They have lost Jason Smith, not a small item. The blocked shots and the heart added to the effectiveness (Smith started out awful last fall and then had a beauty run) leave a gap that none of the newcomers can address and the incumbents like Staios have their own important roles to fulfill. Matt Greene is far enough away from being a contributor that he could get dealt if the club starts slow.
Last season, the Oilers divided up the EV minutes thusly:
- Jason Smith 16:56
- Steve Staios 16:07
- Ladislav Smid 16:02
- Matt Greene 14:42
- MA Bergeron 14:09 (both EDM and NYI)
And among those who played less than a full year:
- Daniel Tjarnqvist 15:34 in 37gp
- Jan Hejda 16:35 in 39gp
Plus the injury replacements who were called up later on. That’s a pretty equal division actually, if we take Hejda and Tjarnqvist’s half-seasons then the range at EVs among 6 defenders is between 14 and 17 minutes per evening. Among the 05-06 EVs for Oilers defenders who played the entire season were Chris Pronger 16:08, Steve Staios 15:46, Jason Smith 15:09, MA Bergeron 14:27.
So for the past couple of seasons at least MacT likes to roll his three pairings fairly evenly at EV. So it seems fair to say that at even strength the 6 defensemen (at this time I’ll choose Pitkanen, Souray, Staios, Smid, Tarnstrom and Greene as the 6) will play often at even strength.
Who then will get the special teams minutes? Here’s the PP numbers (per game) for the 6 players above based on their last NHL seasons.
- Sheldon Souray 4:52
- Joni Pitkanen 4:42
- Dick Tarnstrom 3:20
- Steve Staios 2:06
- Ladislav Smid 1:11
- Matt Greene 0:08
Jarret Stoll took plenty of blueline icetime of last season’s powerplay and if healthy will probably get a similar total this season. The total minutes played by actual defense last season in Edmonton was 390 plus whatever Bergeron did (I’ll estimate it at 233 minutes) in his time with the Oilers. So that’s about 7.5 minutes a game (623 divided by 82) plus Stoll’s minutes. I’d guess that the first pairing would be Stoll and Souray, with Pitkanen and Tarnstrom getting secondary minutes on the 2pp (which in Edmonton’s last few seasons has been very poor). Staios and Smid should get very little time and Matt Greene must have wandered onto the ice once or twice by accident and may do the same this year.
- Steve Staios 3:09
- Sheldon Souray 3:01
- Matt Greene 2:45
- Joni Pitkanen 2:12
- Ladislav Smid 2:00
- Dick Tarnstrom 0:54
Souray makes sense as a penalty killer, he’s a big body who can move people and block out the sun a little, plus as a veteran you’d hope he would have calm feet in close in pressure situations. Still, if he’s getting big time PP minutes then it might fall to Staios, Smid, Greene and Pitkanen to pick up the slack in this area. Tarnstrom hasn’t spent a lot of time on the PK for a few years (he was 1:11 for PIT in 03-04), although with his reduced PP role there may be more opportunity (he’ll certainly be more rested for the PK than he would have been in 03-04 when he spent north of 6 minutes a night on the PP).
Finally, blocked shot. The Oilers love their defensemen to damn near kill themselves doing this (witness Jason Smith’s 228 last season which was second in the entire league). So, here’s our 6 and what they did during their last NHL season:
- Sheldon Souray 149
- Matt Greene 143
- Steve Staios 140
- Joni Pitkanen 124
- Ladislav Smid 107
- Dick Tarnstrom 48
Hmmm. I wonder if Dick Tarnstrom knows what he’s in for?