Pretty much everyone expects that the Edmonton Oilers are going to trade Jeff Petry. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent on a bad team, and said bad team has never really seemed all that committed to the player.
It’ll be a shame if it happens, because he’s the best defenceman on the team, and the kind of things he does when he’s at his best were on full display in Friday’s 5-2 victory over Chicago.
The Tough Minutes
On Friday Petry led the Oilers in both total ice time (21:47) and also even-strength ice time (19:43), which is a pretty good indication of what new head coach Todd Nelson thinks of the player. In the six games since Nelson has taken over full control of the head coaching duties, Petry has played 20-plus minutes every night while fellow right-side defenders Mark Fayne and Justin Schultz have topped the 20 minute mark just twice each.
Equally telling is how the even-strength minutes against Jonathan Toews were assigned (again, we’ll stick with the right side of the defence here):
- against Petry: 10:17
- against Fayne: 4:21
- against Schultz: 0:40
Well, Jonathan Toews is a pretty good player, so that says something about who the coach trusts. I wonder who got assigned those tough shifts starting in the defensive zone at evens?
- Petry: three offensive zone starts, eight defensive zone starts
- Schultz: five offensive zone starts, five defensive zone starts
- Fayne: nine offensive zone starts, two defensive zone starts
Wow. Not only was Petry playing against the best player on the best team in the league, but he started more shifts in the defensive zone than the other two right-shooting defenceman did combined? He must have been buried, right?
- Petry: +15/-10 on-ice Corsi, +3/-0 on-ice goals
- Schultz: +12/-18 on-ice Corsi, +1/-0 on-ice goals
- Fayne: +15/-18 on-ice Corsi, +0/-2 on-ice goals
Jeff Petry spent Friday night playing pretty much the toughest minutes the NHL has to offer, and while he was on the ice the Oilers out-scored Chicago 3-0 and 60% of shot attempts took place in the Blackhawks’ end of the rink. Oh, and he scored the game-winning goal.
Change of Heart(s)?
If there is one thing the Oilers’ coaches agree on, it seems to be that they like Jeff Petry. Nelson has treated him like his No. 1 defenceman, while Dallas Eakins repeatedly defended the player publicly. It should also be remembered what Steve Smith (who ran the Oilers’ defence last year before taking a job in Carolina this season) said about the player in a September interview on Oilers Now:
You look at Jeff and the things that he has done with a program that is on the build, I think he’s done pretty darn well. He’s had to play against all the top centremen in the league for two or three years now. He’s had to play against all the top power plays in the league for two or three years now. He’s really an underrated penalty killer, he’s really a wonderful skater, he’s a good person, he’s a good teammate, and he attempts to do all the things that are asked of him on a daily basis. What else can you ask of a player?
I wonder a little bit what MacTavish thought of Petry during his stint behind the bench last month. His time in that position inspired a lot of activity – four of the Oilers’ 12 forwards are new to the lineup in the extremely brief period since – and is pretty clearly informing his plan the rest of the way. Did he see the same things in Petry that Nelson, Eakins and Smith did?
Despite the seeming inevitability of a Petry deal the Oilers still have time before the trade deadline. Is it time enough for Petry to convince Craig MacTavish that he’s a piece to build around, and time enough for MacTavish to convince Jeff Petry that he should stay in Edmonton?
I don’t have the answer for that. But the more Edmonton wins, the better Petry must feel about the team. And the more Petry plays a leading role in those efforts, the better the team must feel about Petry. If this keeps up, we just might see the relationship last a little longer than previously expected.