Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Are the Oilers too big and slow?

It’s no secret Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli likes big hockey teams. His Boston Bruins teams were filled with size and grit, with 6-foot-9 behemoth Zdeno Chara leading the charge on the blueline. The 2011 Bruins were poster boys for this as they poked and prodded the Canucks on route to the Stanley Cup.

Chiarelli echoed this in his inaugural press conference as Oilers general manager alongside Oilers Entertainment Group CEO Bob Nicholson. Chiarelli talked about the Oilers playing fast, but not hard. He wanted them to play “heavier” and that would come from the coach and player additions. His moves reflected that.

2015 Additions

Player Height Weight
Griffin Reinhart 6.04 212
Eric Gryba 6.04 222
Lauri Korpikoski 6.01 193
Andrej Sekera 6.00 200
Mark Letestu 5.10 195
Zack Kassian 6.03 209

Chiarelli immediately added two huge defencemen, trading a ludicrous duo of draft picks for struggling Griffin Reinhart and a fourth-round draft pick for Eric Gryba. Lauri Korpikoski comes in for Boyd Gordon, which isn’t much of a size difference. Andrej Sekera and Mark Letestu are useful players who aren’t huge.

Zack Kassian was an in-season trade after an unsuccessful trade to Montreal, and would be one of the three big, gritty wingers acquired by Chiarelli.

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2016 Additions 

Player Height Weight
Patrick Maroon 6.03 225
Adam Larsson 6.03 210
Milan Lucic 6.03 236
Jesse Puljujarvi 6.04 211
Drake Caggiula 5.10 185
Matt Benning 6.01 204
Kris Russell 5.10 173

Chiarelli’s major roster construction occurs during 2016. Patrick Maroon is acquired for a fourth-round pick and failed prospect. The speedy, play-driving Taylor Hall is sent out out for firm Adam Larsson. With a glaring hole at left wing, Milan Lucic gets a buyout-proof seven-year contract on July 1st.

There’s still a few smaller players added in Drake Caggiula and Kris Russell, but the bulk of his additions are bigger, heavier players.

2017 Additions

Player Height Weight
David Desharnais 5.07 180
Ryan Strome 6.01 194
Jussi Jokinen 6 191
Yohann Auvitu 5.11 187
Mike Cammalleri 5.09 185

David Desharnias was a deadline acquisition that didn’t play much. Jordan Eberle was dumped for the disappointing Ryan Strome

Jussi Jokinen’s hockey might have been too heavy, as he was traded for smaller, less heavy Mike Cammalleri in November. Yohann Auvitu is small and can fly.

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2017 didn’t have the size entering that 2015 and 2016 did, but much of the roster was already made at this point.

May 5, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing Patrick Maroon (19) pushes Anaheim Ducks left wing Nicolas Kerdiles (58) after a save by goalie Cam Talbot (33) during the second period in game five of the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

This is Chiarelli’s team. Only one player on the team that played against Calgary wasn’t either signed, re-signed, or acquired by Peter Chiarelli – Darnell Nurse. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the other, but he’s on injured reserve.

Are they too slow? To borrow from former Oilers-GM Craig MacTavish, if you have to ask the question you know the answer. It’s crazy a team with Connor McDavid is even talked about as slow.

They need to get faster players. Seeing the Buffalo Sabres skate circles around Edmonton on their second game in two nights is concerning. An influx of players like Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, and Ryan Strome has slowed the team down.

The Oilers best asset is Connor McDavid. Acquiring big, lumbering wingers to compliment him isn’t the best use of that asset.

The emergence of Jujhar Khaira helps. He’s big and skates well, but they need speedy players in their top six. Half their top six skaters aren’t very fleet of foot.

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Chiarelli, or whoever is managing the Oilers, needs to add more speed and skill. Kailer Yamamoto will help, but you can’t leave it all on a  20-year-old winger.

Otherwise, the Oilers will be built more for 2011 and 2012 than 2018.

    • Hemmercules

      Well said. If Maroon goes, hopefully they can even it out a bit with a new speedy player with some finish. I believe Kassian has another year or two left?? He’s not necessarily slow though and he’s lower line/lower paid player. If only Lucic always skated like he did on that one play last night. At his price point we should be seeing that every game, not 50 games into the season.

        • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

          … and about 3 or 4 plays a night where you want to throw something at the TV
          (e.g. chucks the puck somewhere without looking, handles the puck like a grenade, goes for a big hit and ends up out of position, or is half a stride slow for a tap-in goal via a pass from either Drai or McD)

        • polarcap

          Problem is that for every jaw drop there are 5 Oh No’s. A recent post show a strong negative correlation between hits and plus/minus. Oil’s average hit are a complete outlier 27 compared to 21 league mean. The problem is that in going for the hit, the player often puts himself out of position in going for the hit, creating a man advantage for the opponent. The fastest puck moving teams are rising to the top. You don’t need a superstar and a cast of feeders, you need a team. See Las Vegas.

