The consensus among fans of the Edmonton Oilers seems to be that the major shortcoming of GM Peter Chiarelli’s off-season to this point is his failure to land a right-shooting defenceman who can be an option on the power play. I don’t disagree with that.
That said, after batting around the idea of who might be the best fill-in from the point on the power play on the Jason Gregor Show Wednesday – we discussed lefties Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom and Brandon Davidson as possibilities – I couldn’t help but wonder how much of an actual difference failure to land that coveted righty might make this coming season.
Without a proven quarterback on the back end, Edmonton’s power play still scored 43 goals on 237 attempts last season to finish at 18.1 per cent, good for 18th in the NHL. The Oilers managed that without Connor McDavid for 37 games. They operated at about 21 per cent on the PP with him and 14 per cent without him.
The Anaheim Ducks led the NHL in power play percentage at 23.1, scoring 56 goals on 266 attempts. The San Jose Sharks led in PP goals with 62 (on 275 attempts for a percentage of 22.5). Bottom line, the Oilers finished five percentage points behind the Ducks and 19 goals behind the Sharks without the likes of a Tyson Barrie running the show.
MCDAVID IS THE KEY
While there’s no question the Oilers would stack up better going into training camp with a guy who can be a shot and scoring threat from the point like Barrie, I’m not convinced it’s going to make a huge difference on the power play as long as Sekera (The Shinpad Assassin), Klefbom or Davidson can be at least adequate. Maybe Adam Larsson gets a look, too.
Where the Oilers will really miss having a puck-mover and point-producer like Barrie – or fill in the name of your choice — is at even strength because that’s how most of the game is played and there’s no question the Oilers had serious issues getting production from the blueline last season. Of course, they’d be better off all-around with another proven NHL blueliner.
Specific to the power play, I think its success hinges more on McDavid and whether he stays healthy. He scored 14 of his 48 points on the PP (3-11-14) and that seven per-cent swing with him and without him is no accident. His presence completely changes how teams defend Edmonton’s PP.
If McDavid can stay in the line-up and two of Sekera, Klefbom, Davidson and Larsson can anchor the two PP units on the point, I think we’ll see the Oilers improve on that 18.1 percentage and 43 goals of last season. Maybe not significantly, but then again, a middle-of-the-pack power play wasn’t near the top of the list of issues that plagued the Oilers last season.
WHILE I’M AT IT
By saying Larsson might get a look as a power play possibility, I’m not looking for the Oilers to try to pound a square peg into a round hole, which is something the team has been guilty of more than once in recent seasons.
Larsson’s stock and trade the last four seasons has been his ability to eat up minutes and defend, and given how lousy the Oilers have been at preventing goals, that’s exactly where the focus should be. It doesn’t matter who he was traded for or what his contract is, Larsson is first and foremost a defender and that shouldn’t change. He did get some looks on the power play in his first season with New Jersey. Once he settles in here, there’s no harm in taking a look to see if he’s a PP option, but it’s nothing fans should count on.
We saw a lot of stories generated during the Summer of Analytics when the Oilers hired consultant Tyler Dellow two years ago, but we haven’t heard barely a peep about him since the team decided not to renew his contract this off-season.
Dellow’s many supporters in the analytics community have suggested he’ll be employed again as soon as he wants to be, but so far, nothing. I wonder if former Oiler coach Dallas Eakins, now with Anaheim’s AHL affiliate in San Diego and a big backer in bringing him to Edmonton, will try to sell the Ducks on bringing him aboard.
- If the Oilers are still looking for a proven NHL defenceman for depth, and they should be, I’d be all for putting in a call to bring back Eric Gryba. He doesn’t address any of the point production issues the team has had from the back end, but he’s a fit a third-pairing or seventh guy on the cheap
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.