate Nurse to the NHL after a half season in OKC next year.

    Pairings in January 2015




    Keep Jultz’ 5v5 toi very low. High OZs, and high 5v4 TOI

    Centre: Send Draisaitl back to Jr. Trade for a #2 centre. Win the lottery, draft McDavid.

    Next season:

    McDavid, Nuge, Draisaitl, Gordon (centre depth)

    Fire KLowe

  • Lot of quick moves posted the way I see it Mact set it up so he has a choice between petry and Schultz. Petry has been more effective for the team as a whole and Schultz would command a kings ransom on the current market. My solution would be move Schultz to Carolina for Andre sekarea plus a center prospect even if it’s an guy like shugg we need some depth. Or we move him Purcell to a team like nyi for Frans neilson and griffen Reinhardt who the oilers have always loved. That way we get a top nine center long term and one of stu’s favorite guys all time for the future

  • Spiel

    The problem is the Oilers don’t have anyone who is ready to play as a legit #1/#2 d-man. The Oilers have some good prospects on D that could potentially be top pair d-men, but the team is not really in a position to wait the two or three years it is going to take guys like Nurse and Klefbom to get there.

    So, what needs to be done is the acquisition of similar young players that are about 2-3 years ahead of Nurse and Klefbom on the development curve.

    Nikitin, Fayne, Ference are OK to keep around as complimentary vets. I’d also try and resign Petry. He is just reaching his prime. Would be a backwards move to trade him for draft picks.

    The Oilers need to put their scouts to work to identify these guys who are early/mid 20’s and ready to take that next step.

    If it means giving up a Yakupov or an Eberle or Nurse or Klefbom to make it happen, I think it is worth it. Otherwise, the team is looking at continuing to languish as they wait for the development of their prospect Ds and centers.

    Deals to bring in some d-men who are further along than Marincin, Nurse, Klefbom would balance the roster.

  • Tikkanese

    The problem with staying pat is basically you’re saying Schultz will become that offensive juggernaut 1A. He’s still young and could do it but he’s starting to look more like a powerplay specialist than a 1A.

    None of Klefbom, Marincin or Nurse will be that big offensive guy. Any of those 3 might develop into that complimentary 1B though.

    That’s a lot of if’s and wishes.

    If any of the 4 kids with potential develop into top pairing D, then great. You can decide to keep them all or move some of them. You can’t count on it happening though.

    Oil need to acquire top pairing D, period. It’s better to have than have not.

  • Eberle4MVP

    Look at Dallas. They should be not only a contender, but a favorite to make a hard push for the Stanley Cup this year. But what is holding them back is the lack of a top pairing on defense.

    The same goes for us, the Oilers. Without that top pairing (or arguably, just a solid #1), we will likely never be successful.

    That true, #1 dman can make your average goaltending look elite, and also bail out your forwards, who, instead of being forced into a role of playing 2-way hockey a la Yakupov, is able to take more risks and be more of a sniper. If he doesnt score, then at least he has an elite Dman to bail him out.

    IMO, the most important piece to solving the rubics cube that is the Oilers, is to trade whatever it will cost to get a true #1 dman. If that means trading out of a position of weakness and largely overpaying, then so be it. If and when some of our defensive prospects pan out, they can be traded to replenish our prospects and stock our cupboard with potential. Right now, potential doesnt mean much anymore.

    If RNH or Hall is what it costs to get a true #1 dman (and dont kid yourself, it will), then so be it.

    Look at Calgary. They have no business being competitive. But Giordano and Brodie can eat up minutes while scoring at a ppg rate, and allow their forwards some space to create plays and take risks. Doesnt hurt that they have two very good goaltenders, either.

    Scrivens will be just fine (pending he never plays the puck again), if we can get the solid #1 Dman that can log heavy minutes and take any zone starts. Pair him up with Petry or Marincin or Fayne, and suddenly, it is a solid top pairing. Then, everyone else n the defence can go back to playing in their normal positions and instead of expecting a miracle, we can watch them tread water.

    Justin Schultz will NEVER be a top pairing player. He is below average defensively and average at offense. Im not giving up on him, but i surely wouldnt be handing him ice time to turn the puck over.

    We have lots of trade bait. And while nobody is looking to trade a #1 dman, we can afford to overpay. Perron, Eberle, Schultz, #1 2015.

    Although, not a true #1 dman, Jay-Bo would be solid. He doesnt make mistakes, and he can eat half the game, every game. Doesnt get injured, and is a fantastic positional skater. And he can be had in my opinion.