How Well Did Edmonton’s Defencemen Play Against Top Opponents?


The obvious answer is “not well enough,” but the reality is a little more complicated. 

When we look only at how Edmonton Oilers defencemen
performed against top opponents in 2015-16, we see some patterns, and a wide array of on-ice results. The Oilers’ best defenceman against top lines actually finished in the positives, but by shot and goal totals, despite playing in Edmonton. The worst saw his team surrender 20 shots more per hour than it attempted. 

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The Process


I was thinking about Tyler Dellow yesterday, and one of the
techniques he used frequently back when he was writing for public consumption.
He’d go through the league, pick out a top forward from every team, and look at
how players performed against them.

I was also thinking about some of the excellent
new work
on quality of competition done by Darcy McLeod and GMoney and I
wanted to take a different angle on it.

So I quickly scrolled through the NHL’s 30 teams and picked
the top centre (in my opinion; your mileage may vary, and there were certainly some close calls) who was with the team all
season. Then I looked at time on ice, Corsi for and against, and goals for and
against when Edmonton’s defencemen were on the ice against those players.

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The list I used is as follows: Ryan Getzlaf, Martin Hanzal,
Patrice Bergeron, Ryan O’Reilly, Sean Monahan, Jordan Staal, Jonathan Toews,
Nathan MacKinnon, Brandon Dubinsky, Tyler Seguin, Pavel Datsyuk, Aleksander
Barkov, Anze Kopitar, Mikko Koivu, Tomas Plekanec, Mike Ribeiro, Adam Henrique,
John Tavares, Derek Stepan, Kyle Turris, Claude Giroux, Sidney Crosby, Paul
Stastny, Joe thornton, Steven Stamkos, Nazem Kadri, Henrik Sedin, Nicklas
Backstrom, Bryan Little.

Then it was just a matter of checking results using Puckalytics’ WOWY function

The Results


Player TOI Corsi+/60 Corsi-/60 CorsiD/60 Goals+/60 Goals-60 GoalD/60
Oscar Klefbom 170 57.5 56.8 0.7 2.12 1.06 1.06
Brandon Davidson 203.3 54.6 57.0 -2.4 2.36 2.07 0.30
Andrej Sekera 404.5 52.5 60.1 -7.6 1.63 2.52 -0.89
Mark Fayne 307.8 51.7 61.2 -9.6 1.36 1.75 -0.39
Griffin Reinhart 112.7 55.4 69.7 -14.4 1.06 2.66 -1.60
Eric Gryba 174.7 51.9 67.0 -15.1 0.69 3.09 -2.40
Darnell Nurse 282.2 46.4 66.8 -20.4 1.70 3.40 -1.70

Oscar Klefbom is a superb player, and remains underrated
even in Edmonton. A healthy season from him would be a massive win for the
Oilers all by itself.

Brandon Davidson fares really well here, and it’s easy to
understand why Todd McLellan promoted him and started feeding him tougher
minutes as the year went on.

Andrej Sekera and Mark Fayne are real NHL defencemen, and it
shows. The treatment of Fayne last year was surprising at the time and clashes
with his performance in tough minutes here, which was really pretty decent.
Sekera’s contract is a little scary, but he provided a necessary element last

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Griffin Reinhart doesn’t fare too terribly here. If not for
bonus/lefty issues, I could see him being a competent third-pair guy next

Eric Gryba has not been re-signed yet and I wonder what kind
of contract he eventually gets. He’s a righty, which helps, but he’s not a guy the
coach could play against good lines with any expectation of success last

Darnell Nurse is the most interesting player on this list.
The Oilers seem to be sold on him as a core piece going forward, but he needs
to improve by a massive amount. Last year he was six shots per hour worse than
Reinhart, more than 10 shots per hour worse than Fayne and a whopping 18 shots
per hour worse than Davidson against real players. That he mostly flubbed
playing with Sekera is another big mark against him. He could have that Corsi
differential next year and still not equal what Fayne did against top
competition on the same pairing. 


