reinhart nikitin williams

When we look back on this era of the Edmonton Oilers, one of the first questions I would like answered is this: When did they lose the ability to identify NHL defensemen?


Charlie Huddy was an assistant coach for the Edmonton Oilers from 2000 through 2009. In his first season in the position, the team iced defensemen Janne Niiinimaa, Jason Smith, Tom Poti, Igor Ulanov, Eric Brewer and Sean Brown. Now, that defense was too young and had some chaos, and you would have liked a complete player, but it was also a substantial group. In his final year, Edmonton had Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky, Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov, Steve Staios and Ladislav Smid. Again, no complete defender but some very nice veterans and emerging youth—you could go to war with that group.

From the day Pat Quinn arrived through the moment Peter Chiarelli took over, the Oilers were lost in the supermarket when it came to defensemen. I kept waiting for Craig MacTavish to identify defensemen—he coached some dandy blue—but the handling of Jeff Petry snapped my faith in the Oilers once impressive ability to find useful defensemen.


As God is my witness, there was a time when the Edmonton Oilers could find a useful defender at midnight in a snowstorm. Steve Staios! He was basically released by an expansion team! And the Edmonton Oilers, with their established ability to identify useful defensemen, signed the man and the good defense began and continued for many years.

When Peter Chiarelli arrived in town, the need for defense was real and spectacular. In 2015, he signed Andrej Sekera and traded for Griffin Reinhart, and this past offseason signed Kris Russell and Matt Benning, while trading for Adam Larsson.

The price in trade for Reinhart and Larsson was incredible, will we be talking about it for years and years. I am not interested in debating those trades (so much has already been written) but am interesting in this organization’s ability to find useful defenders without paying a breathtaking price.

Can they do it? Matt Benning is an interesting addition, Brandon Davidson appears to be an actual NHL player if he can stay healthy. It is vital for Peter Chiarelli to find pieces without making more devastating trades, and Griffin Reinhart could do his GM a helluva favor by playing a sound game tonight for the Bakersfield Condors—and making himself into part of the solution.

Where is the next Steve Staios? This organization badly needs a defensive solution who comes at a reasonable price, and the next solution Peter Chiarelli adds dare not cost the team a substantial offensive forward. (Photo by Mark Williams)

Game begins at 8 our time, follow along (boxscore) below.

  • Concur

    It is great that Chia went after defensemen, but he really has a stocked house even without Griffin. If he is going to add another defenseman as you suggest, who is leaving besides Mark Fayne?

        • Joy S. Lee

          Yeah, I liked Belov. He was at least NHL-calibre while he despised playing in the Eakins’ circus, so his focus wasn’t where it could have been.

          Thank goodness the days of making draft picks according to their dad or uncle being part of the organization are over.

          I agree with those saying development is key, but picking the right defensemen to develop is equally as important. Defense looks to be the strength of this organization over the long haul, but now they have to develop them. The good news is that they finally appear to have figured that out, and there is buy-in across the organization. The hard part is that development is a matter of time; the decade of incompetence has resulted in not much patience in these parts.

  • anjinsan

    Petry? — now solid 2nd pairing

    Marincin? — playing first pairing

    They could have had Brandon Carlo at 33 last year! — playing first pairing in rookie year for Boston, for crying out loud. And he’s a RHD!!!!

    What about goalies? Dubnyk?!

    Lowtide — Oiler development sucks, really sucks, it defines dysfunction.

    Klefbom has been a success, save injuries.

    A few D from last year, however, may make it: Bear, Jones, Paigin.

    To Oiler management: it’s the development, stupid.

    • Oilerchild77

      I agree with the poor development critique. However, they traded Maricin because he wouldn’t do what they asked of him and expected an automatic spot in the top 4. His stubborn attitude is what got him traded.

      Hmmm… That sounds like a certain Russian winger we once had…

      P.S. Marincin is not playing top pairing by the way. He’s bottom 3 in the pecking order on the Leafs.

    • Dan 1919

      If Marincin came into a healthy Oilers team right now, he wouldn’t crak the top 6, sorry bud.

