If the Oilers are going to improve in the coming seasons, it has to start on the blueline. They need a develop a top-pairing D-man, rather than rely on the very low possibility they will be able to trade for one. Unless a team is in a financial crunch, or a complete rebuild, I don’t see a reason why they would move a legitimate top-pairing defender.
So that leaves the Oilers in the dubious position of needing to wait until Oscar Klefbom or Darnell Nurse emerge as a top-pair defender.
Make no mistake: the Oilers blueline got worse by trading Jeff Petry. Petry is not a top-pair defender, and despite many suggesting he will command $5 million/year in free agency, I don’t see that happening. I think $4.5 will be his max, but I’d expect his salary to be lower, unless he plays exceptionally well with the Canadiens.
Petry wanted a chance to play in the playoffs, Craig MacTavish told us yesterday, and Petry will get his wish with the Canadiens. How he performs there will have a strong impact on his salary in the summer. I fall right in the middle when evaluating Petry. Many fans of analytics love Petry and believe he is very solid, while others think he has no value.
For me, he is a capable NHL D-man, a solid #4/5, but he has some warts to his game. He is an excellent skater, decent passer, has a very good shot (but doesn’t use it nearly often enough), and he can close the gap well when opposing forwards are on the rush. My concern is his consistency, his intensity and competitiveness. Too often I’ve seen him stand beside a guy in front of the net and not match the battle level of his opponent.
The Oilers blueline is simply not good enough to lose him for draft picks, but the Oilers put themselves in the position where Petry had all the power and they had no choice but to trade him. The picks they receive from Montreal might help them in four years, but remember that it will likely be six or seven seasons before that second round pick is as polished as Petry; if that pick even develops into an NHL player.
SO WHAT NOW?
Klefbom is getting better every day, and Martin Marincin has shown the light went off and he’s learned he needs to be involved in the battle more in his own zone. Those are the two positives for the Oilers. Justin Schultz has looked better paired with Klefbom, and been given mainly offensive zone starts, but my concern with Schultz is the same worry I had with Tom Gilbert and Petry: is he capable of raising his intensity in the tough areas of the ice? Right now, I see Schultz being used properly 5×5, someone who can help your PP, but isn’t ready to play tough minutes.
Mark Fayne is best suited to play the difficult 5×5 minutes. He did it in New Jersey and was quite successful. He is a pure defensive D-man, and if they can find a good, strong, physical puckmover to play with him then they could have a decent shut down pair. Klefbom would be the best bet to do that, but it seems for now the organization wants to keep him with Schultz. Marincin and Fayne should be paired together the rest of the way, and Marincin has shown more competitiveness entering battles lately which was the only concern in his game. His puck skills are good. He is still young and he could emerge as the guy capable of playing those minutes with Fayne.
- I heard two different trains of thought from MacTavish yesterday. He was cautious of the overall potential of his defence core. “I am reasonably comfortable going forward with Oscar, Justin, Nikita, Andrew and Mark Fayne moving forward,” he said. It irked some that he didn’t include Marincin, but I think it was more a case of him having a momentary memory lapse, which is why he used both of Fayne’s names. I actually saw it as a positive for him to calmly, without any over promises, discuss his D core. As I sat listening to him, I thought he’s learned from how he publicly challenged/questioned Dubnyk and Petry and was just going to stay neutral and not overestimate their ability. I know they aren’t sexy quotes, but the GM should say he supports his players, without overrating them, even if privately he doesn’t.
- However, a few minutes later he fell into his old habit of overstating the value of his players. “Nikitin is a top-four NHL defenceman,” he said. What concerns me is that he believes this, similar to that he believed Schultz had Norris Trophy potential. He is not a second pairing defender on a good team, but if the Oilers believe he is then their team won’t be that good. And if they think he is a top-four defender, then I’d be worried about which D-men they will target in the summer. If they can’t properly evaluate their own players, then it is fair to wonder if they will accurately evaluate free agents or potential trade candidates.
- What bothered me even more, however, was the fact that Nikitin didn’t come to camp in great shape. “He started off slowly, I don’t think he was in the best shape. He was getting into shape and playing better,” said MacTavish.
That is downright embarrassing and I would not want that guy on my team. If he isn’t committed to his teammates, then he’s worthless. He signs the biggest contract of his career on a new team, and he rewards the organization and his teammates by showing up out of shape. Disgusting. I’d buy him out in a heartbeat this summer. Send a message it is not acceptable to disrespect your teammates. All of them put in the hard work in the summer, but he didn’t.
- If the organization deems that acceptable then they will never improve. He wasn’t a rookie or a sophomore, he was 28 years old and he couldn’t muster up enough internal drive to be in proper physical conditioning at training camp. And this is someone you claim is a top-four defender? Niktin is not good enough to be showing up out of shape, and he is not a glue guy in the room. There is no reason to bring him back, other than sheer stubbornness of not wanting to admit you made a bad signing, or grossly overrating his ability.
- I hope you take a moment to read this. Every person reading this site should read this story. A warning some of the language is not appropriate for kids under 15. This is much more bothersome than who is a top-four D-man, and I’m guessing it will strike a much deeper nerve with you.
The Oilers have 12 healthy forwards, and they only have one recall option left, so I don’t see them changing their forwards until
Anton Lander or Taylor Hall returns. I expect them to use their final
recall on Brandon Davidson, unless another forward gets injured before
Lander and Hall can return.
Jordan Oesterle will take
Petry’s spot beside Andrew Ference, and that is a significant drop off. I
expect Fayne/Marincin to see more icetime now that Petry is gone.
Scrivens starts, and I see him playing the majority of games the rest of the way.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
From the Royal Half…
As the LA Kings face-off against the Edmonton Oilers tonight, they only need to look back to their last game in 2014 to pinpoint how frustrating this season has been for their fans.
In fact, that game was so frustrating that I’m pretty sure this is the first time that particular game is being referenced on the site.
The Kings lost to the Oilers 3-2 in a shootout that night.
It happens, right?
Well, for the Oilers, not really.
The Oilers have played 38 games against Western Conference opponents so far this season.
They have won a grand total of five of those games.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Kings have lost three straight, after winning eight in a row. They desperately need the two points and pick up a close 3-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Kings big, strong forwards give the Oilers fits below the harsmarks in the offensive zone.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oesterle picks up a point in his third NHL game, which leads some to wonder if he could be a regular next year. Please don’t think he should be. Let him keep developing in the minors.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- Petry trade: Predictable
- Motivation Music
- Pouliot producing and Congrats Joey!!
- Monday Musings
- GDB 60.0: MacTavish on Petry, Klinkhammer and Roy
- West race: Who you got?
- Jetting Back to the West