  • Will

    I like they sent Nurse back to junior twice, but I don’t like that in those years they never went out and got a more veteran right side D man that can help bring Nurse along. I’m not asking for PK Subban, just someone with some veteran presence, who’s lunch won’t get eaten at evens, and can mentor Nurse a little bit.

    Given the Oilers cap situation, and the looming expansion, I’m still pretty high on just grabbing a Wisnewski or a Wideman for the year. I know Wideman was a disaster last year, but on the third line with Nurse, being given some easier minutes, could be okay.

    • Styxx

      I truly don’t understand Chia’s reluctance in acquiring Wideman. Two years ago he had 56(!!) points which is more than the top 3 Oiler defenders Sekera, Klef, and Davidson who totalled 53. Wideman is a proven offensive defenceman, with a lifetime .50 PPG.

      Right shot defenders who have a bullet on the power play are the hardest players to get and he would easily be on the first powerplay unit and play on the 3rd pairing.

      It may cost Yakupov but he’s a defensive liability and it’s time the team moves on…anyone still valuing him based on his draft pedigree needs to give it up.

      It’s also a nice fit for both teams…we need a RD power play specialist and the Flames need a 3RW. The money even makes sense. Pick up the phone Peter!

  • fisherprice

    More evidence that Nurse should start the season in the AHL. I like the kid, and I very much think he can be an effective contributor for the Oilers down the line, but I think continuing to try and rush his development will only hurt him right now. He clearly shouldn’t be a top 4 option in the NHL, his numbers show that, and frankly, the eye test showed that last year too. Saw a lot of plays where Nurse looked out of sorts, out of position, and making very typical young player mistakes (following the puck in the d-zone instead of the play, bad positioning in front of the net, over-committing on bad pinches, etc.). I don’t think he’s served by playing 10-12 minutes on the bottom pairing either, where he won’t really get the chance to develop an all-around game.

    He’s got good wheels, can hit well, has a pretty decent shot, and can throw fists with the big boys. He has all the tools and talent to make him an all-purpose defender, but he’s just not there yet. I think giving him a chance to be an all around defenceman who logs heavy minutes in the AHL will do more to develop his game. Throwing him to the wolves last year certainly didn’t pan out well, and bottom pairing minutes don’t give him enough of an opportunity.

    I suspect they’ll probably still start him in the NHL though, another in the long list of prospects the Oilers have rushed along without regard to the player’s development. :/

    • pkam

      If we can add another RHD, then I don’t think we have to start the new season with Nurse and Reinhart.

      LHD – Klefbom, Sekera, Davidson

      RHD – Larsson, Fayne, new D

      7th – Mark Fraser

      • Kepler62c

        Yup, that’s how I’ve seen it for awhile now.

        Personally I’d sign both Wisniewski and Gryba. Different skill sets, and one is a little bit injury prone so there’s a backup.

        If they don’t get another RD, I think I’d start Reinhart over Nurse in the NHL if the cap isn’t an issue. Reinhart is older, and honestly towards the end of the season played much better than Nurse when he had a mobile partner (Oesterle). He played most of the start of the season with Gryba, and it doesn’t take a genius to see they don’t exactly complement each others skill sets. Reinhart played calm, effective defence against middling-low competition. Let him do it again and slowly move up the order.

    • pkam

      We had gone thru those days too, remember Horcoff was our #1 and Stoll our #2 in 06-07, and Oilers fans wonder why we have to rush Gagner in 07-08. It was hard to win with Horcoff and Stoll to centre our top 2 lines.

      Kadri is the Leafs Gagner. I bet you will laugh even harder if Bozak is their 1C, like Horcoff was our 1C.

      • fisherprice

        Kadri is about equal to Gagner offensively and I will cop to being pretty impressed by the work Kadri’s put in to become a better defensive player the last couple of seasons – something Gagner never really learned to do. I just want to laugh at the Leafs before Matthews inevitably becomes a real #1 center for them.

        • Mitch92

          Kadri will be better this year. The Leafs are sending him to shooting school this summer. After seven years with the organization they have finally figured out that Naz can’t shoot the puck to save his life. I bet he breaks the twenty-five goal mark this year.

    • Hockeyfan

      I laughed when i seen the oilers in 29th place and then i laughed even harder when i realized they tried real hard to beat a team by that was trying to lose by 1 point. How hilarious is that after all those top picks through the years? yah, you can’t make this stuff up.

  • Mitch92

    I think how the Oiler defense performed last year is best left in the past. The defense is well into the process of being rebuilt and will only get better with the addition of Larsson and perhaps others by the time the season rolls around.

  • Jay (not J)

    I don’t know. All of these stats remind me of the 3 blind men describing an elephant. Are you sure that this is the whole picture? If he’s that good, how did Mark Fayne clear waivers last year?

    • Arod

      Fayne cleared Waivers because of his Salary. If he was on a 2-way $1.2 Contract you would bet we wouldn’t be putting him on Waivers. He’s not though. Also, his stats in the table aren’t that good. They’re just not as bad as the rookies (and Gryba, who sucks IMO).

      • Ed in Edmonton 1

        It would be interesting to see Nurse’s say 20 games segments. My observation was that Nurse started reasonably well but went downhill as the season progressed. When they sent Fayne down Nurse was better than the Nurse who played the last 20 games. I believe that Nurse would have ended the year in the AHL had it not been for injuries and deadline trades.

      • madjam

        Seemed to me Oilers felt Fayne was not going to be part of team going forward , and decided it was better to give Nurse some seasoning seeing as season basically lost anyways . Experimenting and assessing . Get the feeling they would like to dump his contract .

  • TKB2677

    The more Willis writes about advanced stats, the more skeptical I get about and see them as being flawed. I believe they are a tool that should be taken into consideration but by no means should they be used other than that. Perhaps as they evolved and there is more consistency them maybe that will change for for now, there are real problems with them.

    What gets me is how advanced stats guys like Willis continually pump the tires of a Fayne and pile on a guy like Nurse.

    Fayne is an NHL dman but he’s being paid to play top 4 mins and he’s not a top 4 guy on any team if you have even a remotely decent defense. His saving grace is he’s right handed. 29 other teams could have had Fayne for free last year. There are apparently lots of teams that use tons of advanced stats, yet no one wanted him. Using his contract is a cop out by advanced stats guys because if you are a team needing a dman, especially when he’s right handed, you actually believe that Fayne is a top 4 guy like Willis says he is, you will find a way to get him. I am willing to bet that if the Oilers got a trade offer for Fayne, they probably would have done a trade in a heart beat. If Fayne is a legit top 4 guy, right shot guy like Willis says he is, at 3.625 mill his contract isn’t too bad so why didn’t a team trade for Fayne? Willis an company can spit out all the advanced stats they want about Fayne but if he is so freaking good and the Oilers are too stupid to realize that, why hasn’t another team pounced? Why didn’t the Coyotes who don’t have a lot of depth on the right side and who hired a young, advanced stats GM and who have TONS of cap space, swoop in and fleece the Oilers in a trade for Fayne? Not one of the advanced stats guys ever say anything about that. All they do is tell us all how wonderful Fayne is and how mistreated he was by the Oilers.

    Advanced stats guys like to crush Nurse and say he was terrible. He just turned 21 yrs old and has a grand total of 84 career pro games. That’s it. The amount of dmen who don’t severely struggle in their first pro year of hockey is extremely small. So to pile on Nurse and pick him apart because he struggled when that is what usually happens is ridiculous. Then to use a guy like Fayne and state ” Well Fayne had way better numbers.” OF course Fayne has better numbers. He’s 29 yrs old, has played over 408 pro games plus an additional 24 playoff games. So 432 pro games. That’s over 5 times as many pro games as Nurse has. Thank god Fayne is way better than a 1st year player when he’s 8 years older and has 5 times more games of experience. If Fayne wasn’t, the Oilers would be even more screwed than they are now. Even Davidson who’s going to be 4 years older in a less than a month has 244 pro games combined as in NHL, AHL and AHL playoffs. So he has almost 3 times as much pro experience as Nurse. Thank god a dman like Davidson who has 3 times as much experience as Nurse is better than a 1st year player.

    After the end of this coming season if Nurse shows zero progression what so ever then maybe it might be time to start being a tiny bit concerned. But given the supposed magic number for most Dmen to figure it out is around 300 games, after this season, Nurse would only be half way there. Willis and company’s bestie – Jeff Petry – didn’t really turn the corner and become consistent until he was in that 300 game range. Why was Petry allowed that time and Nurse isn’t?

    One last comment. When Willis started out in his career as a writer, I wonder if he is a better writer now than he was his first year. I’m going to guess he probably is. So I don’t get why he wants to pile on a kid barely starting out.

    • Arod

      Its not unfair to suggest that Nurse needs to be way better to be a top-4. We might all love him, but he needs to be better. He is very likely doing everything he needs to in order to get better, but he needs to BE better next year if he wants to be the solution higher up in the line-up. This isn’t about Willis, this is about Nurse not being the solution up to now, which hopefully changes.

      • McRaj

        Yes Nurse is not a top 4 guy right now but that is okay. I am not even expecting him to be top 4 this coming season and maybe not even the following season, which is fine. D-Men usually need anywhere from 200-300 games to really hit their stride. So expect 2018-2019 to be the season that Nurse is his dominant self that everyone has predicted. He will only be 23 at that time, so no need to panic or be upset.

        Difference between him and a player like Reinhart is that Nurse has all the tools. Skating, Physicality, etc to excel and given the time he will. And I believe that PC knew this when he came on board and that is why he signed a lefty in Sekera to that massive contract.

        As for Fayne, he is an NHL D-Man but only third pairing. I believe it upsets readers when JW and other’s try to label him as a top 4. I believe in advanced stats a lot but that does not say it all. I remember watching games where Fayne had a clear lane to make a pass to a forward out of the zone, yet he would choose to always go glass and out.

        Fayne is 29 and will be a third pairing D-Man until his contract is up in 2 years, after which he may not even land an NHL job.


      • TKB2677

        Of course Nurse need to be better next season. But Willis is piling on a guy that has played ONE SEASON of pro hockey. Stop and think about that for a second. One season of pro hockey EVER.

        I don’t know what you do for a living but I bet you are a lot better at your job today than you were in year 1. So it drives me nuts to see guys like Willis piling on a kid. There is a HUGE amount of really good NHL Dmen who aren’t even in the NHL at 20. Give the kid a chance, he’s barely played.

    • Stranger-danger!

      Hahaha, I’ve never heard any stats guys (I refuse to use the word advanced because possession stats are about as simple as it gets) bemoan how tragic Fayne’s treatment is and what an excellent defensemen. Most of them seem to just suggest he’s decent for the role he plays while acknowledging that Sekera is relied on for most the heavy lifting.
      Also, I’m skeptical of the rumours that fayne was on the trade block. Without fayne, the oilers would have had 1 NHL RD in Gryba last year. I doubt chiarelli would have moved fayne “for free.”
      And finally, you express skepticism of statistics, but your whole argument is, “sure the stats guys are right about Darnell Nurse NOW, but what about when he gets better?!” But the entire point of raising concerns about Nurse’s performance is about he well he’s doing now, and in the immediate future, not 5 years from now. Look, I like Nurse. But he was terrible last year, both by numbers, and by eye. That’s not the end of the world for a 21 year old, but it raises concerns about his use in this coming season, where the oilers are expected to make significant improvements

      I would reckon that there are probably 4 or 5 LHD who are better suited to NHL duty at this point in their careers. And frankly, I don’t think sending nurse out to get absolutely worked by Nhl players 12-15 minutes a night is doing him any favours either. Contrary to popular belief, the human brain learns more from success than failure, and Nurse is finding about 5 lbs of failure for every ounce of success he enjoys. At this point in his career he is simply not good enough for the NHL and that bears pointing out because the Oilers won’t stop playing him in that league. The whole situation is baffling because there are clearly better options in the minors, although chiarelli does seem to have created a problem with having to pay too many bonuses (sound familiar?…. Hmmm).

  • madjam

    Looking at team goal differential of -42 and being third worst in league obviously means overall defence was/is lacking . Klefbom and Sekara our two best , and Davidson had a surprisingly decent year . Fayne was iffy , and rest were less than adequate . Nurse and Reinhart are bound to improve this season , but by how much . Larsson despite his teams -24 differential was a plus 15 . He was instrumental in keeping his club half way decent , and should do same or better here in Edmonton . With any advancement in our youth on defense , the addition of Larsson and Klefbom being healthy , we should do a lot better defensively than last season . Most of improvement must come from better results in Pacific and West division play , because the majority of our games are with those clubs .

    New offensive structure will also help in keeping goals down I expect , however goals for might be a problem with Hall not here . Basically it looks like we will need a fine effort from Puljujarvi , and a decent season out of McDavid and Draisaitl just to replicate last years offence . Let us hope all learning curves point upwards this season .

  • paulvechkin

    I’d look to trade Nurse. Klefbom-Sekera-Davidson is a very solid LS. If Nurse was an offensive Dman I would understand waiting longer on him, but even if he does become a top 4 LS dman, which I believe he will, he likely wont be as good as Klefbom (who is a top 2 dman and only has played 107 games). I have nothing against Nurse, but I just dont see the room for him unless he takes a massive step like Willis said.

    Also Fayne is a good 2nd-3rd pair RHD man. He defends at an elite level, he just has the puck skills of a guy with no thumbs. He’s better than Gryba and currently better than Nurse also

  • SaskFan

    I know this will add fuel to the fire regarding the Larsson trade, but when I read through the documents and beta information created by Darcy McLeod and GMoney I was a little surprised. Everyone has been saying how great Larsson is at competing against top quality opponents, but his numbers don’t really agree when you look through the data. His CF% against top quality opposition is 38.8%, where Davidson’s is 49.1% and Fayne’s is 44.1%.

    • TKB2677

      Are you sure about that? Darcy McLeod was on Oilersnow with Staufford and Staples yesterday and said on live radio Larsson is a top tier, defender who played by far the most extreme own zone starts in the league by a lot. Offensive potential isn’t known but his defending is excellent according to McLeod. I think they were on the show around 12:30-1:30 yesterday.

      • SaskFan

        I opened the file attached the blog post and filtered out Adam Larsson, Brandon Davidson, and Mark Fayne. I may be reading it wrong, or the data could be wrong, but those were the numbers it showed.

  • TBK2677 wrote:

    One last comment. When Willis started out in his career as a writer, I wonder if he is a better writer now than he was his first year. I’m going to guess he probably is. So I don’t get why he wants to pile on a kid barely starting out.

    I’m not sure where I piled on here; the data says what it says.

    The fact is that when Darnell Nurse played against good forwards the Oilers got killed, both by shot metrics and goal differential. Edmonton can’t afford to repeat those results, so it either needs Nurse to be better or it needs a different player in the role.

    • TKB2677

      That’s great that the numbers state the obvious. But so what, he’s a kid. He went from junior playing against primarily 17 and 18 yr olds to playing against men in the NHL. Nurse would be bigger and stronger than probably the majority of the kids he played in junior strictly because he’s older than them. Then all of a sudden he goes to the pros where he’s no longer bigger than the majority and definitely no where near as strong as the huge majority. The difference between a 20 yr old vs even a 22 yr old in body strength is massive. His body at 20 probably isn’t even finished maturing yet, let alone his mental maturity not even being close. So that would play a massive role in how he plays.

      Then you basically have 69 NHL games total as a sample size to evaluate him. I don’t care what it is you are doing, the more times you do something, the better you get at it. How can you say the sample size of Nurse compared to Fayne or even Davidson is remotely fair when you compare it to a sample size of a guy like Fayne who has over 400 pro games or 244 pro games for Davidson. Fayne has seen pro hockey players come at him 5 times as many times as Nurse, Davidson ha seen pro hockey players come at him almost 3 times as many times as Nurse. I would hope that those 2 guys have better stats than Nurse based on their experience.

      I have listened to your segments on Lowetides show where you have mentioned repeatedly all the supposed red flags you see with Nurse after 69 NHL games. Then I read your article and see you write twice as much about Nurse and all of it is pointing out the negatives after 69 NHL games. So when I see someone for the most part solely focus on the negatives of a player with such little experience under his belt, I do think it is piling on Nurse. If you want to point the finger at management and say he should have spent more time in the minors, that’s totally fair. I don’t have a crystal ball to say what Nurse will become but I think every player deserves more than 3/4 of one NHL season to figure out the pro game before their game and stats are picked apart.

      • pkam

        If the management and coaches put the player in a role, shouldn’t the player be evaluated based on his performance in that role?

        If you look at the TOI per game and TOI against top opponents, he is ahead of Fayne and Davidson in TOI per game and about the same TOI against top opponents as Fayne and ahead of Davidson.

        In other words, the management and coaches are putting Nurse in top 4 role ahead of Fayne and Davidson. So shouldn’t we have concern that Nurse is not capable of top 4 role that he is put to play?

      • I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that a player employed at the NHL level be playing at an NHL level. We’ve spent the last decade watching prospects being given a baptism by fire, and the results speak for themselves.

        You’ve made a strong argument that Nurse’s struggles shouldn’t be held against him. I disagree to some extent – other players of the same age and experience have performed better, which gives us some idea of Nurse’s ultimate ceiling.

        However, I do think the primary problem is that he was in the NHL rather than the AHL last year. That speaks to the job being done by the head coach and general manager moreso than it does to Nurse.

        • McRaj

          Hate to say it JW, but you have definitely been bashing Nurse consistently. Either direct or indirect shots. Not all players develop in a linear curve. Is Nurse as good as Pietro or Doughty were at age 21? Nope. But then there is a player like TJ Brodie who didn’t establish himself as a full time NHL’er until his Draft Plus 5th season and it was his Draft Plus 6th or more likely Draft plus 7th season that he became a bonafide #1. And that was with mentorship by a player like Gio.

          If by the 2018-2019 season, Nurse is not a Top 3 or 4 D-Man, then we have reason to worry. Give the kid a break.

          Edit: Forgot to add. Look at Klefbom, he finally showed glimpses of being a Top Pairing or Top 4 D-Man in his Draft plus 5th season.

        • Cowbell_Feva

          Or, it speaks to the fact that the NHL calibre coach and GM see much more potential than you do. I’m guessing they give 2 flying f*cks about what his shot metrics and corsi rating are, the same way I do.

          Darnell is a man beast that will soon find out he will be able to skate players open more than he realizes and learn the ropes of being a full time NHL defenseman.

          That doesn’t mean the Oilers defense isn’t still a problem, or that it has been dreadful the past decade, or that Darnell shouldn’t have spent some time in the AHL.

          But I will take him over Fayne any day of the week, regardless of what advanced stats say.

          • Cowbell_Feva

            Ya because that’s what I said right?

            I said NHL calibre coaches and GM thought that Darnell was the best option at the time. Is that a testimate to how bad the Oilers defense is? Absolutely.

            But your advanced stats saying Fayne is better than Nurse is a joke. I would throw Nurse over the boards before Fayne 10 times out of 10.

            And how you seem to think you can tell one players ceiling based off what other players have done to the same point in their careers is hot garbage!

            Put down the calculator. Back away from the calculator.

  • Two other things:

    On Mark Fayne: Fayne actually fared less well here than I had expected; he ranked fourth on *Edmonton’s* blue line. He’s the highest right side guy on the list and he’s still well ahead of Eric Gryba. His results aren’t so bad that you should be toast if he plays a No. 4 role (and EDM still doesn’t have two better RH guys) but I won’t argue if he’s put in a third pair role.

    On Adam Larsson: I didn’t run Larsson, mostly because he played for a different team; my expectation looking at his unadjusted numbers is that he’d probably look pretty good (you still have to sort out the Greene/New Jersey/zone start effects, though). There’s an obvious need for an RHD who can play tough minutes, though, and Larsson does have that history and is still young enough that we haven’t seen his peak.

  • McRaj

    JW, I would like to see you do an article on Nuge. He has played 5 NHL seasons and I have yet to see him be that shut-down 2 way player. He has yet to even win 50% of Face-offs over the course of a season. Maybe it’s time to whip out the fancy stats regarding one of your more favorite players.

  • McRaj

    The following are Top 10 Picks from 2002 until 2013 that took a while to become top pairing D-Men, which shows that Nurse is not an extreme Outlier.

    Jay Bouw (3rd in 2002), played 227 AHL and NHL games before becoming a Top Pairing D-Man (after lockout).

    Whitney (5th in 2002), didn’t play NHL until Draft plus 5th season after having Spent 89 games in AHL, and made an impact upon playing (again after lockout).

    Ryan Suter (7th in 2003), didn’t become top pairing until Draft plus 5th or 6th season after playing 292 AHL/NHL games.

    Jack Johnson (3rd in 2005), played 120 games before being top pairing or played 202 games before hitting 40 point season. 5th season after being drafted.

    Erik Johnson (1st in 2006), draft plus 4th season before becoming a top pairing guy and some did not classify him as top pairing until he was traded to the Avs.

    Ryan McDonagh (12th in 2007 – yes not Top 10), draft plus 5th season became a top pairing option.

    Zach Bogosian (3rd in 2008), Top 4 D Man (not top pair) in his Draft plus 4th season and 204 AHL/NHL games.

    Victor Hedman (2nd in 2009), became a bonafide first pairing player after 214 NHL games and in his Draft plus 4th season (lockout shortened) and could be argued it wasn’t until the following season that he became one of the best in the game (another 44 games).

    OEL (6th in 2009), became a top line D-Man in his Draft plus 4th season, after 165 AHL/NHL games.

    Larsson (4th in 2011), became a top pairing D-Man (Defensive D-Man) in Draft plus 5th season after 226 AHL/NHL games

    Dougie Hamilton (9th in 2011), top pairing in Draft plus 4th season.

    From the 2012 draft class, Murray (2nd) Rielly (5th) and Lindholm (6th) became known as top pairing option’s this season (Draft plus 4th). While Dumba (7th) and Trouba (9th) are still progressing and looking to be on verge of being Top pairing or Top 4. Reinhart (4th) and Pouliot (8th) are unknowns.

    From Nurse’s 2013 draft class, Seth Jones (3rd) showed signs of being a top Pairing D after the trade and 199 games. Risto (8th) became a top pairing D this year after 146 AHL/NHL games.

    Maybe we should check back in on Nurse after he has played at least 1 more professional season and approximately 166 professional games or better yet 2 more seasons and over 200 professional games.

    • Here are what all of those guys were up to during their 20 year old seasons – same age as Nurse this past season.

      Bouwmeester was a clear top pairing defender playing 23 minutes a game

      Whitney was not in the NHL because, like Nurse, he was not yet good enough for the NHL.

      Suter, was not in the NHL because he was not yet good enough for the NHL

      Johnson – we don’t want Nurse to turn into that mess, so I’m not going to bother.

      McDonagh – not in the NHL

      Bogosian – well into the top 4 playing well over 22 minutes a game

      Hedman – Was on the TB top pairing and playing very well

      OEL – Was playing very well on the ARI top pairing with Yandle. Scored 32 points and the team finished 1st in the pacific.

      Larsson – his 20 ywar old season was a mess because NJ had no defensemen play more than 48 games so minutes were all over the place, but Larsson was 4th in TOI per game and finished +4 for a very bad Devils team.

      Hamilton – Played very very well on a very deep Bruins defense where minutes were all over the place. His results were fantastic though.

      Lindholm was killing it as a top 4 defender half way through the year as a rookie.

      Murray was clear top 4 player as a rookie

      Reinhart wasn’t in the NHL

      Pouliot was not in the NHL

      Trouba was a clear top 4 player

      Dumba – probably should not have been in the NHL and looks like the weakest of the young players on this list

      Jones led Columbus in minutes after his arrival. Has already become their #1

      Ristolainen was also a clear top 4 player during his 20 year old season.

      With the exception of Dumba, every single player on this list was either good enough for the NHL by their 20 year old season, or they were not playing in the NHL because they were not yet good enough, and even Dumba looked significantly better at 20 than Nurse did this past year.

      In other words, given the evidence you provided, the best place for Nurse last year was the minors, not the NHL, which is pretty much the entire point. He wasn’t ready.

  • RJ

    There’s a lot of complaining that JW is attacking Nurse for struggling. It’s not JW’s fault Nurse struggled. It was the geniuses on Kingsway who brought him up too soon that should be criticized.

    Two rookies prove my point:

    1) Davidson – like 192 games in the regular and post season in the ECHL and AHL before this season
    2) Nurse – like 22 games in the regular and post season in the AHL

    Is it really surprising that Davidson looked more like a seasoned pro than Nurse? He played like 8 times more pro games than Nurse did prior to this season.

  • Bills Bills

    Nurse needs seasoning, no doubt about it. He should not have been in the NHL last year without a lot of protection. But the talk of trading him now needs to stop immediately. Trade him now and in 4 years you’re going to be looking for that 6’4″ 230lb mean and nasty dman that nobody wants to go into the corners with and is not going to get pushed off the puck by the big strong centres that the NHL is loving.

    He has all the makings to be a top pairing guy. The type that can raise his level of play. I saw it in the first 10-15 games that he played for the oilers. Then he dropped off, once the adrenalin of being an NHL player wore off and he was asked to do too much. Let him get stronger, learn the speed of the game at the pro level by playing in the AHL. If you don’t you’re failing your fans, the player and the team as a whole.

  • beloch

    Darnell Nurse got a lot of minutes last season despite being not very good. That would be good for his development if he weren’t being habitually destroyed out there. Send him back to the AHL and leave him there for at least a season. He needs to develop more and regain some confidence.

    Fayne and Sekera combined have a cap hit of just over $9M. The fact that these guys are playing like second pairing defenders is just bad. The Oilers are no longer grossly underpaying their blueline, but they need to get better value for their cap dollars than these two offer.

    Klefbom is developing into a nice top pairing guy and his cap hit is very economical. Larsson should be a welcome addition. He’s currently yet another second pairing guy, be he could become a solid #2 guy in a year or two. His cap hit is economical if he takes a step forward. If things work out for these two, the Oilers will be paying their top pair less than their second pair. That’s not good, but also not a terrible problem to have. Fayne and Sekera are probably moveable, although they might need to be packaged with other assets to make other teams take on their contracts. If the Oilers are very lucky, one of these two will be claimed by Vegas.