How Often Was A Top 4 Defender On The Ice?

When it comes to adding top 4 defenders this summer, most of
us have already come to the conclusion that one is not enough. The Oilers are
desperately lacking in quality on the blueline and have been for a long time.
This isn’t news, but sometimes it’s interesting to look at how that affects
what the club can do.

Oiler blogger Woodguy took a look at how much the Oilers (and the 29 other teams) gave time on ice to actual bonafide top 4 defenders not
that long ago. I was interested in his findings and his process, but I wanted
to tweak the methodology for finding his final numbers.

First, I accepted his criteria for determining what constitutes
a top 4 defender and ultimately accepted his selections for the actual top 4
defenders on each team. It’s important to note that not all teams had four such
defensemen. This year, for example, Edmonton had just three: Oscar Klefbom, Andrej
Sekera, and Mark Fayne.

Here are the criteria Woodguy used to determine legitimate
top 4 defenders:

1) Even strength time on ice per game (EV TOI/GM) via

2) Who their most common partner is (via

3) Their effect on GF% and CF% of their team mates (via

4) Is not a rookie, regardless of their results playing with
Actual Top 4 NHL Dmen

So that leaves us with just the three Oiler defenders named
above and nobody else. Next year players can graduate into the top 4 by
continued development (Nurse, Davidson) or the club can go out and get those
players. Since development is never a guarantee, the best option is adding
players who we know can compete in those spots today.

In Woodguy’s blog he looked at the total defenseman TOI
doled out by every team then compared it to just the TOI of the players deemed top
4 calibre. For example, this year the Oilers played their defenders a total of
7773 minutes and their big three only played 2840 of that. This resulted in
Edmonton deploying top 4 defenders 37% of the total minutes possible.
Meanwhile, the average NHL team deployed top 4 players 53% of the time and
playoff teams did it 60.3% of the time in 2015-2016.

This is where I chose to use a different methodology than
Woodguy in order to answer a slightly different question. I wanted to know how
often the Oilers were able to ice a complete set of top 4 defensemen and how
often they were able to get at least one top 4 defenseman out on the ice.

To know that, I wasn’t concerned with the time on ice total
for all defensemen, just the total 5v5 time on ice the Oilers played in general
and the time played by the top 4 defenders themselves. I used the Super WOWY
feature of to look at the time the different combination of top
4 defenders played with each other and then the minutes they played without any
of the others.

Below are the minutes the legit Oiler top 4 blueliners spent
on the ice, together and apart.

Klefbom Sekera 17:02

Klefbom Fayne 172:07

Sekera Fayne 656:37

Klefbom Neither 304:08

Sekera Neither 691:10

Fayne Neither 179:42

Total with at least one top 4 on the ice: 2020:46

Total with two top 4 on the ice: 845:46

Total 5v5 for Edm 3912:44

Percent with one top 4 on ice: 51.6%

Percent with two top 4 on ice: 21.6%

When you take all the time they played with each other and
then separate from each other, what you get is a paltry 2020:46 of the total
3912:44 played by the Oilers. Together it’s a sad 845:46 of the total. The
Oilers only managed 1/5th of their time spent with a complete
pairing made up of legitimate top 4 defenders. What’s scarier is that they only
managed to have at least one top 4 defender on the ice just 51.6% of the time.
That means 48.4% of the time the Edmonton Oilers were icing 3rd pair
defenders (or worse).

Think about that. There was essentially a coin flip’s chance
that the opposition would step on the ice against the Oilers and the defense
would be rookies or scrubs exclusively. Advantage to the opposition.  

Unlike Woodguy, I wont do all 30 teams but I invite anyone
to do it. What I did is go from the bottom of the Pacific to the top of it. I
looked at what the Anaheim Ducks did this year using the same process. Their
top 4 defenders were: Bieksa, Lindholm, Fowler, and Vatanen. Here are their
numbers below.

Bieksa Lindholm 250:53

Bieksa Fowler 617:09

Bieksa Vatanen 175:24

Lindolm Fowler 36:04

Lindholm Vatanen 70:03

Fowler Vatanen 59:50

Bieksa Neither 151:20

Lindholm Neither 999:06

Fowler Neither 421:03

Vatanen Neither 783:06

Total with at least one top 4 on the ice: 3563:58

Total with at least two top 4 on the ice: 1209:23

Total 5v5 for Ana: 3882:20

Percent with one top 4 on ice: 91.8%

Percent with two top 4 on ice: 31.2%

The real strength of having four healthy legitimate top 4
defenders isn’t actually in the ability to play them all together. That
strength is in the ability to make sure at least one of them is on the ice
almost all the time.

While Edmonton could barely manage to have one of their top
4 defenders on the ice 50% of the time (5v5), the Ducks managed it almost 92%
of the time. While Edmonton was counting on rookies and replacement players to
stop the opposition 48% of the time, the Ducks only did it 8% of the time. The
percent of time both clubs iced top 4 defenders together was lower than I
previously imagined, especially with the Ducks.

