WWYDW: The Long-Term Defensive Depth Chart

19-Schultz-3

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


  • 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.

  • 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

    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).

  • Greasy Goal

    First off: benching Marincin is one of the worst things this organization has done in a while. He is by far our most reliable defender(see 2013-2014 rel. corsi). Secondly: even though this group of dmen and goalies are an improvement on last year, they’re still bottom 15. In a league where defence and goaltending are becoming more critical to winning than scoring the oilers need to focus on this area more. Play your best defenders now( no Hunt/Aulie more Klefbom/Marincin) If we try to put forth a competitive team every night maybe we can pull out of the bottom 5 .

    • ubermiguel

      Hey stats nerd…before crying over Marincin sitting out, and using stupid advanced stats to back your argument why don’t you watch a game? He was terrible last night and deserves to be sitting in Boston.

      • Greasy Goal

        Stats tell a story, regardless of what you think. Even if it wasn’t his best game you should never bench one of your better d-men on the basis from one game.

  • 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.

  • Spoils

    i really want to see this team start to win games they aren’t supposed to win as opposed to lose games they could have won.

    better goaltending, a little cleaner d work, some puck luck with the 4 posts and handfull of missed nets and big saves and the Oilers win the Philly game.

    now remember how completely outclassed they were by LA earlier this year.

    Even once we improve through ageing (adding Nurse, better Klefbom, Leon, Yak etc.) – we are going to be in the fight of our lives to beat crazy good teams like Ducks, LA, Chi, StL…

    we need to find the heart to win the tough battles.

    we need to start being a team that finds ways to win

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • BlazingSaitls

    Marincin benched is something only happens in Edmonton.

    Given black hole ozone starts and MM comes outta the abyss smoking, slightly chared and almost unscathed. He plays one game back where he should of started the season with Petry and has a mediocre game, and Eakins thinks he sees sideburns.

    Inexplicable and unjustifiable move. These two smartest men in the room (MacT and Eakins)need to both get share a room in Ponoka and give reigns to people who understand hockey.

    Boston is a must win, but I think they will loose 5-2. Nuge and Yak respond. Shultz is -2. Allie drops the mits, get dumped and is an unmitigated disaster all night. Eakins looks stunned like he has seen a ghost. Scrivens spends the night swimming in the crease while Boston controls the zone at will.

  • vetinari

    We need short term stability and Marincin seems to be in Eakins’ doghouse and Petry has one foot out the door. Trade Petry between new year’s and the deadline to maximize value (sigh- likely a pick and prospect) and go hunting for some interim veteran help. Schultz’s ice time gets dialled back on 5v5 and Petry gets the excess to drive up his value. Make a call to Buffalo on Meyers. Be prepared to send over a roster player or two, and use Marincin as bait if you are not going to play him. Fasth is gone at the end of the year so you may wish to add another goalie if you can. Then pray. We suck at developing defensively responsible players from within. And then repost this question in November 2015 if nothing changes behind the bench or in the front office.

  • The defence much like the centre group is overrated.

    Schultz is the most overated D-man since Mike Green.

    N.N was a healthy scratch on a E.C playoff team…..

    Nurse still wont be NHL ready next year, I still stand by the fact the Oilers should have taken Nichushkin.

    Ference is past his best before due date.

    Fayne & Petry are the only decent D-man the Oilers have and the Oilers still managed to screw up Petry’s value.

    yet, both Fayne and Petry would be 3-4 on most W.C teams.

    The Oilers still don’t have a 1-2 pairing D-men……..what could go wrong?

    MacTavish over valued his defence last year & appears to have done it again.

    No depth down the middle and a team full of 3,4,5,6 D-man, good grief….

      • Honestly…..I’m not sure MacTavish values his pro staff or amature staff to be honest.

        Let’s objectively look at some of the recent roster moves.

        If I’m McGregor, and Draisatli isn’t in any scouting department’s top 3 rankings do you tell your boss to take the north, south big German over the shifty, feisty, aggressive and skilled Bennett? Bennett never fell out of the top three rankings once.

