Depth: A good problem


The Edmonton Oilers have a depth problem. However, it is finally not a lack of depth.

Todd McLellan currently has two veteran forwards with a combined 920 NHL games of experience sitting in the pressbox. Mark Letestu has played well. He leads the Oilers with two shorthanded goals and is tied for ninth in team scoring with six points. Benoit Pouliot just played his 500th career game, and despite going pointless in 11 games, he is still tied for seventh on the Oilers with three goals.

But both have sat out for two games and after Monday’s 5-0 victory over Chicago it might reach three games of eating popcorn in the pressbox.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

This is a good problem for McLellan. Every coach wants healthy competition for icetime, but McLellan and his coaching predecessors in Edmonton haven’t had the luxury of capable NHL depth for many years.

Because Pouliot and Letestu are in the pressbox doesn’t mean they are suddenly terrible NHL players. They won’t be watching from above for the remainder of the season. They could easily play a significant role moving forward, but right now they will have to wait for their next opportunity.

Putting them in the pressbox got their attention, but it also resonates around the entire room. Every player sees it and they don’t want to be next.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Sitting Pouliot for two games doesn’t mean the team has abandoned him. He was struggling. Players go through slumps, and it was obvious he was lacking confidence. He wasn’t producing and he wasn’t creating turnovers or chances as often as he has in the past. 

I think it was fair to sit him down for a game, and if it extends to three, which I believe it will due to the Oilers 5-0 win last night, it doesn’t mean McLellan has run out of patience with Pouliot or Letestu. It’s more about the message it would send to the team by pulling someone else out.

No forwards were noticeably below average last night. Yes, it is hard to keep veterans out for three games, but it is equally hard to maintain respect from your players if the coach elects to sit down another player just to get these guys back in.

Coaches always preach that “It is about the team,” so to suddenly go against that and put one or two individual egos ahead of the team would be a tough sell.

I also don’t believe Pouliot and Letestu are so fragile they won’t be able to handle sitting out three, four or more games. They will be frustrated, they will be upset, but they should also be fired up.

“In a perfect environment when you sit a guy and the team does well it puts him on notice. It is nice when you have the luxury to sit a guy and the team has success,” explained Hall of Fame player and former NHL coach Adam Oates.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The Oilers have won two games with the vets in the pressbox. It doesn’t mean the Oilers won’t need them this season, it just means the internal competition among Oilers players has increased. 

The days of playing poorly for long stretches without any fear of sitting out are gone. 

The Oilers have a depth problem, and it’s a good one to have.

Recently by Jason Gregor:   

  • ImAnonymous

    Ok. Lots of trashes!!! Well, if I deserve it. Lots of cheers, if agreed.
    I never post on here. I love this site. There’s some amazing writers on here. But the funnest part is sitting there reading the comments to help me pass my dead spots of the day.
    But, having to read Gregor’s posts in the comments section just brings me an unhappy gross feeling. You’d expect more professionalism from a writer of his caliber.
    And don’t block me. Let’s see how this plays out!!!

    • Jason Gregor

      A poster questioned the accuracy of Burns contract. I corrected him. You don’t like it, that’s fine.

      If it makes you feel unhappy and gross then skip over my comments. They are easy to see with my avatar.

      Problem solved.

      • ImAnonymous

        Well said.
        And I like constructive debate. But mixing it up in a way that almost belittles other readers is what bugs me.
        Hearing lowetide debate analytics with readers that completely disagree in a fashion that shows those points is quite enjoyable to read. Having him put anyone down in a way that doesn’t agree with him (Gregor) is what annoys me.
        I was just stating an opinion anyhow. I don’t wanna be hung for it.
        I’ll continue to read. And maybe comment on some more hockey. You think we up for another 5-0 win if Eberle maybe wakes up in the next game?!

        • Sir Dudeinstein

          I think Eberle has been awake, just he still lives in his world juniors days, he needs to be brought back to Earth and stop day dreaming.

          There are some topics the writers tend to look away from and some they just jump on. There is too much of a 50/50 split on those who approve of Eberle and those who dont. There hasnt been an article of a break down of Eberle year by year like they have done for some players where most of the readers disagree with (Schultz, Yakupov).

          As a player matures in the NHL you expect some progress up til their prime.

          Jordan Eberle

          20GP-5G-9A-14P 0.7 P/GP +/- of -6 with 18:01 TOI


          69GP-25G-22A-47P 0.68 P/GP +/- of -12 with 17:51 TOI


          81GP-24G-39A-63P 0.78 P/GP +/- of -16 with 19:02 TOI


          80GP-28G-37A-65P 0.81 P/GP +/- of -11 with 19:32 TOI


          48GP-16G-21A-37P 0.77 P/GP +/- of -4 with 18:59 TOI

          2011-2012 **CONTRACT YEAR SIGNED IN AUG 2012**

          78GP-34G-42A-76P 0.97 P/GP +/- of 4 with 17:35 TOI


          69GP-18G-25A-43P 0.62 P/GP +/- of -12 with 17:40 TOI

          Source: NHL

          Now with this…after he signed that 36 million 6 year deal, his game dropped off. playing more ice time maybe? Maybe people figured out he likes to toe drag then shoot. His offensive play cooled off after that. So take out 2012 he been averaging 0.6-0.8 points per game. So statistically he is “awake” as points per game its above last season, but his shooting percentage is almost half so if he can find the back of the net more, his numbers should go up. Granted majority of this year and a portion of last year was with McDavid who is establishing himself as one of the best centers, Eberle game has not improved playing with that type of player. His work ethic improves for one game then he falls back the following few games till he gets called out. As per this article, what if we sat Eberle? maybe not the next few games as we have momentum (Hendricks and russell really help us to get back on track) but eventually? what are the consequences? Would this hurt his Trade Value?

          • camdog

            Eberle’s game has been pretty consistent his entire career, except for the one year where he had those great numbers. When he signed that 6 million dollar deal there was a belief by management and the fans that he would elevate his game with time, that hasn’t happened.

            Over the years from what I’ve seen, Ebs plays better when he has confidence and when he doesn’t get too many minutes, he’s not getting too many minutes this season and he’s been gradually playing better the last number of games.

            Biggest problem with Ebs are expectations are too high, he’s in Horcoff territory right now. This team needs his 55 points a season, just like past Oilers teams needed Horcoff to do his thing.

          • Sir Dudeinstein

            Why do you think teams are trying hard to do bridge contracts (Trouba) I would of been happy with 3 million 2 year per for eberle first. Eberle cant play more than 18 minutes a game sorry. He becomes tired and look lazy. His shifts are gradually becoming longer. He is honestly a second line player. Kessel proved he isnt a first line player and Toronto paid him as a all star. Not fair to compare the two other than their work ethic. Kessel did manage to lose weight and work on his ethic after being traded though. I wont say trade Eberle anymore, I will say that Eberle needs a reality check and to find his game. Against second line opponents may help him and Hopkins in the offensive department.

          • camdog

            He’s been playing 16 minutes the past few games. That might be more of a reflection of RnH eating penalty killing minutes. Regardless his minutes have deservedly been reduced. I was all for trading Ebs last season, until I started reading up on what the return would be. The Oiler would have to eat salary to get a decent return.

            Thing is I don’t know where his shot went, it’s nothing compared to what it was in years past. They say he worked on the one timer in the off season and wrecked his wrist shot. Hopefully that’s all it is, if those injuries from years past are bothering him, well that would not be good for him and the team.

          • Sir Dudeinstein

            People adjusted to Eberle in the league, much like Hall. Hall its drive wide cut towards the net trick goalie for a wrap around shoot short side.
            Eberle worked on his one timer but when a pass across the slot came to him he held onto it for half a second too long before shooting it giving the goalie time to set up. The game is getting faster every year, and he hasnt adjusted to the game. Thats his problem. Would it kill us if Vegas picked him up? if we eat some salary its only for 2 more years right?

            If his contract comes up what would you give him? right now he would demand 6-7 million atlease. He deserves 3 to be honest. If we was between 3-5 million then I wouldnt be so upset at him. Pouliot atlease is getting what he deserves.

            Hopkins has been evolving as a two way player. He wont be the one going to the corners, or wow you with a huge shot. But on the ice he doesnt mind going into his own zone and make a pass out of the zone. He needs to work on his faceoff though to be a good center. Thats why I suggested having him on McDavid wing for a few games to see how he does.

