DESTINATION PETRY: THE EDMONTON OILERS?

The dictionary defines a paradigm shift as a fundamental change in
approach or underlying assumptions. It’s a cool thought but very
difficult to do in reality. I think we may be seeing something close in
the offices of the Edmonton Oilers at this time. Allow me to elaborate.

Jeff Petry, over time, has been building a resume that suggests he is
going to be an effective possession defenseman. There are many things
he doesn’t do—leap buildings in a single bound, invent things, sing like
Neil Diamond—but in the portion of the game of hockey that includes
retrieval, recognition, effective outlet passing and coverage, Petry’s
got some nice things in his bag. He’s also approaching the point in his
career when all of these things will pay off for his team. I’m not going
to post the Vollman Sledgehammer, you’ve seen if before and there’s
such a thing as overkill and let’s establish he’s good at those
possession things compared to the rest of the defense group that we call
the Edmonton Oilers.

There has always been a disconnect between
the Petry’s in the world and the old timey definition of defense. Why?
Well, Petry doesn’t match our mind’s eye about how defense works. We
intuitively see ‘defense’ as starting from a position of weakness (no
possession) and playing the individual sortie to a draw. That isn’t
modern defense, it is not how successful NHL teams go about the business
of defense.

  • Darryl Sutter: “The big
    thing in today’s game is you have to be able forecheck and backcheck,
    and you have to have the puck. You can’t give the puck up. We don’t play
    in our zone, so there’s not much defending.  I’ve coached in three
    decades now and this stuff where they said Marian had to play in
    Jacques’s system is a bunch of bull-crap. The game’s changed. They think
    there’s defending in today’s game. Nah, it’s how much you have the
    puck. Teams that play around in their own zone think they’re defending
    but they’re generally getting scored on or taking face-offs and they
    need a goalie to stand on his head if that’s the way they play.”

This paragraph is modern defense in prose. My generation watched Ted
Harris hammer forwards into the boards, hold them, and secure the puck.
Rule and equipment changes, the speed of the game and our tastes as fans have
conspired to produce the modern defense as described above by Sutter.

It’s how much you have the puck! Now, I’m going to suggest
that Craig MacTavish, Kevin Lowe and Scott Howson know this intuitively
but ‘fall back’ into old habits when approaching actual decision
making. It’s understandable really, if you’re charged with a very
serious job (‘is Jeff Petry worth $5 million of the money our boss is
going to spend?’) then at some point the things you trust are going to
figure prominently. Is he tough? Does he hit like a truck? Will he
fight? Does he fit the idea of a rugged defenseman in the mind’s eye?

No.
None of those things scream Jeff Petry. I’ve always felt (privately)
Edmonton would send Petry away for the same reasons the club cashed Tom
Gilbert for Nick Schultz:  A clear value assessment that gives great
import to things not included in the Sutter mission statement above.
Petry isn’t an identical comp for Gilbert, he’s a more physical player
but the overall presence is similar.

Now, let’s fast forward to yesterday.

I think an offer would be a significant departure for the Edmonton Oilers
management group. Why? Unlike the final Ales Hemsky contract, in which
there appeared to be a split on a decision (my own read was Steve
Tambellini wasn’t strong on the player, but that’s a guess) it always
seemed to me the Oilers as a group were all on the same page about
Petry. It could best be summed up like this:

  • MacT: “Jeff
    is anticipating a high level and he has the ability to hit it out of the
    park. If that’s the case, we’re right back at the table next year
    negotiating a long-term deal based on a tremendous season.”
    Source

It
has not been a tremendous season and yet there appears to be some
movement. Has the player changed his ask? I doubt it. Has the
organization changed its view of the player? My guess is they have, in
some real way, altered the evaluation equation over the last number of
months and are coming to a new conclusion.

Look, it could be
nothing. The Oilers may send him away tomorrow and Jeff Petry will move
on with his life and so will we, albeit with a different group of blue
in Oilers Nation. I’m guessing there’s something here, don’t know what
and haven’t the resources to track it down. I’ll say this: If the
Edmonton Oilers sign Jeff Petry before the deadline, it will absolutely
indicate there is a change in the weather and that the Sutter version of
defense is finally seeing the light of day in all Edmonton corridors.

And that my friends would be a very good day.

  • CMG30

    On a completely different topic.
    What would be the expectation n for Yak’s new contract? Over the last few years the Oiler’s standard procedure has been to give their No. 1 overall drafts a 6M contract pretty much regardless of what they might have actually done. In RNH’s 2nd year (the Oil gave him his 6M contract after his 2nd year) he scored 4 goals and 20 assists in 40 games. With Yaks improved play he will likely (on a pro-rated basis) score better than that. Why wouldn’t he expect, demand a similar contract?