        I’ll bet Bennett out performs Draisatli.

        Do you ask your pro staff to find you a defenseman who can play in the top 4 and give you good minutes, and they come up with Nikita Nikitin……A defensemen who was a healthy scratch last year.

        Meanwhile, MacTavish has one true top 4 defensemen and undervalues him making him all but untradeable.

        Now, this is where I know MacTavish is working alone.

        Instead of using Marincin or Klefbom we got to watch Hunt nose dive on national T.V for 10+ games, Hunt is a MacTavish boy.
        MacTavish is going to do what MacTavish wants to do because he’s the smartest man in the room.

  • BlazingSaitls

    I think Ray Ferrero said today that there is nothing out there. The time to make those kind of decisions are in the off season, when there are many options at better value.

    I say restructure the entire organization from top down this year and prepare for next. Even if you restructure from the top down, chances are the team actually improves rather than plummets before November is over.

    • Oilers4Ever

      Come on man you know very well these reporters will never point fingers at management directly under the fear of getting their access restricted to Rexall.

      • BlazingSaitls

        There’s no need for Jonny Blogger to point fingers at management. Just loft up an easy pitch, leave it to the commentors smash the ball.

        When you openly question what should be done with a confused defensive situation its safe to say Jonny Blogger is “pointing” in the right direction at least.

  • 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.

  • Oilers4Ever

    The Senators are keeping Curtis Lazar.
    If it was the Oilers, Lazar would be on a Premier Line.

    In Ottawa, he will begin on the backbenches. If he does well he could get a cabinet post to a higher
    Post or Line. You “Always” have to “Earn” your way in Ottawa!
    Not so in Edmonton!

  • vetinari

    To me, there are two glaring questions.
    First, the same guy that torpedoed the franchise is still in charge. How can you reasonably expect the right decisions to be made & a solid blueline built with him looking over everyone’s shoulder? Until Kevin Lowe is terminated, there will always be a cloud over the GM.
    And 2nd, at this point, is there any reason to be convinced that Schultz, Klefbom & Nurse are guys to build a defense around? Schultz is one of the reasons the current blueline is bad, & if Klefbom & Nurse are supposed to be that good, how are they unable to crack this lineup?
    The team needs one top-flight defenseman & if they have to trade Eberle & someone else to do it, so be it.

  • PutzStew

    Can someone please give me a legitimate reason as to why Katz still has Lowe on the payroll?? I get. He was a heck of a defensman! He was an important part of the dynasty that we all enjoy reflecting upon. He’s done alot for the community, and I appreciate that. but there comes a point when you got to move on. That point was a long time ago for Kevin. All he’s doing now is soiling what once was a legendary reputation in this market. Hang up the skates one more time KLowe, you’re not wanted here.

    • camdog

      Lowe is like an old broken toy that you had as a kid. The toy is broken and it doesn’t work any more, but it does have a lot of sentimental value for Mr. Katz.

  • PutzStew

    “At the team’s disposal in the minors the picture is slightly less clear cut, but it includes the following players:
    • LD/RD Brad Hunt, 26 years old, $550,000 per season, RFA summer 2015
    • LD/RD David Musil, 21 years old, $894,000 per season, RFA summer 2016
    • LD/RD Dillon Simpson, 21 years old, $925,000 per season, RFA summer 2017
    • LD Jordan Oesterle, 22 years old, $925,000 per season, RFA summer 2016
    • LD Martin Gernat, 21 years old, $925,000 per season, RFA summer 2016
    • LD Brandon Davidson, 23 years old, $650,000 per season, RFA summer 2015”

    And Lagesson .So realistically how many from this list make the team? One? Maybe. Prospects are great but they can’t all make the team. Take one of these D and package with a 3rd-4th round pick and get the best C you can find.