          • S cottV

            May well be an indicator of a behind the scenes desire to move Eberle.

            It’s a tough trade to make without Eberle looking his best.

            Had they taken away his “A” and should they start healthy scratching him – it makes the $6mil per year – impossible.

    • Jason Gregor

      The question is can Pouliot be as successful playing 8-10 minutes? Can he fill that role? You are correct Pouliot has been better higher up in lineup, but being productive and effective in limited minutes is difficult and not every player can do it. I see Pouliot more as a top-nine than a 4th line guy, but he might have to play there his first game back if the top-nine guys keep producing and playing well.

      It will be interesting to watch what McLellan does, but it is a good problem to have.

  • harborman

    Pouliot is over rated and I hope Chia moves him, like he did in Boston after the 2011/12 season. There is a reason he played for 4 different teams in four consecutive years because he is just not that good.Period!

    MacT in desperation mode, gives him 5 yrs and 20 mil when nobody else wanted the guy. Tell you what, I like what I’m seeing right now with the guys who played last night and in Dallas on saturday.If there is a need for a big rangy left winger with heart and passion to get back in the lineup, my choice is to part ways with Pouliot and bring up Khaira.

  • The Future Never Comes


    As I just read in a book, the trolls are hungry do not try to be a jack ass whisperer! (Spydyr)

    It would be nice if somebody would block him and save us all from having to scroll past his repetitious nonsense.

    Eb’s is soft blablabbla
    Then don’t read my posts blablabla

    mannnnn do us all a favor and frigoff

  • Sean17

    Need to get Letestu back in. That 4th line got killed last night. Lucky Talbot was great. Everyone saying that was their best game. To me the wins over STL and WSH were better. Still, fun to actually see some goals again!

  • Thumby

    Another by-product of having some depth is being able to rotate the guys out here and there as needed just to allow a bit of healing of those nagging day to day bump and bruises and to avoid fatigue. I’m hoping if we can keep more people fresh it will help us avoid so many injuries and enable us to push all the way to the playoffs!

    Go oil!

  • Looch#27

    It’s been a long hard road back to respectability, from no farm team at all to actual depth throughout the organization. Glad to see us with real talent pushing the on ice players with guys like Letestu and Poo sitting it surely sends a message to all.

  • Hemmercules

    @Sir Dude…….Problem is, there is no universe where Eberle makes 3-3.5. There is very few 60 point forwards that make less than 4.5 weather they have a 2 way game or not. Just face it man, you wouldn’t like Eberle no matter what he makes.

    Eberle has a career shooting percentage of around 14%. This season he’s at 8%. I can’t see that continue for the entire season. If he can get that back up to his normal levels he wont be such a goat.

    • Sir Dudeinstein

      I have no problem with him as a second line player I said this from the start. He isnt our first line RW like we hoped. He had one good season after that he been okay. I know your in love with the guy and look up to him. But his glory days at world juniors is done.

      your right not many players that has 60 points making 3-4 million, but does Eberle fit Chia build? no…is he a Mclellan type player? No. It seems they tried him with McDavid to increase his trade value.

      I cant say I dont like the guy because I dont know him but I dont like his attitude. I dont like that the management is giving eberle the world for 6+ years. Would he be a first line player on any other team that makes the playoffs? Probably not. He is a second line player but becuase he plays for Edmonton he didnt have much competition other than Hemsky when he came into the league. He had Parron and Yakupov to compete after that. Moreover, what has management done to create a competition for the top 2 RW on the team? brought in players nearing the end of their careers? Things just dont line up.

      • Hemmercules

        Chia can’t flip the whole team in a year and a few months. Maybe they want Eberle out as soon as possible, we will never now. I like Eberle obviously but he hasn’t been great this year I’m the first to admit that. I just dont think he’s as junk as many on here say he is.

        “He doesn’t fit the Chia mould”. I hear that a lot. Chia has already made the team bigger and more competitive, not every guy on the team is going to be a huge body with amazing hands. There will always be a mix.

        “He had one good season after that he been okay” …….Top 50 in NHL points for forwards every year since he joined the NHL. He’s just ok I guess.

        I would rather see him at around 4.5 or 5 for sure but I tend not to look to far into contracts given by previous management of the Oilers.

        • Sir Dudeinstein

          I never said hes total junk. I am pointing out the flaws and my opinion. He can do well offensively but I think hes a 2nd line player who cant compete against the pacific bigger forwards such as LA SJ and ANA. He does well vs calgary and Van because they are smaller guys. 2nd line against weaker oponents will help his game by far and will improve his play. He can still get 60 points at 15-16 mins a game.

          By one good season I meant he progressed to that one season, after that he couldnt keep up that progress he had to regress and by a rookie coming in and sophmore year in the NHL he hasnt surpass those expectations. To me that is not good.

          • Hemmercules

            I dont think he regressed as bad as you say. Yes he did have the one crazy season but nobody but Oil management expected him to keep that shooting percentage up, impossible.

            He’s been pretty even in the rest of his NHL seasons. Last year he dipped a bit but he came into the season late and started a bit slow coming off an injury.

            Over half his points this season have been against NYR, PIT, NYI, LA, STL, DAL and CHI. I wouldn’t say he can’t play against bigger/top teams.

  • Oilerchild77

    Boy, I sure missed on that Burns prediction, eh? Oh well, it’s just as well because 8 years is way too long for a guy who will be 32 at the end of the season.

    • Señor Frijoles

      Agreed – who wouldn’t love to have Burns on the Oilers, but that contract would be a killer for the Oilers in a couple of years when they have to sign Drai, Connor, Nurse etc.

      With that contract in mind, the Oilers are a better team without Burns.

      • Joy S. Lee

        I think your comment is entirely unfair. Pakarinen goes all out and hits everything that moves. Not a scorer, but a great team guy. McLellan loves him. Not that I would disagree on him going to Bakersfield first, either; he will need to get in shape and get his timing back.

        There’s no easy path to the NHL, but Iiro probably belongs in it, in a depth role, whether it’s with the Oilers, or someone else. Lumping him in with Petrell and Hartikainen as afterthoughts doesn’t do justice to the effort he gave the team last year.

  • S cottV

    The thing that gets me about Eberle, is that there has been no attempt to up his game – to be even somewhat harder to play against.

    We all no that he’s not a power forward, but c’mon – let’s not look like you’ve borrowed Sammy’s snow pants out there.

    He won’t adjust – put himself out there, attempt to do things he’s never done before. Like – commit to better defense, go to and stay longer in scarier places with his nose over the puck. Get even a little physical. Engage in more puck battles. Etc.

    The players would get a huge lift seeing their AC – up his game in this way.

    It’s leadership.

    • Sir Dudeinstein

      you would think playing with arguably the best player in the world would make you want to show him your best.

      No he rather coast. He wants to make the game at his speed and mcdavid wants to push the tempo up. If everything is fast you have to think fast. And Eberle is showing he isnt a fast thinker.

          • dangilitis

            The irony of all this, and frankly I couldn’t care less as to exactly how old grandpa Burns will be when his contract finishes, is that it will in fact be his 40th year (1st year gets you to age 1, and so forth) – so perhaps not so simple after all…

            I like Burns and wish I could have him on the team now. However, quoting players like Lidstrom and Jagr as examples of sustained skill is ridiculous, because there are countless more examples of players of varying skill sets who have not done as well past 35. We’d all love Lucic to be a dynamo at the end of his contract but can only hope he is the rare player that works out like Rod Brind’Amour past the age of 30. The exact same can be said of Weber and of Burns and you’d be delusional to assume otherwise. And if the restrictions on buyouts still apply after 35 then that makes the deal even riskier.

  • 99CupsofCoffey

    It was SOoooo nice to see Hendricks last night. Bloody lip, right back on the ice.

    Blocking shots with 7 seconds left in the game up by 5.

    I love the depth with these guys back.

    • Petrolero

      I honestly choked a bit and had a tear streaming down my cheek when I saw Hendricks sticking his knee out to.block that shot and save the shutout for his goalie.

      I think that was the proudest I’ve felt about the Oilers in 10 years. Small play but to me it showed that tenacity and pack mentality that winning teams have.

  • Aendayana777

    Like every other Oiler fan here I have been trying to figure out why have we been sent to the abyss of hockey hell for ten years? I became a fan in 91 when I arrived to Edmonton and the best players after those years were Weight, Smitty, Cujo and such. Now come to think of it it’s the energy those guy had those years. The bottom six guys who wanted to make it so to speak. Maybe guys who now with the right balance of skill and depth shows better. I certainly appreciate players like Hendricks, Russell in the same way I loved Jason Smith, Staios, Grier guys who weren’t necessarily first rounders but guys who had to fight and scrape for NHL jobs. I see Pitlick, Slepyshev, Nurse trying to inject that energy now and perhaps that is one missing ingredient all these years. Not to say the last ten years didn’t have the right amount of heart but definitely not the right balance of grit and skill. I blame management. Liking shiny toys too much for a while and we paid for it. Hard work beats skill. Hard work and skill should be unbeatable. They should expect and want that from themselves. Then we will have a whole different kind of few years ahead of us. Sorry for the long post

    • Jason Gregor

      Yes, but Gryba was expected to be #7 D this year, or in minors so I didn’t include in this article. It was about forwards. Nice having him, for sure, but the Pouliot/Letestu pressbox experience wasn’t something many of us thought would happen.

      It is great having three vets in the pressbox, not for them per se, but for the team. And when Davidson returns in two weeks or so, it will become even more competitive.

      • pkam

        I understand what you mean.

        But shouldn’t Gryba be playing when Davidson and Fayne are sidelined by injury? But he is eating popcorn now, isn’t this depth too?

  • TruthHurts98

    Depth is a great thing, while I would have loved to see PC sign Parenteau that would mean someone else sitting too. Personally I think this inner team competition will mean more players will work harder to stay in the lineup! Also if we have more depth that means we lose a better player to Vegas. That shouldn’t be a concern though to a team that needs to make the playoffs IMO. I enjoyed the article Jason Gregor and your willingness to reply to comments (even some of the dumb ones). Let’s hope the Oilers can keep the intensity and win the next 4 games!

  • NZOF

    Putting aside the Eberle debate for now, I disagree a little with the premise that we finally have organizational depth.
    Sure it’s nice that guys like Pitlick and Slepyshev have stepped up, but if we get a bunch of injuries we don’t have a ton of options down in Bakersfield who could jump in, especially at forward.

    Khaira and Lander can do spot duty on the fourth line, but outside of those two bottom six guys the cupboard is looking a little bare.

    Those years of drafting coke machines instead of smaller skilled guys is starting to catch up with us.

    • Joy S. Lee

      Not entirely bare for forward depth: Khaira and Lander are capable of at least surviving in NHL waters. Slepyshev and Caggiula are with the big team right now, and both are clearly capable of contributing. Puljujarvi could play in the system (farm), too. Platzer might be a player, maybe Chase, Yakimov, Vesel and Rasanen. Tyler Benson will be a pro next year; he may even make the parent team as a rookie. They have a few other borderline two-way forwards with size that could step in and at least compete at the NHL level for brief periods.

      But their depth is on defense. Remember, Brandon Davidson will come back at some point, as Fayne is now. Nurse and Benning are showing good signs. Despite all the negativity, Reinhart is a guy who could yet find his game – he went 4th overall, and is 22 years old. Oesterle, Musil, Simpson, Betker, Paigin, Lagesson, Berglund, Niemelanen, Jones, Bear, Marino, Cairns… that’s 15 prospective defensemen in that group. Odds are that at minimum a few will be valuable to varying degrees down the road, meaning the most valuable commodities in the NHL market will be an excess for this team. They’ll be able to deal from a position of strength to fill their forward shortcomings.

      Also, the goaltender depth improved markedly with the signing of Ellis, and they have Brossoit, Wells and Svoboda in the system also.

      The depth is significantly improved for the future, even if you can’t see it. The next year or two will be imperative for the organization as a whole in filling it out, and putting themselves in the position to win at both levels.

  • not so daily doug

    ” Then a Gryba like player except a right handed shot replacing Gryba.”

    So you want to replace Gryba with Gryba…?

    Edit: Sorry, I see this has been dealt with.

