The D Minutes

I’ve spent several Sleeman’s thinking about the upcoming edition of the Oilers on the blueline. They’re an interesting group, certainly improved in terms of offense, puck movers and outlet passers.

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:

  1. Jason Smith 16:56
  2. Steve Staios 16:07
  3. Ladislav Smid 16:02
  4. Matt Greene 14:42
  5. MA Bergeron 14:09 (both EDM and NYI)

And among those who played less than a full year:

  1. Daniel Tjarnqvist 15:34 in 37gp
  2. 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.

POWERPLAY

  1. Sheldon Souray 4:52
  2. Joni Pitkanen 4:42
  3. Dick Tarnstrom 3:20
  4. Steve Staios 2:06
  5. Ladislav Smid 1:11
  6. 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.

PENALTY KILLING

  1. Steve Staios 3:09
  2. Sheldon Souray 3:01
  3. Matt Greene 2:45
  4. Joni Pitkanen 2:12
  5. Ladislav Smid 2:00
  6. 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:

  1. Sheldon Souray 149
  2. Matt Greene 143
  3. Steve Staios 140
  4. Joni Pitkanen 124
  5. Ladislav Smid 107
  6. Dick Tarnstrom 48

Hmmm. I wonder if Dick Tarnstrom knows what he’s in for?

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4 Responses to "The D Minutes"

  1. IceDragoon says:

    Good day, Lain.

    decisions… decisions… :-D

    We may see a little more imbalance in the ES times to utilize special teams strengths.

    Stoll and Souray together on the PP? The 2 cannons together? Not to mention that Stollie could be the one cheating for D. ;-)

    Just thinking out loud here…
    What about Pitkanen on the right with Stoll, then Souray on the right with Tarnstrom. This would give Souray 1+ extra minutes for the PK.

    We’d be inflating the counting #s of our ’08 RFAs, tho. I’d actually like to switch the 2 tandems if Huddy can get his D change in by the end of the PP. Stranding Stoll in the D spot could be scary.

  2. Lowetide says:

    Louise: I’m hoping for Hemsky over on the LW half boards with Souray’s cannon up high, and then Penner in front of the net. Horcoff down low and Stoll maybe cheating in for a deflection or shot from the slot.

    Suspect MacT is drawing up an elaborate safety net as he counts up the number of possible disasters. :-)

  3. Dennis says:

    how effective has JP been on the PK? Why not get our money’s worth from Tarnstrom and Souray regarding the PP and then have JP and Staios as our primary PK pairing.

  4. oilerdiehard says:

    I am wondering if Joni plays the 2nd PP unit as Flyers fan seem to think he has not come into his own on the PP yet. Though he is a good passer and that is all Souray needs from what I have seen.

    The fact that he scores as many points at ES as he has the last couple years would seem to back that up a bit. Not that scoring at ES is a bad thing by any means.

    I am very eager to see what Pitkanen can do in an Oil uniform. One Flyer poster came over and said that Hemsky may not be our best playmaker now that Pitkanen is here. That is hard to believe but if it is even close to right I am happy as hell.

    I was surprised the kids shot block total was as high as it was last year. That is a good sign to me.

    Souray was top 3 TOI on the PK for Montreal so I think he can pick up some slack for sure.

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