  • BingBong

    My opinion? No. We’re not the fastest team in the league, but we’re fast enough to be a playoff team. Our 5 on 5 play is top 10 in the league.

    For me 80% of the problem has been our defense. Aside from Nurse, they’ve all been bad. Not just worse than last year, but bad. Klefbom and Larsson look lost, Benning and Gryba belong in the AHL, Russell can’t make a pass, and Sekera has been horrendous since coming back (which is understandable).
    Fix the D, and immediately Talbot looks better, and the production up front will increase. And nobody will be talking about how “slow” we are.

    • DRT57

      How can any team that’s 29th or 30th give or take a pt. or 2 be considered to have top 10 at 5 on 5. 5 or 6 times shut out at home by 5-0. Mmmmore koolaid please

    • DRT57

      Agree D is terrible ,there is not one D Man that could be a 6 th on the Flames. Aside from Darnell he’s is a stud , great potential but still a 5 or 6 or 7 on the Flames and you know it

      • Armchair genius

        So, is that a statement that your forwards are awful because they couldn’t score enough to win the last 3 games, or a statement that our forwards are so good we outscored Calgary’s top tier defenceman? Maybe we should think before we post troll like comments!

    • JimmyV1965

      Agreed. This slow narrative is just a story to explain why we’re losing. Do we have slow players. You bet. So does virtually every team in the league. The Blues have plenty of slow players. The Flames do too. Hell, Lucic beat two of them in a foot race the other night. I don’t hear anyone calling them slow.

      We play slow when Talbot lets in a goal on the first or second shot. You could see it against the Flames. He lets in the first goal on the first shot and the team loses it confidence and starts playing scared and lost. We look slow. Then Davey scores and the team suddenly has some jump and they no longer look slow. Funny how that works.

      The slowest part of our game is our dmen’s inability to move the puck out of our zone with anything resembling speed. Hell, half the time they can’t get it out at all.

      The slow narrative has been developed by lazy analysts in eastern Canada who don’t watch the team, who are riding this notion that heavy hockey is dead.

      We are a fragile team right now and fragile teams don’t play with pace when something goes wrong.

  • wayne overland

    The Oil have virtually the same roster as went to game 7 of round two, I don’t buy that they got slow over the summer. They jettisoned their slowlest (if sparingly used ) players off the team Hendricks and Gryba. Strome is about as a bland vanilla player but is he slower than Ebs, I don’t think so. The urban myth, so to speak that the Oil are slow is just a myth of certain “experts” trying to impress.

    PS, using the infamous McT quote about a future vezina trophy finalist does not add credence to your argument. I recall an article about Gretzky early in his career asking the question id he was too small and too slow to compete in the NHL. Any idiot can ask a question and contrary to another old sayings, yes there are stupid questions.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Agreed Wayne, the reason (the only reason) that Buffalo skated circles around the Oiler’s on Tuesday night was not the slowness of the team but their attitude… They didn’t show up, simple… Unfortunately that has been going on for too often this season… I don’t know if it’s lack of practice, or what? The skill level is their, we just haven’t seen much of it this season for some reason. That “reason” when found, will be the key to this season… (How many un thought out giveaways last night? That’s not lack of speed?
      It’s almost like the developing players like Benning, Slepy etc, have stopped developing, creating huge holes and inconsistencies. I don’t know what the issue is? But it’s not their potential skill level, it’s their drive.

    • Natejax97

      When you move the puck efficiently, a slower skating team is able to play fast. The Oilers are not moving the puck efficiently. Look at how many times the D man double clutches and resets, also look at how many times during the game the forwards have to stop at the opposing blue line because either the guy carrying the puck has to make an extra move or the shoot in is not timely.

      I still believe the Oilers are build right, but the team was out of sync for a long time this year.

      But hey… 4-1 in their last 5. That is something.

    • Armchair genius

      When this team plays their game and clicks, and one could say this about 30 other NHL teams, they look unstoppable. Speed is in the execution not the few individual players that may be a bit slower than the next.

  • I think that we had to get size and grit and think Kassian is our best power forward. He has deserved top six time he is defensively better than Maroon and Lucic so checking line it is. I have seen Lucic be a dominant player but it doesn’t happen enough. He belongs on a high possession team and this team is not that at this time. He wears an “A” for a team that I love and he should be honoured.

    • Natejax97

      I think you meant “I have seen Lucic be a dominant player but that doesn’t happen ANYMORE”. When was the last time Lucic had an impact on a hockey game? Not once this year by my count. Not one time has he swung the pendulum. He certainly has negative impacts with all his chopping wood stick handling, blatent giveaways, and stupid penalties. He is not even an NHL hockey player at this point, he should be in the press box.