That’s the difference between where Edmonton is now and
where the top teams in the NHL are. It’s 52% vs 92%.

How many defensemen do the Oilers need? Two at least and
they better stay healthy. No team is going to challenge for the playoffs playing lambs against lions 50% of the time. 

  • Moe Sizzlack

    Reinhart and 4th for Bogosian and 8th .. Oil draft Chychrun & Sabres draft Tkachuk for Eichel


    4th overall to phx for Stone and 7th .. Seems like a over payment from yotes but not when they badly need Tkachuk to sell Jerseys and get more local fans in the seats (once again, Oil use the pick for Chychrun)

    • YakCity1039

      Chychrun is the guy we need. We need to develop top-end defensemen. Chychrun is the best one available in the draft. We can find Dubois’ and Tkachuk’s through FA and trade. We aren’t going to find top-end defenseman through either of those.

      via Brock Otten:

      “The race between Chychrun, Sergachev, and Juolevi has been close all year and it remains that way to close out the season. I’m a fan of all three players and a sound argument can be made for either of the three being the best defender available. So here’s why Chychrun is tops for me. It comes down to potential. While I do believe that Sergachev has the highest offensive ceiling Chychrun isn’t too far behind (and is IMO ahead of Juolevi). Meanwhile, Chychrun is also the best defensively of the three, but also possesses the highest defensive ceiling of the three too. In essence, I see Chychrun as having the potential to develop into a dominant two-way defender who could challenge for multiple Norris trophies. Defensively, Chychrun has so many strong characteristics. Firstly, his positioning and ability to seal off forwards from chasing down loose pucks is among the best of any draft eligible defender that I’ve seen. If he was an NBA player, he’d be one hell of a rebounder. Part of that is because of his mobility. Part of that is because of his strength. Both are fantastic. Chychrun toys with playing physical and seems to be most willing to lower the boom when defending the rush. Adding a more consistent physical component to his game, especially when near the crease, would elevate his defensive ability even further. Offensively, his game runs off his skating. When he wants to, he can carry the puck deep into the offensive zone with ease. But that’s the key. No question his offensive game regressed a bit this year. Could be a variety of reasons for that (Hatcher asking him to play more of a defensive role, feeling the pressure in his draft year, confidence, etc), but it did happen. He didn’t seem as confident in jumping up in the play, or unleashing his slapshot (which is a good one). Chychrun also struggled at times with his decision making with the puck in his own end. Too many turnovers from trying to force plays up the ice. He needs to trust his skating ability to be able to create time and space for him to make better decisions. And, he needs to regain the confidence he showed in year one, that had him constantly looking to push the attack by skating the puck out of trouble. Quite frankly, I’m not concerned about any of the issues I’ve outlined. I think a lot are confidence and experience related and not competence. The physical skills are too good to pass up and he flashes so much brilliance that I refuse to believe that he has hockey sense issues, or limited offensive potential. That said, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he was the 3rd defender picked at the draft this year.”

  • #1 overall waivers pick

    Every single time I propose a trade on Oilersnation it gets trashed.

    I have earned the right to speak on behalf of all of Oilersnation.

    So keep your greasy fingers away from that trash button.

    The Oilers should offer Klefbom, Reinhart, Yakupov and the 4th overall pick for Ristolainen and what ever garbage contract that the Sabres want to dump.

    Klefbom is injury prone
    Reinhart can’t QB a powerplay
    Yak has low hockey IQ
    The 4th could end up being fools gold

  • madjam

    Trade or offer sheet Cody Ceci for 3.6M ( compensation 2nd rounder) as Ottawa already at 20M just for Karlsson , Methot and Phaneuf . Second trade is probably already made for Vatanen , just has not been announced . To be honest they could probably have enough cap space for UFA Yandle as well .

    That would leave top 6 being Vatanen , Yandel , Ceci , Sekara , Klefbom , Nurse . 7-8th being Davidson , Fayne , Reinhart , Oesterle . That can/should all be done without getting rid of our top 5 forwards .

    • Moe Sizzlack

      Why not just offer Sens Yak and Oesterle or yak and Reinhart or Yak and Pouliot for Ceci and sign him on our own and shed some salary cap/space in the process

        • Moe Sizzlack

          That’s Not the problem buds ..

          The Problem is they already spent so much money on there top 3 Dmen

          When they would rather spread that money around upfront !!

          (drops the mic and walks out)

  • Ever the Optimist

    on the bright side if Chia is able to add 2 top 4 rhd, regardless to moves that need to happen, and we do not lose too many injury games. This is a stat we can change radically.

  • O.C.

    Met a player from the BCHL a few days ago. He raved about opponents Jost and Fabbro from the Vees. They were not on his team.

    He was right. Jost was just named CJHL National player of the year.

    Edmonton boy.

    Also Dante…

    Point being, the draft could provide a top 4 by way of trading the pick, but this draft looks deep. Not sure that pick should leave. Maybe trade down.

