The Oilers’ VP of player development, Duane Sutter, did a radio hit on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 on Tuesday and he talked about the importance of having grit and size in the lineup.
For years, the Edmonton Oilers were one of those teams that were easily pushed around by the bigger squads in the NHL and it’s a reputation that has only begun to dissolve recently. Regardless of what you think about the impact of size in the lineup, there won’t be many people that would argue that Edmonton was the kind of team that put fear in the hearts of their opponents.
Despite having no way to accurately track the impact of size and toughness, there is no doubt in my mind that being tougher to play against makes a difference and Duane Sutter clearly agrees.
From the interview:
“We worked hard, especially in the last three years, by adding some important pieces. Some heavy guys like Looch and Patty Maroon and Matt Hendricks and Darnell Nurse. A lot of these guys have come in and really set the tone and give us a balance of some size and skill. It had been lean,”
I mostly agree with this, but I’m pretty sure even Matt Hendricks would debate the fact that he’s on par with the other guys on this list in terms of skill. Regardless, I understand the point he was getting at. Intimidation is still a thing that matters. What else?
“(The Oilers) drafted skill for a long time and there wasn’t a lot of attention paid to size. That’s the toughest thing to add. So, at times, you overpay for it.”
I disagree, sir! Do you not remember the Coke Machine era of the mid to late 2000s? I’m not going to let you just slip that one past me. I remember what it was like when JF Jacques started on the first line. I remember the Mitch Moroz draft selection coming a round or two early. I remember Alexei Mihknov. Ignoring size? Not from what I remember.
“Some people may say down the road we overpaid for Looch, but his internal value is so exceptionally strong. Especially when he’s in the dressing room by Connor. There’s value to that that people do not see on the outside.”
Look at Lucic taking some unprovoked shrapnel. I mean, no one even mentioned his name but Sutter went out there and acknowledge the narrative that he’s overpaid. Odd choice to bring that up, but I guess I understand the point he was trying to make. Being in a functional dressing room is a delicate balancing act of personalities and having a leader like Lucic with some Cup experience has a price attached to it. I won’t try to put words in the guy’s mouth but that’s all I can come up with right now.
When asked about having Cup experience in and around the organization, Sutter said:
“Wayne’s vision for the organization and what he adds to the dressing room, just by giving Connor a little insight and advice on how to deal with certain situations.”
I have to say, there is literally no better mentor for Connor to have than Wayne Gretzky. There aren’t many people on the planet that can understand what it’s like to be the best at something and Wayne certainly fits the bill. Think they talk about babes? I want to know what kind of advice Wayne gives Captain Connor about babes.
“Peter Chiarelli has done an exceptional, exceptional job by lining the staff up, assigning them, defining their roles, and everyone has followed that to a T.”
Does “lining the staff” actually mean that he has to keep literally everyone that has ever worked for the organization in addition to the guys he wants to hire? That’s probably it, right? Anyone? Just me?
“On the player personnel side, you manage a pro staff out there and you’re looking for free agents and potential trades and going by some little inside advice he’s given you as far as who he’s talking to or who we want to be watching closely. So far it’s worked out fine.”
I don’t want to derail this article but I still question how the Oilers have gotten any better this summer outside of hoping that guys progress and are able to stay healthy. Having something “work out fine” based on an unprecedented run of health without really adding anything else is a dangerous game to play.
“We’ve got a ways to go.”
No disagreements there.
“We haven’t won yet, but we feel (like) we’re close.”
I hope you’re right about them being close to contending, Duane, because I have a bad gut feeling about this season. I think that Edmonton will make the playoffs but I also think it will be a lot tighter than it was a year ago. Other teams in the division have gotten better, and the Oilers only missed one man-game in their top six all of last season and that’s the kind of luck that seems unlikely to be replicated. They’re also going to be without Andrej Sekera for the first couple months of the season and that means someone from the third pairing will have to fight above their weight class for a while, and they’ll have to do it effectively.
The Oilers are banking on a lot of things going right this season, and I would love nothing more than to be dead wrong about doubting the approach that they’ve taken, but there is little doubt that taking basically the same team into next year is a risky move. As a fan of the team, I want the Oilers to be the best that they can possibly be but I have to admit I’m more nervous about it than Duane Sutter seems to be. Like I said, I hope I’m wrong.