  • 24% body fat

    Ok so just after the 2016 draft we the following players were oilers.

    Kassian, Maroon, Draisaitl, Slepyshev, Nurse, Klefbom, Khaira, Puljijarvi,

    Thats enough size, and they all are pretty good skaters.

    There was no need to add more with Lucic, and no reason to gamble on Reinhart who would have been the 4th defenseman on the left side.

    If they made the barzal pick, and didnt need to draft oil kings and edmonton kids, and didnt need to clear hall to sign a useless Lucic the team could have looked like this.

    Debrincat, McDavid, Puljijarvi
    Hall, Nuge, Slepyshev
    Maroon, Draisaitl, Barzal
    Kharia, Letestu, Kassian
    Paik, Rattie

    Sekera, Demers
    Nurse, Carlo
    Klefbom, Sverson (Eberle, caggulia and 3rd)

    These are all players available at the time for the draft, and all who i wanted.
    These contracts are way more sustainable and better value. The players all have speed and skill, and there is still a lot of size in there.

    The oilers and Chia old habits of quoting culture, ephasis on size, oilking and local biased have killed this organization over the last 5 years.

    1. trade hall because of dressing room issues
    2. drafting musil
    3. drafting moroz
    4. signing lucic
    5. trading for reinhart
    6. signing russel long term
    7. Benson drafted instead of debrincat.

    The list goes on. And everyone with half a brain new these were all terrible moves.

    • MrBung

      This is why the Oil continue to miss the playoffs. Fluke it last season … Just not a very good management team over many years. Knew other powers at work when MacTavish was still retained after they mistakenly hired Chia. Just a mess.

    • SSB1963

      You are forgetting that the Oilers were in need of getting bigger on defence hence Reinhart. Also I believe it was already confirmed that the Oil were not looking at Barzal so that is just beating a dead horse.

      • 24% body fat

        again, that is another problem that shows the ineptness of managment. They want Ek? another big left handed center.

        A right handed center was ranked 7th overall and fell to them. you take him,

        Taresenko was ranked 8th and fell to st. louis in the same range. Look at him.

        Why did they need another big defenseman. Didnt they need an NHL defenseman more?

    • DRT57

      Finally an Oiler fan with some smarts. Make this guy a GM. Though Kassian a x#%^€+% cancer
      ,he’s out of control, witness last night ,barking at officials coaches. Anger issues or what. Love the passion but show some restraint

      • Glencontrolurstik

        He scored an important goal, & to my eye his antics (not that I agree with them) seemed to fire up the team & get them back on track?
        Sometimes that outrageous attitude reminds everyone surrounding them to “buckle down”…

    • Dapper Dan 3099

      I agree that the reinhart trade was atrocious, don’t get me wrong…..BUT Nurse at that time was not established at all, Klefbom played 30 games in 15/16…..our D was in shambles and you could also argue that was maybe the only move available to improve an incredibly awful D (hoping).

      you seem to also automatically assume your free agent wish list has everyone signing with Edmonton (because you wanted them to), and also have somehow developed an ability to see into the future and know how debrincat and barzal would turn out……man its so easy to be a hindsight GM……maybe we con go waaaay back in time too and draft Corey Perry in 2003 instead of Pouliot, that way we wouldn’t have the lack of scoring on RW today…

      • 24% body fat

        none of this is hindsight. the oilers brought demers here. they chose to give the money to lucic and open a spot for lucic than aquiring larsson so there was no need for demers.

        i am on the record all over the internet saying they need to pick barzal carlo and debricat. all three had numbers and stuff showing they had a better opportunity to be quality nhl players. problem is chia values size and grit more than skill.

        • Dapper Dan 3099

          you’re right with what chia values, but you also have to consider even if edm drafted those guys, there is no guarantee they would develop into the same players…it would have been a completely different set of coaches, circumstances…. and especially considering edmonton’s ability to develop players over the past decade

          in regards to demers, its just my opinion, but if you had demers and no Larsson, our D would have still been atrocious and fans would have been freaking out about how all chia did was get a useless demers to fix the D…. demers signed with florida, and just like that they were desperate to move him and his contract to Arizona

  • Jordan88

    I like how people complain about Lucic’s speed.

    His agressive forcheck to feed who was it Slepyshev and beat out flames shows me he has the capability to keep up with McDavid, Draisaitl, Puljujarvi, RNH.

    Kassian has no problems skating, but he second guesses when he is on a break away.

    Edmonton is not slow, I think its hilarious we ask this question.

    The players are not slow, they play slow.

  • Snoop Scottie Dogg

    Stop complaining about this years roster because it will be the same next season. Unfortunately the Oilers don’t have the depth to be trading picks and prospects. And any roster player that they want to trade doesn’t have any value.

