This is Todd McLellan’s 2014-15 San Jose Sharks defense run through Rob Vollman’s Player Usage Chart. As you can see, McLellan had a hard rain pairing to face the tough zone starts and competition, followed by four guys who shared the rest of the load evenly. Todd McLellan didn’t bring Marc-Edouard Vlasic with him from San Jose, so what will he do with the Oilers blue?
When Vlasic and Justin Braun were on the ice together, getting ridiculous Zone starts and pushing against very good NHL opponents, they held 51.3% of overall possession.Source
I asked Rob Vollman today on the Lowdown to help us piece together a top 6D and his thoughts are worth jotting down and discussing.
- Vollman: “Sekera is essentially Petry. A lot of the things I was saying (a year ago) about Petry apply to Sekera in terms of his versatility and his possession-based play. He has the ability to play tough minutes and to play in both zones.”
The addition of Sekera is a very big deal. Edmonton had two legit solutions for shut down duty a year ago but both (Fayne and Jeff Petry) were right-handed and they ended up playing less than 14 minutes together at even strength all year. The addition of lefty Sekera means McLellan might have the makings of a Vlasic-Braun pairing in Edmonton—not the same quality, but it represents improvement over last year’s opening night faceoff tandem of Brad Hunt-Justin Schultz. Source
- Vollman: “When Fayne was playing with Andy Greene, who is really a highly underrated top pairing defenseman, Fayne was fantastic. He was a lot less effective when out there with someone who was more one dimensional. Fayne is only going to excel if he’s playing with Sekera.”
THE SECOND PAIRING
Despite youth, Oscar Klefbom is the best available candidate to anchor the second pairing.
- Vollman: “There’s really no choice. When you look at all of the other defensemen on the roster, is there anyone else you see who could legitimately play top minutes?”
Vollman talked about using the top pairing in the same way as McLellan used the Vlasic pairing in San Jose, suggesting that’s the most logical move outside someone stepping out from the group and taking on a larger role (probably with Klefbom). The Swede is the best candidate for a second pairing unit, but he’d have to move past his ZS push time with Justin Schultz of a year ago and take on a more prominent defensive role. His partner for the second pairing is not obvious at this time.
THE DEPARTMENT OF YOUTH
I also asked Vollman about youngsters like Griffin Reinhart and Darnell Nurse. If one or both of these kids emerge as useful players this year, Edmonton could have a better-than-expected blue. I asked how long it takes for a young defenseman to help push the river as a top four option:
- Vollman: “It’s hard to predict on an individual basis, because every player is different. They have different maturity levels they have different physical resources. In general, you can’t expect a defenseman to hit the top four until age 23 or 24—possibly age 22. Nurse is an exceptional talent and Reinhart is a promising prospect, I really can’t see them having any kind of impact for at least a couple years.”
I remain convinced Darnell Nurse is a strong candidate to make the team, but as Vollman notes that’s really just a discussion of the depth defensemen. Edmonton has three blue (Sekera, Fayne, Klefbom) to play in the game’s important minutes and that’s not enough without a surprise performance.
Finally, I asked Rob if there was help out there, and we discussed Christian Ehrhoff as a possible option. Then Rob came up with a secondary name of interest:
- Vollman: “Jan Hejda is the kind of guy who could come in and play a lot of the back crushing defensive shot blocking penalty killing minutes.”
There are still options available in free agency and trade possibilities exist as well. We should also remember that Peter Chiarelli was very active in mid-season during his first season as Boston’s GM. They Oilers aren’t there yet, this much is true.
(OKC Barons photos by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved)
(Vollman’s Usage charts are here)
(The interview itself is here, begins at 27 minutes)