  • Spydyr

    My apologise on the Burns issue you are correct he will be 40 for the last month of the season not the start. My mistake.

    I would not sit any of the right defence in the lineup I would try to add one offensive RHD for a balance of left and right handed shooters on the defence. The second RHD would be a depth guy for when the enviable injuries occur. It is pretty obvious the Oilers could use shoring up the right winger side at the NHL level.

  • I am Batman

    You guys are for sure some grumpy bunch…. and we are coming off two magnificent wins where the Oilers scored 5 goals and McDavid had 5 points….

    Take a chill pill, go out with your partners, pet a puppy, but be happier.

    Take me for example, I’d be the first to comment how much I dislike how Eberle is playing and how much he sucks but… I’m so happy that I have no time to focus my energy on that… especially since it wouldn’t surprise me if we won the next 4 straight.

    Don’t sweat the small stuff, amigos. Who care how old is Burns, who cares who sits (as long as we win), who cares about Lincoln .

    Pet that puppy already?

  • Muddy

    Never have I seen a more confusing way for you boys to get to 40. This looks like O’Leary math at its best.

    I can’t under any circumstances justify Pou Pou for Hendricks on the 4th line. Look at the previous 5 games to Hendricks return, and I think we can agree that the experience he brings outweighs the scoring. Besides why on earth would you somewhat promote a guy from the press box to the 4th line? He should EARN his top 9 spot back and not take a spot of a heart and soul guy.

    Just to show off my math skills I’ve broken down what the Oilers didn’t pay for Burns…..

    $8,000,000 x $0 = 0


  • Jason Gregor

    Agree they would like to improve RW, but even top teams have a weak spot here or there.

    Having players who can play both wings or wing/centre is biggest asset…Caggiula is showing that. He was a winger in NCAA and now playing centre.

    Khaira is best bet among young guys coming up, but if JP develops like they hope, then next year he and Eberle would be pretty good 1-2 RW depth.

    Davidson can play LD or RD, and while having another right-shot D would be nice, many teams don’t have three of each.

    In future Chiarelli will try to get one I’m sure, but it isn’t a necessity for success. Many good left-shooting D can play RD and do it well and if Russell or Davidson, when he returns, play well it allows Chiarelli not to force the issue of a right-shot D.

  • Jason Gregor

    Your math is as accurate as your statements. The only two right-shot D they have in the lineup now are Larsson and Benning. So which ones where you talking about? You can play RD and shoot left…ie. Russell.

    And you didn’t correct me, you just showed us you can’t add.

    First year of contract starts in Oct over 2017 when he is 32.

    Year two..33
    Year three..34
    Year four…35
    Year five…36
    Year six..37
    Year seven…38
    Year eight..39.

  • AlexanderK

    Eberle will be gone before the end of this season! At best, he will play out the season but he will not skat ewith the team next season no matter what. He does not fit this Oiler “hard at it” team “hard to play against” and “in your face” attitude being cultivated and instilled methodically.

    Management made its decisions on Eberle (along with the one about Hall) a very long time ago (I posted the Hall scenario here last year and it played out exactly as outlined then). Yet, they have to move the pieces one at a time, they can not just ship everyone out at once.

    Eberle’s numbers needed a boost (get a bit of value if possible for an otherwise not so valuable “coaster” of a player with a heavy non-justifiable contract) and this is why he was “promoted” to the gravy-line with McD.

    So worry none, we will get a more fitting piece at RW sooner or later.

    We are getting to see a real team being born in front of our eyes!

    We deserve it, Heaven knows we paid a high price all these years watching the unwatchables…

  • Spydyr

    Thank you for your kind response.I’m a bit on tilt today.

    My thoughts for the future depth is a right handed offensive defencman say a Shattenkirk or another puck mover taking Russell’s or Davidson’s spot if they lose him in the expansion draft . Then a Gryba like player except a right handed shot replacing Gryba. Then adding another true right winger that can play up and down the line-up. If Khaira can be that guy all the better.

  • Spydyr

    Did I say sit any of those players?

    No. What I said is the Oiler are short on depth on right wing and right defence.

    I know it was said in a way that might be difficult for some to comprehend.

    You seem to have a nasty habit of putting words into my mouth.

    Are you upset I corrected you on Burns?