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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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!)

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 .

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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

    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.

  • 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?!!!

  • 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.

  • 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.