The Choice

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There are only so many slots available for young defencemen on an NHL roster, which is why it makes sense to think that only one of Oscar Klefbom or Darnell Nurse will play for the Edmonton Oilers next season.

The Depth Chart

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  • Justin Schultz (RFA): 23:26 minutes per game, 120 games of experience
  • Jeff Petry (RFA): 21:36 minutes per game, 234 games of experience
  • Andrew Ference: 21:03 minutes per game, 831 games of experience
  • Martin Marincin: 19:09 minutes per game, 42 games of experience

We can reasonably assume those four names. To that group we can add players from three sources: external additions, holdovers (any of Mark Fraser, Philip Larsen or Anton Belov) and youth.

As it stands, the Oilers will be icing a minimum of three defencemen with less than 250 games of experience, two with less than two full seasons under their belts, and at least one with less than a full season.

I would argue it isn’t at all a good idea for the Oilers to go into next season with five of their top seven below that 250 game mark, four under the two season mark, or three with less than a year’s experience. If Craig MacTavish agrees with me, that sets the cap for fresh rookies at one.

Who Will It Be?

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Oscar Klefbom has been a welcome addition to the Oilers’ defence corps. His player type – the big guy who isn’t totally incompetent with the puck – is one that’s been widely reputed to exist but hasn’t been seen in Edmonton for some time. He’s a very good skater, he’s strong enough to win battles in the corners and his puck-moving ability dramatically exceeds his point totals.

He’s rawer than Marincin, but his strength gives him an important edge that his teammate lacks.

Darnell Nurse

Darnell Nurse was assigned to Oklahoma City yesterday, and in a lot of ways his scouting report reads like Klefbom’s. Nurse has far shinier point totals and a reputation for a mean streak that Klefbom lacks, and it’s almost certainly not a stretch to project him as the better player long-term, but the problem for him is readiness. Klefbom’s older and more seasoned, and there’s no real downside in letting Nurse have another year of junior hockey (everything I’ve read and heard says he’s still progressing).

The wild card here is Aaron Ekblad, who might be the Oilers’ first round pick at this summer’s draft. He would figure into this conversation. Also figuring into this discussion are things like how Klefbom closes out the year, what Nurse looks like in the AHL, who gets added over the summer and what happens in training camp.

But right now, assuming no Ekblad, I’d slot Klefbom into the Oilers’ lineup and send Nurse back to junior.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Britts94

    Getting younger and less experienced on the blue line will not help and does not solve anything.

    Any young dman not named Doughty who has excelled right out of the gate, has been paired with a stong veteran D-Man to shelter and guide them. Something we are desperately lacking on the oilers.

    IMNSHO, we need to trade for a top dman and sign another. To start the year I would love to see a defence lineup that started something like :

    Trade / Free Agent
    Shultz / Marincin
    Ference / Fraser

    7th – Larson.

    Nurse to go back to juniors, Klefboom to start in AHl and first call up once injuries hit.

    As for trades – would Eberle, Gagner and Petry get us Buf and Kane out of Winnipeg? If so, forward lines could look something like :

    Hall / RNH / Kane
    Perron / Draistl / Yakupov
    Hendricks / Gordon / Pitlick
    Gazdic / Lander / Pinzotto

    13th – Smyth (assuming a low value 1 year contract)

    Hey, a guy can pipe dream right….

  • Spydyr

    At first I thought there is no you can have that many rookies on defence.

    Now with next years draft having Connor in it.Well do it, dress all the rookie defencman(Klefbom,Nurse,Marincin and hopefully Ekblad) and fail with honor for Connor.

    I’m not sure if I’m being sarcastic here.Man, this is a the strangest time to be an Oiler fan.

  • If Nurse and Klefbom and Eckblad are on the roster this fall it will because they outplayed and earned their spots on the roster. Not because of their draft position.

    MacT will sign a FA or bring in another dman via trade.Who that will be is anybody’s guess.

  • S cottV

    Really like the looks of Klefbom and it’s time to keep him in the lineup.

    If MacT can swing a legit first pairing veteran d man and second pairing veteran d man – Nurse and Ekblad (if available) could stay in development.

    Otherwise – we are not making the playoffs anyway, so – maybe fast track one or both Nurse and Ekblad.

    While risky – the Oilers have to get a first rate back end going one way or another.

    • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

      I think top priority for MacT is trying to land an experienced D-man that isn’t too old and can play the tough minutes. With the FA market looking weak and Edmonton sure to have a tough time luring anyone without massive overpayment, I think it makes sense that one of Klefbom/Marincin/Nurse may be asked for as part of a package if he’s going to get a top pairing D.

      If they draft Ekblad then I don’t know how you can develop all of those prospects over the next 3 years. I’d rather acquire a legit top pairing guy to mentor 2-3 of these prospects rather than trying to develop 3-4 of them playing over their heads in the NHL.

    • Britts94

      Development includes coaching, but it’s not the end all be all. Coaches can talk and motivate till theyre blue in the face and it could have no effect. You can rarely fast-track defencemen in this league now, mostly because they have bodies and minds that are still developing (scientifically, 21 is the age you stop growing). Nurse and Ekblad would get demolished in the corners and in front of the net regardless of size whether they play the first line of an oppponent (Getzlaf or Backes for example) or the third line (Steve Ott or Raffi Torres). Let them play in the minors, where they can still play against men, but won’t be absolutely annihilated every time they step on the ice.

  • To all you posters, who regardless of what the topic of the article is about, continue over and over with the fire management comments, I have a comment for you…………shut the eff up and contribute something worthwhile to the article. I don’t like Lowe either, but this non stop barrage of comments from the same dozen or so posters is ridiculous

    • Spydyr

      How about we just go ahead and let everyone express their opinions freely .No one is making anyone here read anything they don’t want to.

      Sometimes venting is therapeutical.

      • Go ahead and express your opinion, on the TOPIC at hand. Otherwise the next time someone writes an article about Halls corsi, we might as well discuss politics and religion in the comments section.

        If Brownlee or some other blogger writes an article about Oilers management, which they have, then fire away in the comments about management.

        • Spydyr

          Pretty well every article here goes back to Oilers management or mismanagement.

          This is a hockey blog IMO anything to do with hockey goes. Politics and religion not so much.There are many other places one can go for that.

          • Admiral Ackbar

            Hardly any of the articles are directed at management. Those with tunnel vision skew every article to be about something management did or didn’t do. When Willis does an article about how Ebs can’t sustain his shooting % (just an example), people like you blame it on Lowe.

    • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

      PROPS X 1,000,000.

      I agree 100% – enough with the whining about the management! If you want to be negative go post on Coppernblue. Let’s have thoughtful, meaningful, and positive discussion.

  • PlayDirty

    One thing that seems to come up regularly is that teams have a drafted player that is AHL inelligible who has outplayed himself from junior but isn’t ready for the NHL. The NHL needs to work with the AHL so that each team can have at least 1 roster exemption for this type of player – maybe they have to be a first round pick or some other restriction. The CHL allows underagers to play in certain circumstances. It would be good for player development and also good for the AHL to get better quality players as well.

  • 2004Z06

    Oilers require a much better 1-2 top defencemen than is present on team now or in the system . Leave open those spots for acquisition in off season , and then figure out whom might be in spots 3-7 with what’s left . Promoting any we have now to the 1-2 spots will just continue our futility .

    We have been the flagship for futility for last 8 seasons under the watchful eye and guidance of Lowe . Howson and MacT. coming back into fold has even made us worse . All three should probably be replaced , as new ones could not fair much worse than they have . Not like any of them have had success turning our clubs fortunes for the better . Do we wait till turnstiles take a beating , or should Katz hire a new team to run this club ? I believe he should and appease the fan base .

  • Spydyr

    Yes we could go from worst defense to best defense in a couple years…thanks to the draft…

    but only if we don’t ruin these guys. Marincin and petry and klefbom are all homegrown and took the right path (schultz even took his time developing and had to do half a season in the ahl)…but let’s hope management don’t rush the rest of the pack…Nurse should go back to junior (and dominate his league even more, hopefully make wjc) and Klefbom can have the NHL roster spot. If we get Eckblad I’d do the same to him: back to junior and wjc.

    By the way look how good ryan murray looks in cbj…no shot at yak, but murray looks solid (he was sent down for another year too…even if he missed the season with injury).

  • It is a nice problem to have after the lack of choices and gifting of spots over the last 5 years.

    Nurse -Ekblad

    Klefbom – Schultz

    Marcinin – Petry

    Ference

    Holly hell would I be scared going into next season this young, but wow what potential in a year or 2.