    As much as Strome has disappointed I think the Oilers should resign him; not qualify him. If they can get him at a modest cap hit he can replace Letestu. 3rd/4th line Center/ power play trigger man. It’s not ideal but it’s probably going to be their best option.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    This topic was covered earlier this season when the Judge Advocate General of Speed, Craig Button, declared the Oilers too slow.

    I said this then and I’ll say it again – they’re only slow on nights they’re not trying. This year, that’s been most nights. That’s the thing.

    Yes, Maroon probably has to be traded, but only because he’s a UFA and they almost always bolt on July 1. If he was under contract for the next couple of years here, we wouldn’t be talking about trading him at all because he can actually score. And as much as we all like to rip on Lucic, he does things away from the puck that bring value (not sure if it’s the kind of value in his contract). His limitations are mitigated by his other intangibles (and his scoring numbers are right about where they usually are).

    Otherwise, who are the slow ones? Draisaitl? He only looks slow until he’s chasing a puck. Strome? He’s not fast, but he and Eberle would be very close, so that’s a push. Kassian? Doesn’t look slow by my eye. Khaira? Maybe. Letestu? OK, but last year he brought so much other value and he’s probably gone at the deadline this year, anyway.

    To be honest, part of the “problem” is that McDavid’s speed alters the optics. He is so much quicker than everyone else on the ice, the rest of the Oilers (and their opposition and the on-ice officials) look slow, by comparison. Put McDavid on the first line in Winnipeg or Tampa and he’d make a lot of their players look slow, too.

    The Oilers aren’t the fastest team in the league, but in no way are they too-slow-for-the-NHL. They’re middle of the pack, at worst. There’s room for improvement (I like the idea of picking up PRV off waivers), but I wouldn’t panic about it, either. The Oilers have hotter fires to extinguish – namely the special teams and, like I say, the remarkably inconsistent efforts that have sewered the team’s chances this season.

  • I’m getting tired of people saying the Oilers are slow to put the blame for the bad season on slow players. It has nothing to do with that. The penalty kill is the main problem and that’s not about speed–it’s about defensive attack and positioning.

    This continued talk of Maroon not being good enough is nuts. He’s the best winger on the team! The stats back that up. The stats also show he’s been the best winger to play with McDavid. Why? Because he knows where to go.

    2-3 seasons ago, every Oilers fan was saying the team needed size and they got it big time. Then boom, they don’t? Nonsense. Maroon, Kassian, and Khaira are big and tough, but they can also skate very well.

    They have the skill and speed. Do they need to play with a quicker pace? Absolutely. Especially with passes on the power play.

  • camdog

    The coaching staff at times plays Caggiula on the penalty kill. The only reason he is penalty killing is because he can skate, he hasn’t been a good penalty killer. Letestu has been killing penalties all year, it hasn’t worked he’s too slow. McDavid and LD are killing penalties, because they can skate. I think this is dangerous both in terms of possibility of injury and because it limits their offensize zone minutes. Playing these 2, 25 minutes plus a night is a cause for concern.

    At 5 by 5 if they play there position they have been fine. Ideally the team needs some veterans that can skate and kill the odd penalty.

  • Randaman

    Maroon will be traded, Kassian is plenty fast which only leaves Looch in the too slow category and I can live with that. Jesse skates fine, Khaira skates fine as well so I see no issues except needing some scoring wingers and a stud D man to run the PP.

  • oilerjed

    This narrative is false. There is nothing to back this up at all. IF the Oil are playing hard then there isn’t a team that they haven’t been able to keep up with. As has been said elsewhere, being a fast team, isn’t about having speed demons up and down the lineup ( but it helps) but out hustling the other team to the pucks. Most of that comes from positioning and structure.

  • Harry2

    Nobody, and I mean nobody, called this team slow last year.

    When Edm plays motivated and imposes their will on teams (ie. Calgary just last night) they are a top teir NHL team.

    I think Maroon is as good as gone and if you replace him with a faster player they will be plenty fast.

    Also lets not forget they have an above average defence when it comes to speed..

  • D'oh-ilers

    I don’t see speed being that much of an issue. The problem is this team is too slow at realizing when there’s a hockey game in progress. It’s usually 2-0 midway through the 1st when they notice they have skates on their feet and a stick in their hand.

  • ricardo2000

    After all they are NHL pros so the Oilers aren’t slow. They start from zero too often which makes them easy to anticipate on offence and defence. Remember how Kane went around a motionless Draisaitl in OT? Since when was Traffic Cone defence acceptable in the NHL?
    The other problem comes from ridiculous passing. Pro Hockey relies on accurate passing, and the Oilers suck at it.
    Fix these two problems and the Oilers will move the puck much faster, be harder to score against, and impossible to defend.