    That’s WIWD

  • Spiel

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m sick and tired of reading 78,000 versions of depth charts, possession charts, etc, etc. I know I’m a simpleton, but I’d sure like to read an article that says “get your ass in gear”, or “go to the tough areas to score”, instead of this continuous drivel. Seeing that the 9th dman on the roster is trending upwards is ridiculous. …let’s get to the bottom of why we can’t win. (Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy the writers here, I’m just sick of all the numbers!)

  • camdog

    Don’t be so concerned about the Oilers.The Sports Entertainment K Group is trying to get the CFRodeo for the new Arena.They don’t have a barn in the plans.

    Don’t worry, the Oilers continue to operate a “HOCKEY TEAM” without leadership.
    They can easily do a barnless rodeo!
    The year in review.

    League starts— Oilers nearly out of Playoffs—

    The CFR — City Windrow Snow Pilling— NHLDraft–

    Thankyou Sports Entertainment Group K Group for doing “everything” for Edmonton.
    Not a selfish bone anywhere!
    They indeed know how to “PILE” it on and that’s no Bull!

  • 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.

  • 1979

    Not just for the fans but for these hockey players, the GM needs to make some trades to save this season. Clearly we need a centreman, a defender that is better then the whole lot of them and a clear cut number one goalie. I think if you can get a number one D-man who isn’t over the hill then no defenseman outside of Nurse is off limits. Up front you keep Hall, Nuge, and Draisaital off limits and lottery protect this years no.1pick. The future on defense for me:

    Nurse – New No. 1
    Klefbom – Fayne
    Marincin – Petry

    So…I trade Schultz.

  • 1979

    Why is it that mr bean continues to make absolutely ridiculous decisions that no sain NHL coach or person with a heart beat would ever make:
    -play Shultz the most out of anyone on the team when really he should have the least EV TOI out of everyone.
    -bench Marincin to play his buddy from the marlies Keith aulie against the bruins
    -keeping acton around even though that has never worked out once
    -splitting up our fourth line against the flyers
    -putting Hendricks with yak and Leon?
    The list goes on forever-why was brad hunt ever on the team playing 20+ mins a night?

    These are all things that our whole fan base sees as obvious no no’s, yet there’s mr bean thinking he’s one step ahead of everyone else, where really- he’s on a different planet.

    We aren’t that bad- it’s the decisions Dallas is making and the way hes handling our d corps that’s putting us behind the 8 ball. That and the fact that he lets guys get away with poor play and lack of effort rather than ripping their face off and getting them to buy in. I know Bob Hartley wouldn’t put up with half the stuff mr bean turns a blind eye to.

    And for god sakes fix the power play because its pathetic.

    Wish we never fired Krueger, we were in the playoff hunt all the way until April 2013 with him as our head coach.. that coaching change is on you MacT. You’re one of the few smart men in our management, fix this and tell Lowe and Eakins to beat it.

    • 1979

      Good point – why was Ralph replaced? We were in a playoff hunt, Hall and Nuge and the youngins were excited, and although they came up short, it was a great learning experience. I’m sure they were stoked to start the 2013-14 year with Ralph, but then learn that Dallas is coming to town with some cutting edge coaching strategies.

      I think MacT made a stupid decision, one which he obviously will never admit, which sucked the life out of a rebuilding young team. The strange thing is that he made the coaching change right after he stated that there had been to many coaches during the rebuild. To me this is complete managerial incompetence, which involved one of the most important positions on the team (the head coach) and this moronic decision should be grounds for dismissal.

      If you are Taylor Hall, just coming off the most successful season with the Oilers where he actually played some late-season meaningful games, and then getting a text message from Oiler management about Ralph being replaced. What does that do to team moral? Good one MacT.

  • 1979

    My first instinct is to package Schultz to bring in a proper 2C, but frankly I question his value in the open market. He’s going to want more $ than he’s worth next year. I’d rather have Petry and replace Shultz with a different puck mover in the summer if you can’t put a big deal together to land a C and a D who can tide you over.

    Because of his weaknesses defending though is he really that much more valuable than say Tanev? If he is, then sell baby sell.