    This could easily be one of the best D corps in the NHL in 3 or 4 years.

    If Nurse comes into camp over 200 lbs and looks like one of our best D, how do you send him down?

    If Klefbom and Marcinin finish strong, work hard over the summer and come into camp even better how do you send them down?

    If Ekblad gets drafted and is NHL ready……could be lots of great youth with limited spots.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Bravo Cody.

      It certainly conforms to the rebuild from within blueprint the Oilers would have us believe.

      On a side note, Marincin and another piece would land you that second line center that’s been vacant for years. The Oilers should think long and hard about that though, with Marincin perhaps being the best of that Klefbom/Nurse/Schultz/Ekblad bunch. Petry + could bring something worthwhile back as well. Now that he’s an NHL regular, Jeff can’t wait to get outta here and be somewhere south of the boarder.

    • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

      Looks like a pretty sweet depth chart in a few years! Here’s hoping we can afford all this talent in the years to come.

      Thanks for some optimism to start my morning!

  • PlayDirty

    Perhaps the writers of the first few comments should open their eyes with regards to what has been written on this site over the past several months/years. Secondly, these are blogs meant for entertainment. You might be thinking they have a little more influence on the team than they actually do.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Ya let’s get of petry, a defenceman with NHL experience because we have toast of this guys. Come on people! Shake your heads, he is no superstar but it’s what we have right now. He is still learning the game and maybe he sees the competition coming up and steps it up a bit. Just chill on the petry trades.

  • Fire Kevin Lowe…there it was asked to be said and I said it. It is curious that I haven’t seen any Fire Kevin Lowe rants after seeing what happened in Vancouver. Lowe should have been fired years ago, but this is Katz’s personal fun project and Lowe is his buddy. Heck his son picks the #1 draft picks after all.

    We fans are just silently resolved to more of the same, as we squabble and pontificate about whether this guy or that guy would be a better #4 or #5 defensemen, when we really should be having more fun talking about the #1,2,3 defensemen we don’t have. I’ll talk Coffey, Chara, and Bobby Orr…now at least we can really have a fun wish list, and yes I know two of those players are retired.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Question, if MacT offer sheets Subban do the draft picks (1st,2nd,3rd round picks) go against the 2014 draft or 2015 draft?

    Ference/Shultz

    Klefbom or Marincin/UFA dman(Greene) or trade for one(Boychuck)

    Subban/Belov

    Fraser as 7th

    Larsen, Petry sent packing

    Nurse back to jr for one more yr

    My list of dmen are just thrown together and not in any particular order, just what Id like to see the defence as going into training camp.

    Greene and Boychuck were used because they were names brought up in previous articles. Subban could be the next human rake we’ve been looking for since Pronger(spits).

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    there’s no need to rush Nurse, and Klefbom and Marincin have both earned a spot for next year as far as i’m concerned. and if we were to get Ekblad and he is NHL ready, then he gets a spot too. Petry can be traded as far as i’m concerned.

  • The lack of experience on the back end in key positions should be the first area of damage control this summer. I have no problem letting Klefbom and Nurse both take another year to develop if needed. Trade or free agency is the only way to get an immediate impact. Even guys like Seth Jones and Adam Larrson weren’t put into the #1 spot. Hell Jones plays with Weber. Quickest way to ruin a top defensive draft is throw him into the fire immediately. Even if it’s Ekblad we’re going to need more help.

    • O.C.

      Think u meant Klefbom.

      Try 3 years til a legit contender. And you could have been born a Leafs, Sens, Canucks, or Jets fan. How long have they waited for a cup?

      (Going to Abbotsford Friday to watch Nurse.)

  • 2004Z06

    You would pick Belov, Larsen and Fraser over Klefbom, Nurse and possibly Ekblad who some have argued is the only player in the up-coming draft to step into the NHL next season? Thank goodness you are nothing more than another voice from the blogosphere. Thank goodness you are not the GM. Egads man.

  • O.C.

    The Choice!! What a title.

    I thought you were going to talk about a choice Vancouver made over the last 2 days and that maybe after 14 years with Lowe in the organization, we may have an argument to make.

    Alas, no deal. Bloggers too scared to write about the sacred truth of choice. To fire poor management or keep them around because they are ex-NHL players.

    Keep writing articles that will not change this team, because some way or another, Lowe et al. will manage to screw it up.