Monday, April 9, 2012

What to Expect in 2011-12? The Defence (FINAL ANALYSIS)

Whitney: 70 GP, 6 G, 35 A, 41 PTS
51 GP, 3 G - 17 A - 20 PTS, -16

Gilbert: 80 GP, 5 G - 24 A - 29 PTS
47 GP, 3 G - 14 A - 17 PTS, -3

Barker: 72 GP, 5 G - 18 A - 23 PTS
25 GP, 2 G - 0 A - 2 PTS, E

Smid: 76 GP, 1 G - 12 A - 13 PTS
78 GP, 5 G - 10 A - 15 PTS, +4, 186 Hits, 184 Blocked Shots

Peckham: 73 GP, 2 G - 8 A - 10 PTS
54 GP, 1 G - 2 A - 3 PTS, E, 80 PIM, 94 Hits

Petry: 30 GP, 2 G - 5 A - 7 PTS
73 GP, 2 G - 23 A - 25 PTS, -7, 126 Blocked Shots

Sutton: 54 GP, 0 G - 3 A - 3 PTS
52 GP, 3 G - 7 A - 10 PTS, +5, 112 Hits, 95 Blocked Shots

Potter: 62 GP, 4 G - 17 A - 21 PTS, -16

Teubert: 24 GP, 0 G - 1 A - 1 PTS, -5, 25 PIMs, 68 Hits

Schultz: 20 GP, 0 G - 4 A - 4 PTS, -2, 165 Blocked Shots (EDM & MIN)

You honestly believed that Ryan Whitney wouldn't suffer another injury?  You're a moron.  That's a pretty fair assessment given his history that I chose to ignore, but there's no denying that when he's healthy he's a solid top four defenseman.  Sure he didn't score at nearly the rate I had him pegged at (had he even played 70 games he would've registered 29 or 30 points), but he's one helluva puck mover and generates plenty of offense when he's on his game.  The problem for the Oilers is that he has to play a helluva lot more than 50 games for this team to be effective, which is extremely problematic.  That's how thin the depth is on the Edmonton blueline.

At least Jeff Petry was a pleasant surprise.  He was excellent.  That's putting it lightly.  Petry was the reason - rightly or wrongly - why the organization decided to trade Tom Gilbert for Nick Schultz.  Petry has improved by leaps and bounds, looking like a true top pairing defenseman.  I guess Ryan Whitney had reason to like the guy: the former MSU Spartan was the brightest spot on the blueline.  We can only hope that he continues to improve and doesn't regress in the future, because this guy could be one helluva hockey player for a long time to come.

How about that Gilbert trade?  You must love that, Gibby Hater.  I made my thoughts on that deal perfectly clear: this is a gamble by the Oilers brass, one that depends heavily on Jeff Petry.  I agree that a combination of Whitney and Petry in the top 4 is solid and alleviates the offense from the blueline issue (so long as Whitney stays healthy and Petry continues to impress), but it goes without saying that the Oilers traded away the kind of player in Gilbert that they now need to acquire.  I wasn't much for Gilbert's lack of ability to box out opposing forwards, win puck battles and physicality (the latter of which he addressed this season), but I liked his offensive game and his solid all-around contributions.  He wasn't perfect in his own zone, but he was good enough.  He also played a ton of minutes.  Now the Oilers need someone like him to contribute offensively from the back end.

So instead of keeping Gibby, the traded for a stay-at-home guy like Schultz.  I'm sure that you and the mouth breathers love that "harder to play against" crap.  Jeff Schultz does make the Oilers harder to play against in their own zone, that much I believe.  I doubt he'll contribute much offensively, that's just not his style, but he's a welcome addition to the club defensively.  What the Oilers need from Schultz are two things: for him to play his as-advertised defensive game and contribute over 20 minutes.  If he can do that, and I have no doubt that he will, he helps round out a solid top four.

Aren't you glad that the Oilers didn't trade Ladislav Smid to Ottawa?  That's an understatement.  What a season.  I doubt he reaches the same levels offensively again, but his defensively prowess (7th in the NHL in blocked shots) and toughness isn't easily duplicated, nor is it nearly appreciated enough.  A combination of Ladi and Schultz make the blueline that much better defensively.

So what, pray tell, do the Oilers need to add to their defensive corps?  Simple: a puck mover who can hold his own defensively to compliment one of Andy Sutton or Corey Potter.  Easier said than done since there are only so many options available in the free agent market (and Ryan Suter isn't gonna sign in Edmonton).

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