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Peter Chiarelli sat down with Bob McKenzie of TSN yesterday and among the subjects of conversation (as you’d expect) was the defense. Chiarelli’s views are a fascinating look into a man trying to improve a defense with a lot of problems.


TSN’s Bob McKenzie sat down with the Oilers new GM yesterday and covered a wide range of topics. Of specific interest to me—the defense. McKenzie spoke about new addition Andrej Sekera and asked if Edmonton’s new top man could name his top 4D at this time.

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  • Peter Chiarelli: “I can tell you I expect (Sekera) to be in our top four, Klefbom will be in our top four, Justin Schultz will be, I would hope he would be in our top four. Nikita Nikitin, who had a disappointing season last year, who was brought in to play in the top four. We’ve got some guys we acquired, Griffin Reinhart who I believe is a terrific player. I think he needs a little time to get up and running before I can anoint him in the top four. We have Eric Gryba who I think is a real strong shutdown D, we can probably shuttle him up at certain points. We’ve got three legitimate, we don’t have a workhorse right now.”

Based on those words, several things come to mind. First, where’s Mark Fayne? Well, I think we can either believe Chiarelli forgot about him or genuinely doesn’t see Fayne as part of the top four D. If the Oilers could trust Justin Schultz, MF in the bottom pairing makes sense. Fayne is a shutdown type and will probably be the tough minutes blue—tough zone starts and PK, and it would be great if his TOI ranked No. 5 or 6 this coming season.

Fayne’s 15:14 at evens a year ago was in fact third pairing (behind Klefbom, Schultz, Petry before he was traded, Ference, Marincin or Nikitin depending on who was playing) and he was the top PK man (2:29 per game). With that as a backdrop, can we take Chiarelli’s words and figure out the assumed opening night blue?

  • D1: Kefbom—Sekera
  • D2: Nikitin—Schultz
  • D3: Ference—Fayne/Gryba

That would send Brandon Davidson to the waiver wire and both Griffin Reinhart and Darnell Nurse to the minors. One thing I do like about this group? Callups might get great cover from a guy like Fayne.

As with all things, nothing counts until the coach has his say.

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  • Chiarelli on Justin Schultz: “He’s a player that I don’t
    have really strong knowledge of
    . Saw him in college. Saw him in the
    lockout in the American League. Saw him in bits and pieces with
    Edmonton, maybe a little more this past year, whether it’s video or
    otherwise. He’s got a lot of assets, like puck skills, passing, skating.
    He’s been labelled sometimes as a rover and that’s more negative than
    positive in my mind, but the fact that he’s up the ice with the forwards
    is a good thing. That’s something that we would preach here. It’s about defending, about being the proper position and if you’re
    not strong enough to defend, let’s talk about positional defending,
    stick defending. He has to get better at that.”

Peter Chiarelli not being familiar with Schultz and still projecting him top four tells you this season will have a lot of struggles. Schultz is on a team that is going to play a lot without the puck and he’s not very good in those moments. No doubt in my mind that Schultz would be more successful on a better possession team and I do think his next Oiler contract depends heavily on this season and price point. If the Schultz camp wants big money, I think the young man could be in another town next season—and that might be the best thing for him. For now, the GM (“Justin Schultz will be, I would hope he would be in our top four”) has him as a key man with the game on the line—offensively and defensively.


We can slice this any way we want, but the Oilers don’t have enough depth to use Mark Fayne in a depth, secondary role. Top 4D in Edmonton excludes Fayne at its own peril. This club is miles from that kind of luxury. Peter Chiarelli not being familiar with Schultz—and projecting him ahead of Fayne—should send shivers down your spine. McKenzie interview is here.

  • mcjesus take the wheel

    Fayne was another bad MacT signing, and Chiarelli has no loyalty to him. He would know better whether Fayne is worthwhile since he would have seen him more often in the Eastern Conference. Personally, I view Fayne as an overpaid #5 – he is not great defensively, not physical, and not a great puck handler/mover. Sure, he plays okay positionally, but a top 4 D he is not.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    Some of you make comments that completely baffle me. You need to think of Schultz From the GM point of view. If you are going to trade him you need other teams to be high on him. If not he wants to make sure Schultz understands what he needs to do. The statement about Schultz needing to learn responsibility in his own end is just what Schultz has either never been told or if told had no consequences when he lost the puck and there was a 3 on 1 going the other way. Schultz has a ton to learn. Something he should of learned in OKC but some were far to high on him and willing to overlook bonehead mistakes and thought he would figure it out. The coach will no longer take that foolishness.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    When I watched the confidence of Nurse over the last few days it is obvious that the farm did better than the big team at teaching and nurturing Defenceman. It was amazing to see Nurse commenting to other players when they were shoving him around. You could see by his body language that he was telling them “Back off you do not want to get in to it with me.” If they did not take him serious it was over very fast. Personally I enjoyed watching Nurse more than McDavid and that is really a huge compliment to Nurse. Given the choice right now I would love a Retro Oilers Nurse Jersey.