The Edmonton Oilers returned to the ice day after a day off yesterday and in the midst of a three-game winning streak. You can’t undervalue how much better this group feels today compared to if they had lost on Tuesday night. They are back to .500, they have 10 forwards with goals, their blueline has the most 5×5 goals in the North and their PK was a perfect 5-for-5 on Tuesday.
Confidence is such an important factor in the way a team plays, and while the Oilers’ goals against is still a work in progress, they had many more positive than negatives when they stepped on the ice this morning.
These were the top four lines and three D pairs during practice.
RNH-McDavid-Puljujarvi
Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto
Neal-Turris-Kassian
Shore-Haas-Archibald
Nurse-Barrie
Lagesson-Larsson
Russell-Bouchard
Ethan Bear was skating, but he was an extra with Slater Koekkoek and Caleb Jones. Mike Smith was also with the main group.
It was unique seeing 17 forwards, nine D-men and three goalies on the ice for a regular season practice. First time all season every player on the roster was on the ice together.

DEFENSIVE DEPTH…

Sep 20, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Evan Bouchard (75) skates during warmup against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
I started working in media in January, 2001. I worked for John Short, starting as an on-site producer, and when his regular producer got sick, I covered a few games late that season and then started full-time covering the Oilers and the NHL in the fall of 2001. In that time, I can recall only one season where the Oilers had four solid right-shot defenders, and the first time they had three who could move the puck like @Tyson Barrie, @Ethan Bear and @Evan Bouchard.
Advertisement
Ad
For many seasons they often used left shot to fill one of the right defence spots. I only included D-men who played more than five games and below 40 GP in parentheses.
2001/2002: Jason Smith and Steve Staios
2003: Smith, Staios, Ales Pisa
2004: Smith and Staios.
2006: Smith, Staios and Matt Greene (27 GP)
2007: Smith, Staios, Greene, Mathieu Roy (16 GP) and Tom Gilbert (12 GP)
2008: Gilbert, Staios, Greene and Roy (13 GP)
2009: Gilbert and Staios
2010: Gilbert and Staios (40 GP). For almost half the season they only had one right shot dressed.
2011: Gilbert, Kurtis Foster and Jeff Petry (35 GP)
2012: Petry, Gilbert (47 GP, traded), Corey Potter and Colten Tuebert (24 GP).
2013: Petry, Potter and Justin Schultz. **lockout shortened 48-game season.**
2014: Petry, Schultz, Philip Larsen (30 GP) and Potter (16 GP).
2015: Petry (traded to MTL after 59 GP), Schultz and Mark Fayne.
2016: Fayne, Eric Gryba, Schultz (traded after 45 GP) and Adam Clendending (20 GP).
2017: Adam Larsson, Matt Benning and Gryba (40 GP).
2018: Larsson, Benning, Gryba (21 GP) and Ethan Bear (18 GP).
2019: Larsson, Benning, Alex Petrovic (9 GP), Evan Bouchard (7GP) and Chris Wideman (5 GP).
2020: Larsson, Bear, Benning and Joel Persson (13 GP)
Advertisement
Ad
Right now they have Barrie, Larsson, Bear and Bouchard — the most skilled right D corps I’ve seen. Bear, based on line rushes today, won’t play on Saturday v. Calgary, but I don’t see him staying out too long. He missed the past two games with an injury, and giving him a few extra days off is wise.
But when all four are healthy, Dave Tippett and Jim Playfair will have a tough decision. It is a good problem to have. I’ve read many saying Adam Larsson should come out. I’d be surprised if that occurs right away. He is the best penalty killer of the group, and the most defensive minded. He had a rough start to the season, but the past few games he has been fine.
I’m more curious to see if Tippett dresses all four one game and moves one to the left side. I asked him about that after Tuesdays win. “None of them have played there, but we will see how it goes,” he said. Bouchard took some reps on the left side with Bear today. Not a lot, but I saw him on the left side more than any other. Tyson Barrie did play left side two years in junior, and said he has played it sparingly in the NHL. Something to monitor.
Advertisement
Ad
What perplexes me about the Oilers right side, is how after one game of finally having depth some fans were discussing trade possibilities for Larsson. That makes very little sense to me. You trade him, then next day one of the remaining three get injured in a game and now you are scrambling again.
I’d keep all four, and figure out how to keep all of them involved. Bouchard looked great in his first game, and he deserves to play again Saturday. I think next season you can start the season planning on having him in your top-four, and he might play his way there this season, but I wouldn’t be removing any depth right now.
Just enjoy the fact that for the first time in franchise history, they have four right-shot defenders who can comfortably play every night.
Advertisement
Ad
In 1993, Chris Joseph was the only right shot defender and he played 33 games. In 1992, Jeff Beukeboom played 18 games, the most of any right shot defender.
When the Oilers won the Stanley Cup in 1990, a right shot was a rarity in the regular season. Beukeboom (46 GP), Joseph (4 GP) and Reijo Ruotsalainen (10 GP, but played in playoffs) were on the roster.
Lee Fogolin was the only regular right shot on the 1984 and 1985 Cup winning teams. An abundance of quality right-shot defenders has been a void in Edmonton for a long time.
They finally have four quality righties, which is rare for any NHL team, and the toughest challenge will be for Tippett to decide who plays and how often.

Recently by Jason Gregor: