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?
THERE WAS A TIME….
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.
GETTING BACK TO STEVE STAIOS
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.