WWYDW: The Long-Term Defensive Depth Chart

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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

Team-5

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:

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

The Problem

Craig MacTavish6

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

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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.

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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?

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS


  • Spoils

    Either trade Eberle and Petry for Stewart and Meyers, or be certain Boychuck will sign here as a free agent next summer and move either Schultz or Petry for another asset.

    I know the Boychuck idea is unpopular, but Edmonton NEEDS a Giardano. A legit, top pair, minute munching VETERAN D man with Size who can do all things. He wasn’t the biggest point producer on Boston, but he’s been great on the Isles so far, and with Boston doing as bad as they have been, it’s reminiscent of Weber and Suter. Everyone thought Suter was gonna be terrible without Weber, and yet it was the other way around.

    Yes he will cost money, but those type of guys get paid for a reason. This allows Boychuck, Fayne, and either Schultz or Petry depending on who they keep to pair and mentor the up and coming left side kids.

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      Technically speaking, Giordano is only 6’0 and 200 lbs. He just plays bigger than his size (something the Oilers D knows nothing about).

  • Wax Man Riley

    Trash away…… I’m considering trading Hall.

    Hear me out….

    If you’re getting a true #1c or a true #1d…. I strongly consider that.

    Think about getting Weber, a real #1. There is still talent on this team.

    Remember what Pronger did for the Oilers and Anaheim.

    Also, if he is the real leader on this team, and we view this team as not having leadership…. I almost (I do not in any way know the guy personally), see him being that popular kid in school that made the teachers’ lives hell. You all know that kid. He was the popular one, whose parents’ bought him the coolest Club Monaco sweater or the nicest Doc Martin’s. And if you didn’t laugh when they spit spitballs at the teach, then they would spit them at you. So you would laugh just to not be made fun of. Then they would torture you and pull your pants down in gym class and made Jennifer Phillips laugh at you….

    Sorry, umm… That was a story about a friend. Anyway you nnow what I mean.

    • 1979

      The only way trading Hall would be perceived as a win would be if whatever player is brought in leads the team to the cup. Almost any other outcome would be seen as a huge mistake. IMHO there is more to be gained with other moves.

  • Spydyr

    WWYDW:

    This is how I would fix the defence.

    Fire Lowe.

    Do an exhaustive search for months.Come up with the best replacement possible regardless of ties to the Oilers.

    Let him do another exhaustive search for months.The new POHO hires his GM regardless of ties to the Oilers.

    Let him do another exhaustive search for months.The new GM hires his coach regardless of ties to the Oilers.

    Have all three in place before seasons end or shortly there after.

    Have all three build a winner.

    My bill for consultation will be in the mail Mr.Katz.

  • Spoils

    Willis,

    Take Schultz off your list. He is awful.

    A defensive liability lost in his own zone.

    Will go down is history as great in the AHL, but couldn’t transition to the big boys.

    All other managers know this and are laughing at Mac T. and his Norris Trophy comments.

    The management of this team is an inbred joke.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Honestly, and this is probably the only time you’ll ever hear me say this on an Oilers site…

    … but I would stay the course.

    Now, I don’t know if that’s really an option, because I suspect that come July 1st there’s going to be a Loony Tunes-style hole in the wall of Rexall that’s shaped like the outline of Jeff Petry bolting to free agency.

    But what I would do this Wednesday is at least try to keep things on the same track.

    Fayne is solid.

    Nikitin will be gone soon.

    Marincin is sound as the pound.

    Klefbom looks legit.

    Schultz is not Norris material, but with good coaching he could turn into a very useful player. Defensive responsibility is the one thing above everything else that you CAN teach, and that’s what Schultz is missing. Along with basically all of the star players on the Oil. Which says very poor things about Edmonton’s coaching.

    Ference shouldn’t be captain, but he is still a legit NHLer, and not as bad as ON tries to make him sound. He’s overpaid, but would guarantee he gets claimed off of waivers.

    I think the Oilers defence is on the right track, they just need a deus-ex-machina #1 defenceman to be dropped into their laps.

    • ubermiguel

      Can’t say I disagree with you. I’m hoping and praying that Ramsay can provide that coaching you mention. I think I’ve seen some improvement in the play this year that might be Ramsay’s influence. If a guy like Chara says Ramsay is a good coach then he’s a good coach.