    • Randaman

      In my opinion, we don’t have a top 2 defender on the roster. At all. Period.

      For those of you that feel Klefbom is top 2, come back and rub it in my face when he actually plays a full season.

      @ Moe Sizzlack,

      Ottawa would not even look at Pouliot. Too expensive for thrifty Melnyk and what makes you think anybody wants Yak?

      Offer sheeting Ceci is a good idea at somewhere just shy of 4M per IMO.

      • Moe Sizzlack

        Well we were dumb enough to over pay for a unwanted Griff Reinhart rite ??

        Why wouldn’t a Ontario team who Yak tore it up rite under there noses in the OHL take a chance on him ??

        Reinhart played good in Edmonton with the Oil Kings, rite under our noses and…(we went after him)

        Yak with Sarnia Sting. (…to be continued)

        That’s why! mr. Randaman

        • Randaman

          Watching Murray play with team Canada has reaffirmed my opinion from 2012.

          Yak was definitely the wrong choice. Murray is awesome and right handed to boot. Go figure. I said Yak was the wrong choice then and it is blatantly obvious now. This one isn’t on the scouts either. This one is on Katz and Lowe and Tambellini.

          Huge mistake!!!

          • JimmyV1965

            No offence, but I can’t stand it when people say that. I think at the time 85% of people in a Journal poll wanted Yak. I remember very little debate about the pick.

          • Moe Sizzlack

            That’s funny cause I remember it being more of a 60-40 split in favour of yak ..

            But..there were TONS of people on this very website who wanted Murray over Yak as we badly needed Dmen even back then.!

            Saying that I will admit I was one who wanted Yak and I was obviously wrong !

            When they were comparing him to Pavel Bure I was SOLD!


          • camdog

            I was on another blog site it was 60-40 for Yak as well. I wanted Murray, not because I really knew anything about him, just that I knew the Oilers needed d-man badly. At the time it wasn’t hind site that the Oilers needed d-man.

  • madjam

    Oilers unable to obtain a decent defence so a strategy change is needed . Oilers going to a 4 forward one defenseman system next season , seeing as the team that scores the most wins the games . Defence holds you in games , but offense wins the games . So next season we will run the normal 3 forwards with the extra one slightly behind like a center half in soccer to back them and defense up . So we now only need 3-4 defenseman . Money saved allows for more offensive players . That’s a 3-1-1 setup . I think it would be much more fan friendly and entertaining as well . Who wants to continually watch defence anyways .

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    Here’s the issue as I see it.

    You call it top 4 defensemen, yet these defensemen are all not top four defensemen……
    Top four would include top pairing… which the Oilers have none of……Possible Klefbom, but he’d have to stay healthy for a full year before we can grant him first pairing time.
    So really all you got is how much time the Oilers played with their second pairing defensemen and the rest of the mangled mess the Oilers call a defense.
    In order to show any sort of improvement or really run stats on any of the forwards you have to have.

    A) Legit NHL goalie

    B) Legit number 1 defensemen

    C) Legit number two defensemen

    D) At least a PP defenseman who can play into the top 4

    E) Two NHL Centre that NHL experience who are capable of playing 1 or 2 down the middle.

    If you don’t have a balance team with the right players playing in the right position I’m really not sure how you can gage a single player on the Edmonton Oilers??

    How good is Taylor Hall??? How would we be able to gage that on a team that hasn’t had a number one defenseman since Souray left??

    Taylor Hall has never played with a number one defenseman…..sad.

    We really don’t know how much better Hall could actually be..

    • Randaman

      Well said but you do realize that with the list you have provided means that Nuge & Eberle are probably gone. Yak, Pouliot or other cast offs aren’t getting us the pieces required.


      All that said I like Nuge too but we need some veteran leadership to bring this team to the play offs.

      • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

        Well, RNH has 5 years experience so how does that mean he’s not a veteran?

        Draisaitl has less than 100 games of experience, not to mention he had a solid 3 months then fell off a cliff.

        Expecting Draisiatl to take over RNH spot is dangerous.

        If you can get a Shaw or Backes then things can change but right now getting rid of RNH is simply dumb.

  • Moe Sizzlack

    Canada Eh.!

    Atta Boy Connor!!

    Oil should go after that Tendy who got the Shutout in the gold medal game, looks like a gamer!!


    Who says he’s a back up?! Pffffttt

    • Spydyr

      IMO the goalie of the tournament was the Finn’s goalie Mikko Koskinen. He had 31 shots to 16 for Talbot in the final and played consistently well every game. The talking heads even said he was available to sign. Mikko Koskinen might be a good guy to sign and push Brossoit next year in the AHL.

      After Talbot and Brossoit the Oilers goalie cupboard is pretty bare.

      • Moe Sizzlack

        How the *BEEP* is it Talbots fault Finland ONLY got 16 shots on him, point is he saved them all!!!!

        And check the College goalies stats we just signed you bonehead