During the Stanley Cup finals, the Oilers employed a strong top 4D of Chris Pronger, Jaroslav Spacek, Jason Smith and Steve Staios. Pronger (30:57) and Spacek (25:52) played big minutes in all three disciplines and then Jason Smith (22:28) and Steve Staios (21:31) took regular turns at evens and PK but didn’t get powerplay time.
The current Oilers couldn’t get to that 2006 group in a day. Flying a lear jet. For some reason, the Edmonton Oilers learned the wrong lesson that spring. For Oilers management, the lesson of the 2006 SC run wasn’t “lets get veterans like Pronger, Spacek, Smith and Staios” it was “man, that Matt Greene is going to be something some day.”
Last season’s defense minutes were spread out. Here are the 7 TOI leaders from a year ago:
- Jeff Petry 21:45 (1+ on PP, 2+ on PK)
- Ryan Whitney 20:57 (2+ on PP, 1 on PK)
- Ladislav Smid 20:54 (3+ on PK)
- Corey Potter 19:54 (2+ on PP, 1 on PK)
- Nick Schultz 19:42 (2+ on PK)
- Theo Peckham 16:52 (2+ on PK)
- Andy Sutton 16:41 (1+ on PK)
None of the defenders from a year ago approached the Jason Smith level in 2006, let alone the penthouse suite of Spacek or Pronger’s “touch the face of God” stratosphere.
This Oilers blue starts TC with the following questions:
- Can Ryan Whitney return to pre-surgery levels of defense?
- Can Smid-Petry repeat an impressive 2012-13?
- What kind of impact will Justin Schultz have?
- Can Nick Schultz keep up after so many NHL sorties?
- Good Potter, Bad Potter?
- Can Teddy Peckman step forward and play more and bigger minutes?
- Can Steve Tambellini wade in to free agency or the trade market and pull out a useful replacement for Andy Sutton?
- Can this group stay healthy enough to avoid Teubert and Fedun callups?
Man, that’s a lot of major questions for a team some of us expect to contend. Justin Schultz was an amazing addition, but the club can no longer count on Ryan Whitney as the #1 defender. It’s a helluva problem, it really is.
One thing is certain: this group will get tested early and often. Those NW teams didn’t exactly lose weapons over the last year.