  • toprightcorner

    The thing about Petry is that he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses and he doesn’t have any strengths that jump out at you, he is what I would call unremarkable. Doesn’t stand out much, good or bad but in a majority of games he doesn’t leave a lasting impression that he had a great game, he just happens to not to have as bad of a game as the rest of the defense.

    Unremarkable doesn’t get you noticed one way or the other so you just group him in the “slightly above average”pile and the players in that group get their big contracts as free agents, not usually resigning with the same team

    As a defenseman, if you are unnoticed, thats the toughest position to cash in with your existing team.

    That said, if the oilers ever get to the point of making any sort of run in the playoffs, Petry is at best a #4 dman and $5 million is too much to pay for that player.

  • wiseguy

    This whole thing reminds me of the Gagner situation. Remember when we thought he’d leave as the youngest UFA ever because we signed didn’t lock him up when his value was lower? We were then ecstatic when he chose to sign a long term deal for high, but what we thought was fair, dollars? Within a year we realized it was a massive overpay and that killed his trade value and we gave him away for nothing.
    We’d like to say “history repeats itself” but this happened so recently it can’t even be considered “history”. More like “be careful what you wish for”.

  • toprightcorner

    I sure hope Petry gets traded soon…….I can’t stomach anymore articles on how he is the best and the Oilers are doomed without him. We have read the same message written 100 different ways, lets just move on. Petry would be dumb to pass up freeagency and the Oilers would be dumb to pay him the type of money it would take to convince him not to become a free agent. It is a lose lose senario, lose him and the management is stupid, sign him and the management gets blamed for 5 years for the terrible contract.

    a Petry deal for Edmonton would be a Horcoff 2.0.

  • ubermiguel

    I’ll tell you what Petry does well. He skates, he passes, he jumps up, he comes back.

    In other words, he plays defense well.

    Did you see that 100ft breakaway pass up the ice to Nuge the other game? That looked Pronger-esque to me. Gilbert could do that too.

  • ubermiguel

    Ahh, so we cant pay Petry 5, but we can pay Ferrence 3.5 and Nikitin 4.5? One of these three is much better than the others.

    Petry, a mobile puck moving dman, will always have value. Ferrence, Nikitin, may not.

    • toprightcorner

      4.5 Mill was way to much for Nikitin but at least it is a 2 year contact so it doesn’t hurt you for long. Petry will need to be 5 years at least so if he ends up being overpaid by $1.5 mill a year for what he brings that is much more constricting and affects the team a lot longer. With Klefbom and Nurse projected to be higher in the lineup than Petry in a couple years you don’t want a contract albatross as a 4/5 guy if the team is able to get a true #1 dman. That is what Horcoff was when he was paid as a 1C but in 2 years he had dropped to a 3C and most fans were all over him.

      I am not saying Petry will or will not live up to a $5+ mill contract but that is the decision that has to be made. Today it looks like the Oilers would be stupid not to sign Petry at $5 mill but in 2-3 years it could look like a terrible contract that would be difficult to unload and could hamper additions when they need to be pushed over the top.

      The decision to sign Petry is actually a much more difficult decision than it looks on the surface.

      Bottom line, unless the offer starts with a 6, Petry will become a FA and maximize his dollars.

    • papler

      and how did you get access to that parallel universe where an Edmonton Oilers team plays without Petry? based on your comment you know that the team would play equally bad without Petry

      or maybe they play less bad with Petry?

      and a good coach lets good defensemen play on the PP where they get more points p/60. Eakins did not.

  • Slapshot

    If I’m his agent, I’m telling him to wait for the UFA payday. It’s really that simple. That, plus the Oilers have never sniffed the playoffs since before he was drafted.

  • Jayz

    Remember when Hemsky tore it up in OTT after he was traded? How’s he doing this year ? Not saying it’s the same thing but it would be nice to have a consistent performance all year long.

    Pessimistic maybe but 143241 times burned 143242 times shy.

  • Anton CP

    It is simple, make an offer to Petry of his real value (somewhere around 3.5m/per). If he is not going to take it then let him walk for nothing is not always bad. What is the point of getting a third round back when the scouts can’t do their job properly? No contenders will want to trade their veterans away so no real value can gain from trades anyway.

    The only annoy fact is that MacT won’t even try, and any reason he wants to talk to Petry is only because he can’t find the trading partner.

  • Spoils

    Tell Petry that we will trade him at the deadline if he will resign with edmonton for 500k less then his best offer on the open market in the summer. Petry gets a playoff Run, and the Oilers get a draft pick and Petry for $500k off market value for the next few years. Plus it helps us get McJesus.

    Course I do not know the outcome of Petry’s injury. Is he out for long term, or available for trade?

