There’s been yet another injury on the Oilers blue line. On Friday, Edmonton announced that it had placed rearguard Brandon Davidson on injured reserve. Taking his spot on the roster is Griffin Reinhart, freshly recalled from the AHL.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) January 22, 2016
Edmonton now has 10 defenceman sat the NHL level, with three of them on injured reserve. Davidson joins Oscar Klefbom and Andrew Ference in the sickbay. Ference is done for the season after undergoing hip surgery, while Klefbom should return at some point after the All-Star break. As colleague Jason Gregor reported two weeks ago, the defenceman is fighting off an infection and the timeline is inexact.
The loss of Davidson is a heavier blow than we could really have expected at the start of the season.
The rookie defenceman—who started the year in the pressbox because it wasn’t clear where he fit into the Oilers rotation and because he couldn’t be assigned to the AHL without going through waivers—has since emerged as a key piece on the back end. He’s averaging roughly 18 minutes per game and plays a significant role on the penalty kill.
He’s done well in that assignment. He’s smart, mobile, reasonably big and physical, and has a better puck-moving game than we had a right to expect. We have to acknowledge that he hasn’t been thrown into the deep end competition-wise all that often, but he leads Edmonton’s blue line in most on-ice shot metrics and is the only defenceman on the team to be on the ice for as many goals for as against at five-on-five.
This one stings, particularly with Klefbom already on the shelf. The left side of the Oilers’ defensive depth chart is now Andrej Sekera, followed by rookies Reinhart and Darnell Nurse, and completed by power play specialist Brad Hunt. It’s in a bad way.
This represents another chance for Reinhart, who had been passed on the depth chart by Nurse and by Davidson. He has played 14 games in the AHL, putting up five points and an even rating, and it seems the general manager Peter Chiarelli is still a fan.
“I want to have him in the NHL. I believe he’s ready,” Chiarelli told the Edmonton Sun‘s Terry Jones earlier this month. “He made the team. He’s a hell of a defenceman. He went down there nobly. And I told him I’d get him back up here.”
Not all reviews are as positive as that one. Our man in Bakersfield, Scott Zerr, gave his midseason Condors report card a couple of days ago and was less than enamoured with Reinhart:
Griffin Reinhart – not once has he had a game where you’d be convinced he’s ready for consistent NHL work. His lack of dominance at this level is very unnerving. If he doesn’t put something together after the all-star break, more in-depth concerns will emerge.
We’re going to have to wait and see how he handles his return to the NHL. The really disappointing thing is that he had played his best hockey during a brief stint with Davidson. Consider the difference in on-ice metrics with Davidson vs. Eric Gryba, the guy he may end up playing with:
- With Gryba: 123 minutes, 42.4 Corsi percentage
- With Davidson: 37 minutes, 56.5 Corsi percentage
That’s a pretty big gap, and it makes sense. Reinhart’s strengths are size and hockey sense; his primary weakness is speed and he’s also a fairly erratic puck-mover. That’s not a player who one would expect to complement well with Gryba, and I wonder if we’ll see the coaching staff opt to place Gryba with Nurse and Schultz with Reinhart to better balance the skill-sets involved.