The Oilers had an immediate need in net. They went out and
got their guy in Cam Talbot and they did it at a wonderful price. I’ll probably
revisit that deal sometime soon because everything points to it being a great
deal right now. However, as the Oilers head into the UFA season tomorrow there
is one thing they just simply haven’t addressed: The defense.
Now before we get all up in arms, I wasn’t so polluted at
the OilersNation draft party to miss the club trading for Griffin Reinhart and
Eric Gryba. I saw them. They registered in my head but I’m still struggling
with how they address any of the problems that the Oiler defense actually had.
Edmonton’s problem wasn’t a lack of 3rd pairing defenders. The Edmonton Oilers lacked top four defenders. They lacked players who
could log 20+ minutes a night that the team could actually depend on to, you
know, defend. They specifically lacked a true top pairing right hand defenseman
who could push Schultz down the order and for that matter they lacked a true
top pairing left hand defenseman who can keep Klefbom down the order.
They simply lacked for top end talent.
What the Oilers did over the course of last season, and at
the draft, was to remove their best RHD in Petry and remove Marincin from the 2nd
pairing. What’s done is done, and we all understand that things got to a point
after the Oilers refused to negotiate with Petry that there was no going back.
As for Marincin the fanbase was always mixed (up) about him and despite my
strongest support he looked like the odd man out.
Fine. The Leafs have a chance to laugh the Oilers out of the
building if Marincin establishes himself for the price of a depth pick.
He’s gone, and there’s nothing I can do about. However, I will always begrudge
Oilers management for giving me even the smallest reason to cheer for the
The issue here isn’t that Marincin was removed and Matt is
going to cry in his attic alone in the dark listening to REM’s Everybody Hurts.
The issue is that by the end of the season Marincin was playing the in the 3D
spot and the Oilers haven’t added anybody capable of being a 3D.
I tweeted something the other day that caught some attention that I’ll post here. This is the state of the Oilers defense right now:
2nd Pairing: Klefbom
3rd Pairing: Ference, Nikitin, Fayne, Reinhart, Nurse, Gryba, Schultz
— Matt Henderson (@Archaeologuy) June 27, 2015
This is problematic.
Now I maybe have been exaggerating things just a bit with
that assessment of the defense. I’m sure it’s possible that Klefbom regresses
and becomes a 3rd pairing guy too…
Of course the Oilers won’t play empty space for 25 minutes a
night. The way the roster will *probably* fill out is like this:
1st Pair: Klefbom Schultz
2nd Pair: Nikitin Fayne
3rd Pair: Reinhart Gryba
Somebody is going to get that top pairing time and based on
the current roster it’s going to be Justin Schultz. That is a disaster because
he has proven thus far to be a terrible option as a 1D. He doesn’t shoot, adds
next to nothing on the PP, and is hopelessly lost in his own zone. Klefbom is
all but a lock on the left side.
The Oilers opted against ridding themselves of Nikitin, so
whether it’s vanity or a desire to just bite the bullet on the last year he
will likely be handed a spot. Fayne is a lock on the right side and he’s a
better player than Gryba.
Team’s don’t make splashy trades at the draft to put those
pieces in the AHL and Chiarelli has stated his expectation is that Reinhart
makes the NHL this year. Gryba was also very clearly Ottawa’s number 6 and we shouldn’t
assume anything other than that makes him a capable number 6 in the NHL.
I truthfully have no idea where or when the captain Andrew
Ference plays right now but he’s a guy that Chiarelli let walk away from his
team once before.
Oiler lineups have rarely been built on merit over the last
few years, but if training camp was actually an open competition then we could
probably expect Nurse to take Nikitin’s spot on that depth chart. However, it’s
likely that we see him assigned to the AHL based on contracts alone. Of course
we could be surprised by the team in the fall.
That is the current state of the Oilers defense as we head
into free agency. While the future might possibly be better off with Reinhart
in the system, the current state of the defense is no better than it was at the
end of the year.
That makes defense Edmonton’s biggest weakness heading into free agency. We have heard very little about who the Oilers might be interested
in signing so far, but there are rumblings that they are not targeting one of
the big fish defensemen.
They’ve done a fantastic job adding enough 3rd
pairing defenders to fill the spots for three NHL teams but the team is going to
live and die with Klefbom and Schultz again if Chiarelli doesn’t change things up.
Over the next week or so we should expect the Oilers to all but cement their
roster for the 2015-2016 season. The goaltending issue has been tackled. The
forwards will be getting a McDavidian boost. The defense is waiting for the
upgrade it so painfully needs.