“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” -Arthur Carlson.
Oilers fans enter the year raving about Justin Schultz and wondering about Andrej Sekera, when history suggests we have it ass backwards. What side to bet? I’ll take history for the win, Alex.
HOW MANY RIVERS TO CROSS?
Edmonton used 13 defenders a year ago and will probably use a similar number this coming season. Why? Injuries, ineffectiveness, trades, maybe a defender questions someone about the importance of fitness, it goes on. Here is last year’s blue in total minutes:
- Justin Schultz 1831:31
- Mark Fayne 1327:19
- Andrew Ference 1321:23
- Oscar Kefbom 1319:56
- Jeff Petry 1236:03
- Nikita Nikitin 824:50
- Martin Marincin 764:31
- Keith Aulie 443:25
- Brad Hunt 214:20
- Brandon Davidson 181:39
- Jordan Oesterle 88:10
- David Musil 79:13
- Darnell Nurse 33:59
The No. 8 guy (Aulie) played in 31 games, so depth is going to be needed for sure and the Oilers will use some Bakersfield men in 2015-16.
- Sekera—Fayne: They weren’t stellar in pre-season but they’re new to each other and Sekera is new to the team and the conference. They should be an able NHL pairing and might be a good second pairing. They are Edmonton’s No. 1 duo.
- Klefbom—Schultz: I’m fully prepared to admit that we may be spending the next decade talking about that one training camp when Justin Schultz looked right. We’re early days, men. Oscar Klefbom makes things better.
- Reinhart—Gryba: They’re too similar, I think Davidson may end up getting a push at some point, or they’ll just call up Nurse. Reinhart has looked good in TC but it’s early early.
- Ference—Davidson: I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Ference as an “eye in the sky” by mid-season, the way they talk about him suggests there’s zero chance they pass on the opportunity to buy him out next year. Davidson is still here and we’ll see, suspect Reinhart will close up the No. 5 job by Christmas.
At some point during the first four games, that third pairing (no matter who is there) is probably going to get walked and wheeled and hammer and tongs won’t be enough. Griffin Reinhart to my eye isn’t slow, but he’s not so fast that covering for Eric Gryba’s speed is possible. I think that’s the pairing Edmonton probably goes with most of the time on this road trip and the other two (Ference and Davidson) have issues of their own. In a way, Reinhart—Davidson might be the most effective in the modern game but I doubt we see two rookies back there often.
Darnell Nurse has been blocked by the addition of Reinhart, who has one year of pro hockey and was acquired by Peter Chiarelli. If Reinhart was entering a stable defense with a reliable mentor I believe things would go pretty well. As this is not the case, I wonder how long before we see our first defensive shuffle.
Among Condors blue, Darnell Nurse would appear to be the obvious first recall. Nikita Nikitin has been sent down and I don’t think he’ll be back. After that? David Musil, Jordan Oesterle and then several youngsters trying to find their way like Dillon Simpson (injured), Joey Laleggia (impressive) and Martin Gernat (MIA since last season but maybe with a chance if he gets healthy).
I think Darnell Nurse will be a factor sooner than later, based on merit.
Tomorrow night’s game will see the Oilers carrying a large group of newcomers. Peter Chiarelli wasted little time in changing things around and the newcomers may be here a long time.
PAT QUINN, OPENING NIGHT 2009
- L1: Jacques—Horcoff—Hemsky
- L2: Penner—Cogliano—Brule
- L3: O’Sullivan—Comrie—Stone
- L4: Moreau—Gagner—Stortini
- D1: Grebeshkov—Gilbert
- D2: Souray—Staios
- D3: Visnovsky—Smid
- G1: Khabibulin, Deslauriers
TODD MCLELLAN, OPENING NIGHT 2015 (PROJECTED)
- L1: Pouliot—Nugent-Hopkins—Purcell
- L2: Hall—McDavid*—Slepyshev*
- L3: Korpikoski*—Lander—Yakupov
- L4: Hendricks—Letestu*—Klinkhammer
- D1: Sekera*—Fayne
- D2: Klefbom—Schultz
- D3: Reinhart*—Gryba*
- G1: Talbot*—Nilsson*
Nine names on the list, eight probably get into game action in St. Louis. Two new wingers but the biggest change is up the middle, the exact spot Edmonton needed help. I threw Pat Quinn’s group in here to show the contrast at defense. Edmonton remains extremely young and inexperienced at the position. This also shows McLellan’s handling of the roster (Quinn wanted a policeman on every street corner) and I also think it’s kind of funny that the Oilers—in a decade of awful—felt they were deep enough to run Lubo third pair on an opening night.
I think we should expect Peter Chiarelli to be active in the trade market this season. The team’s ‘keepers’ as I see it are Sekera, Klefbom, Reinhart and Nurse—all others could be available. I would think a Fayne+ trade for a more mobile defender (RH) is possible, and I also think Justin Schultz will be watched closely. It’s possible we see the entire RH side replaced and honestly that’s probably a reasonable way to address the blue.
The defense isn’t better, it’s just different. Peter Chiarelli was aggressive and active in his first season as Bruins GM, making several moves to address the blue. I believe we see the same thing in Edmonton, beginning with the recall of Darnell Nurse in the first half of the season.
History is a bitch, we would be wise to trust it when names like Justin Schultz and Mark Fayne are mentioned as cornerstones of a top-four blue.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy show, beginning 10 this morning on TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. We’ll discuss the fact Edmonton (once again) doesn’t get to take part in the opening night fun and the roster proper of these Oilers.
- Nathan Dempsey, Vimy Hockey Campus Director. Former Leaf will talk about opening night and tryouts for teams—preparation and learning from failure.
- Gregg Krupa, Detroit News. We’ll talk about these Red Wings, who will feature the first impact teenage since Yzerman.
- Jesse Spector, Sporting News. MLB playoffs underway and there’s excitement across the league. Can anyone stop a Blue Jays-Cardinals WS?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide twitter. Talk soon!