      I’d love to see a vet/newbie combo on each pairing. Fayne, Nikitin, and Petry are tweeners though; they’re not quite vets yet, they’re still learning. I’m not sure they’re ready to mentor the kids.

  • Armchair_Gm

    Our Defenceman plan looks ok

    Short-term

    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

  • BlazingSaitls

    Make a trade for a legitimate #1 D man. I don’t know what is out there or available, but make the deal. Even at a little overpay.

    Should have stepped up for Boychuck.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    I would trade anybody or everybody on the roster for a Weber, a Doughty or a Suter and a true #1 goalie. If you get these two for the entire team, you can bring up the AHL team and we would probably have a better record than we do now.

    I realize how absurd my suggestion is but recent history has proven, these two positions are the most important in building a competitive team.

  • Johnnydapunk

    The Oil need a proper number one Goalie. Until the defence matures into something NHL ready, having two goalies with limited experience isn’t the way forward. If they manage to get one, then the defence has time and confidence that if they make a mistake, they will have someone to bail them out.

    Great goaltending makes an average team good, and a good team excellent.

    You will never lose a game if you do not let any goals in, and I think Calgary are a great example of what a difference good goaltending makes.

    There were many on the market last summer and MacT just picked wrong.

    • PutzStew

      Concur 100% – MacT picked wrong, which sheds more light on the inadequacies of the Oiler’s pro-scouting department. How many of the players and UFAs they sign turn out to be good acquisitions? Not many.

      Didn’t anybody from pro scouting notice that Sivens has rebound control issues? Didn’t anybody worry about VFs injury issues? Seems like the Flames did a better job of due diligence and are reaping the rewards because of it.

      Isn’t Semenko on the Oiler pro-scouting team? Nuff said.

      For the Oilers to be this bad for so long reveals deeply entrenched mediocrity, which goes hand-in-hand with cronyism. We, the fanbase, are the reals victims in this charade.

      Its always the common folks that get sh*t on the most.

    • Unfortunately, I don’t believe you can just focus on 1 area (i.e. Goaltending) and let poor results in other areas slide.

      Using Calgary as an example, yes this year they started with two goalies: Hiller-proven #1 goalie that got pushed out of Anaheim by youth, and Ramo-semi-proven 1b goalie with limited experience but set himself up nicely last season. They started the season rotating every game, setting up a one-upmanship competition between the two till recently when Hiller was given the reins due to slightly better results. Both have numbers that have been above average to exceptional and Hiller even more so.

      But, at the same time…. their D has also been good to excellent, including Giordano and Brodie who both are at or near the league lead in D scoring, and possession while being both rock-solid defensively and supporting the Offense with great transitional play and passes. Their 3-4 includes Russell (Brodie-lite) and Wideman, who has picked up his play since being a healthy scratch early on. They are all scoring and the D corps overall leads the NHL in D scoring. 5-6 includes Smid and Engelland who bring toughness, clear the net and support their younger players well. Diaz (Russell-lite) sometimes subs in in the bottom pair.

      But, at the same time… the Forwards are mostly defensively responsible. Calgary plays a system where the D are given the green light to go whenever they see an opening, and they do, but at the same time when that happens, and in many other circumstances… that means someone else (a Forward) has dropped back to cover. This isn’t anything new, of course, just that they seem to do it pretty well.

      Now, my point is that Calgary’s success IS NOT GOALTENDING, alone, or DEFENSE, alone or forwards covering up, alone, but all three working together. When they work together the sum is greater than the parts. At the same time, when they don’t work together and there is a breakdown, e.g. non-coverage in the slot or in front of the net, or a bad give-away, or multiple 2-1 rushes against it can come back and look like the goalie is terrible and if we just fix that everything else will be fine. It won’t. Its a team game and I believe you’ve got to have that team unity and team accountability before it will all work.

      So, back to the Oilers. Although I believed and still do that the goaltending was way too inexperienced, and centre is weak, and D is weak and forwards put Offence first and the heck with responsibility all too often. The result is everyone looks bad. Personally I don’t think the pieces are that bad, but the “team” aspect is. The Oilers would be much better off trying to focus on and fix that first, before making these goalies the next scapegoats and looking for a saviour goalie.