  • Spoils

    not going to read through all comments, but he either signs or he doesnt. Either way this fan is meh. We are developing a great stable of Dmen and next game I want you all to watch KBOM. The kid is a solid dman. He will be a 1D pairing on most teams in a couple years. If we sign petry great…..if not, I hope he gets packaged in a return for a current 1D, 1/2C or G.

  • Spoils

    All the noise about being hard to sign players in Edmonton because it is cold or the media is too tough is complete hogwash.

    Build a team that has a real chance of winning and every UFA will be knocking at the door.

    • Spoils

      I hope the Oilers sign Petry. He has shown good progress and the type of players the Oilers can always use for the future. Petry has shown what he is capable. Now the management should recipicate and keep the young stars together.

    • Zarny

      No, they won’t.

      Winning will certainly increase the number of UFA’s willing to come to Edmonton.

      The reality, however, is many players don’t want to play in a fishbowl. Van and Mtl have had success recently and there are UFA’s that don’t want to play in either place.

      To suggest climate, a TMZ-like media atmosphere and rabid fans tossing jerseys on the ice doesn’t impact signings is willful ignorance.

      • Spoils

        I guess I should concede that all things being equal Edmonton is at a disadvantage. But, I promise you, if we have a strong chance of winning, the players will line up.

        • Zarny

          Oh for sure, winning will attract more UFA’s; no doubt about it.

          That applies to every market though. The problem is that for cities like Edm, Wpg, Buf, Cgy etc winning is the only selling point they will ever have and they’ll never be the only team in the league that has a chance to win.

          Lifestyle matters. It’s why snowbirds prefer Florida. It’s why many prefer Edm or Cgy or Red Deer to Didsbury or Coronation and why you have to pay a mint to get workers up to Ft. Mac.

  • Zarny

    Interesting development. Have to wonder if Petry’s play or underwhelming trade offers is the motivating factor.

    I don’t agree with the sentiment Petry will get $5M+ July 1st. Limited offensive numbers, defensive limitations plus I don’t think playing in Edmonton helps his cause. $4-4.25M similar to Stralman’s deal is what I think Petry can expect.

    I’m sure Edm will have to pay a bit more but I wouldn’t go to $5M/yr. In a cap system you have to balance the player to the cost.

  • S cottV

    To compensate for the Winnipeg – Edmonton factor, the Oilers organization has to be perceived as being in the top 10 percentile in the league.

    Owner, President, GM, Scouting, Coaching, Development, Performance, Facilities – the whole bit…

    Perception of the Oilers organization surely runs at the bottom 10 percentile.

    That is why we will lose Petry.

    If Katz doesn’t wake up and address this perception imbalance, it’s gonna be ugly for a long time.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    Thirty years ago, the Oilers had several of the greatest players on the planet, and if they needed to tweak the roster, they only had 20 teams to compete against for assets. It was easy to attract, trade for, and retain players.

    Today, they’re horrible, they have 29 teams to compete against, and the players have much greater mobility. Edmonton isn’t a bad place to live. I think it’s a great place to raise a family. The problem is, when you’re filthy stinking rich, and there are 29 other places you can choose from, it’s not exactly a destination of choice.

    They need to win, or they need to contract a lot of teams.

    Hopefully, both.

    • Burnward

      Its such a great place to live, that even the owner[Katz] won’t live Edmonton, Go figure.

      PS. There is a taxation advantage, not mention the odd beach when living in the USA.

      • Gerald R. Ford

        Like I said, “If you’re filthy, stinking, rich…”

        For the average person, this is a fantastic city, in a blessed province (yes, it still is), in the most beautiful country in the world. There are great advantages to living in the States. There are also horrific risks you take if you’re not wealthy enough to insulate yourself from them. It’s whatever you’re comfortable living with, or are wealthy enough to avoid.

        People who hate on Edmonton are either not going to be bothered to come here to experience it, or are residents who are too stupid to appreciate what they have.

        I don’t have time for either.

        • Zarny

          Sorry, I,missed my point. I was not knocking Edmonton,as such. My knock was on Katz, that he lives not in the city where he owns the team.In the city where he went cap in hand to get subsidize his rink etc. etc. But maybe he is rich enough to fly in for all the home games and coach Lowe and MacT on how to not run an NHL franchise.

          The winters are just as harsh in Wpg, Ott. Mtl.
          even Pitt, Det. Buff. and Tor.

        • Zarny

          Agree, Alberta does not have the 5% provincial tax. I would assume the Fed. tax is comparable in all provinces.

          Lets be honest at the end of the day is pretty much the losing culture of the organization and perhaps the arrogant character of the ownership and management.

          There is not uglier city in American than Buffalo,Detroit, and even Pittsburgh, and yet you don’t hear people making comments on those cities.

          • Zarny

            No provincial sales tax is part of it; the flat 10% Provincial income tax might be the bigger advantage.

            No doubt 30th, 30th, 29th, 24th, 28th and 29th(?) is the biggest problem. What a sh*t show.