      If Petry came into the Oilers lineup right now he would be bottom pairing, pushing Nurse or Davidson for a spot.

      Remember you can’t just obliviously say this guy plays in this position here therefore he’s better then everyone below that position on our team. Remember Shultz playing top line here, he’s not better than every other bottom 5 dmen in the league is he?

      • Concur

        Marincin would be along the lines of Davidson. Better than Nurse right now but probably not in the future. Petry is better than Fayne and Gryba and probably equivelent to Russell, little less than Sekera.

        • Dan 1919

          Yep that’s about it, similar to a few that we have so it would boil down do pros and cons of what each guy brings… personally I’d take our current lineup as is over one of those guys in it

    • Naky

      Marincin? The Leafs were the worst team in the league last year and they’re a defensive mess this year. When they finally get good, Marincin is not part of the solution – at least not on the top pairing.

      Also, I won’t listen to anyone bemoaning the loss of Dubnyk on this site. I was one of like three people on this entire site and maybe in the entire fanbase that realized it was an off year and we shouldn’t have thrown him under the bus for it for the years of good production he had proved he was capable of before on horrificly bad teams. The rest of you have so much crow to eat it’s disgusting on this topic.

      • Oilerchild77

        Wait till the new goaltender equipment regulations come into effect. Dubnyk will be lucky to make it as a backup. I’m not sorry they moved him. I’d take Talbot over him in a heartbeat right now.

  • Anton CP

    Here’s the thing, most of the top D in the league are home grown (Karlsson, Keith, Hedman, OEL, McDonagh, Seabrook, Doughty, Klingberg, Letang, Josi, Giordano, etc, etc, etc). Some are due to injury concerns that teams took risks by trading for them or signing them(Burns and Green).

    It still has some different cases teams find those top tier D-man by unique circumstances but in grand scheme that the Oilers need to develop those D-men on their own. Nurse, Klefbom and Davidson will be important cornerstones for the future of the Oilers D cores and also why more than half of Chiarelli’s draft picks are Ds (8 of 15). I will refer to Hawks’ dominance started from how they drafted 9 Ds from 19 picks between 2002 to 2003 (notable names: Babchuk, Keith, Seabrook, Byfuglien, and Wisniewski) and they later on all contribute to the greater successes.

    No magic tricks, just draft tons of talent defenses and develop them properly.

  • tkfisher

    Bingo. One of the biggest issues for the Oilers since Huddy left is identifying useful Dmen, making the wrong bets on the wrong horses, and shipping out useful pieces for nothing.

    How did we end up trading for the rights to a player that no one was bidding on, and overpaying said defensemen by about 3.5 million for 3 years in nikitin, while pushing out a guy like Petry. Or Gilbert. Neither were perfect rear guards, but they were better than what they were replaced by. The majority of our free agent pick ups became waiver wire players that no one would claim shortly after. Fayne wasn’t a solid bet for the term and dollars. Ference, same thing. Cam Barker. Nick Schultz. Getting Teubert from the kings instead of almost any other dman in their system who is now playing a large role on the team. This team has been awful identifying real defensemen for years.

  • God love you LT but we both know the way to gather high draft picks is to game the system and NOT gather quality D-men. It’s been the Oilers way for a number of years now. The trick is to make it look like you’re doing something, thus players like “Nikitin”.

    The last thing on this team’s mind was winning games. If it was, first and foremost thing on your list is a good back end. If you actually believe the reason we haven’t done this is ineptitude, then you’re not paying attention.

    I’ve said it before. If you assume the NHL is actually a legitimized WWE you’ll start to get it.

  • OilersGM

    Draft and develop your players especially (D) because no other team is gonna give you a top 3 defenceman unless your giving up a Hall. Ohhh wait we did that.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      ….the Oilers should have kept drafting d-men, and a lot of them just incase the D they had didn’t work out, and with the likes of Nikitin, Ference and Schultz stinking up the blueline, they would have had more than just Nurse coming down the pipe if they had of.