            People do make comments about Buffalo, Detroit and Pittsburgh though. Buffalo was named with Edm and Wpg as the most frequent NMC destinations. The difference with Det and Pit is that they win. The travel is nicer too; another con for the western teams.

    • camdog

      Just noticed the CBC storyline seems to suggest that Albertans are Americans,

      EDIT: I was mistaken that`s just where the story is located. After taxes the Oilers players are among the best paid in the league.

  • camdog

    From the CBC article (Nov, 2014):

    The study also found that the tax rate affected salary caps. Last season, teams could all spend up to $64.2 million before tax. This means the true cap, or after tax cap, of the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers ​was a league high $39.6 million. But the Montreal Canadiens’ true cap was a league low of only $29.6 million.

  • DoubleDIon

    It’s hilarious to me as a Flames fan that you guys spend this much time talking about a guy who would be #5 on our depth chart. Petry is at best a weak #4 or a good #5. He’s not even your best defenseman. Fayne is better and to my eye Klefbom has looked better recently.

    I get that it’s a small sample size, but build with Nurse, Klefbom, Marincin and Fayne.

    Fayne and Klefbom could form a good 2nd pairing next year, Marincin and Nurse start on the 3rd pairing.

    The issue is the guys you have under contract next year. Ference and Nikitin are fine in a bottom pairing role, but there isn’t any upside to either player.

    I’d let Jultz walk. 4 million is way too much to qualify him. If you didn’t have 8 million in bottom pairing guys already maybe you could shelter him.

    I’d anticipate Nurse becoming a top pairing guy and then sign Boychuk. It would be expensive (likely 7 million +) but you guys need a legitimate defenseman to show the young guys the way.

    • Zarny

      Petry and Russell are interchangeable; and Petry is better this year than Wideman was the previous two seasons. He faces tougher zone starts than either and is a better possession player.

      If Petry was a Flame, you’d essentially have three 2nd pairing D of similar quality. And to be fair, Cgy has one of the best blue-lines in the league.

      Petry is equivalent to 2nd or 3rd on the depth chart in Buf, Edm, Car, Tor, NJ, Col, Phi, Dal, Arz, TB and a few others which is half the league.

      That said, teams aren’t going to pay $5M for a lateral addition to their 2nd pair. So if Petry wants to go to a contender he’s going to have to take less money.

      The problem with building around Nurse, Klefbom and Marincin is they all play the left side and have all of 116 games experience combined.

      The dollars tied up in Nikitin and Ference is certainly a problem. And you can’t let Schultz walk for nothing. I think you buy out Nikitin and/or Ference before letting Jultz walk.

      • DoubleDIon

        We’ll disagree on the comparison to Russell. I think Petry isn’t close to as good defensively or offensively. He’s a better pure defender than Wideman but doesn’t bring close to the same offense. We don’t have one of the best blue lines in the league but we do have one of the top 3 pairings unquestionably. Our 1 to 3 are rock solid. Our 4 to 6 pretty bad actually.

  • Zarny

    @Burnward

    I agree Brodie and Josi are both better players than Petry; but they both signed as RFA’s so not direct comparisons. The open market tends to drive up price which is obviously why UFA is so attractive. I bet Brodie gets $6M+ if he was a UFA.

    The way I see it though, Petry has never had a really impressive offensive year like Niskanen, he’s struggled with the really tough defensive assignments and he doesn’t have a Stanley Cup ring or proven his worth in the playoffs like Orpik or even Stralman.

    So while he’s certainly played better this year and the Oilers are better with him than without (ignoring an improved replacement) I just don’t see many, if any, teams breaking the bank for a guy who isn’t proven. And I certainly don’t see any contender offering $5M+ for a guy they will slot in as a 3-5 D.

    We’ll see though…it only takes one offer.

  • TKB2677

    Interesting news from Spector. Says Mactavish has been in talks with Petry’s camp. Sounds like they have made some offers but Petry WANTS to go to UFA. I imagine the Petry camp have given the Oilers a ridiculous number that if it’s met they will sign but the number is so high, they know the Oilers won’t go for it.

    I find it interesting because people are shredding the Oilers for not signing Petry but it takes 2 to sign. Most players want to go to UFA because #1, they get to go where ever they want and #2 most time teams overspend on UFA’s.

    So if you are Petry, unless the Oilers offered him an insane number last offseason, why on earth would you sign? All it takes is one decent year and one desperate GM and they know they will get a huge deal. I’m not trying to stick up for the Oilers, I’m just looking at this logically business wise. Unless Petry happened to get hurt, he’s basically guaranteed to get paid big money. So why would be sign?

    Read a quote from Petry that said the 2 sides are talking. So at least Petry now admits they are talking. Getting him to say anything is a small miracle in itself.