Oilers Training Camp D Depth Chart

Charlie Huddy, Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish and the Oiler braintrust have worked some magic over the years. They’ve airlifted in some defensemen with NHL experience and managed to improve their overall game. The list is pretty long and impressive, with notables including Steve Staios and Igor Ulanov.

Sometimes a change of scenery can help a lot. The Oilers have turned over the blueline this summer and it doesn’t look like a balanced unit as it sits now.

There’s a chance the Oilers make a deal at the end of camp that addresses defense (and forward). They have too many defenders either established at the NHL level or close enough that they may not clear waivers, so a decision is likely at some point (we said this last summer, mind you).

Here’s the depth chart as we enter camp.

  1. Joni Pitkanen- 06-07 numbers were ES points-per-60mins: 1.00, and PP points-per-60-mins: 2.98. He has a wide range of skills and can play defense, but his problem appears to have been decision making this past season. Pitkanen may have landed in an ideal spot for his NHL future, as Huddy and company should be able to turn these natural gifts into something special. It may be a little hopeful to expect these things overnight.
  2. Steve Staios- 06-07 numbers were ES points-per-60mins: 0.963 and PP points-per-60-mins: 0.983. Most impressive number this past season was -5 plus minus, although he missed the final 15 disasters due to injury. After playing 73, 76, 82 and 82 games in his previous NHL seasons, he faded to only 58 games due to a knee injury in 06-07. Warning bells should ring always for 34-year old Dmen who missed 24 games due to a knee injury.
  3. Sheldon Souray- 06-07 numbers were ES points-per-60 mins: 0.629, PP points-per-60-mins: 7.31. He uses his size well defensively in a controlled situation but can be beaten wide and can be beaten inside due to poor lateral movement (and he’s only 31). Impact player in a narrow view (look at that PP number) his stats indicate as one dimensional a player as we have seen playing defense in memory. His EV point total and difficulty with speed make him a high event player and a questionable choice 5×5, 4×4, 3×3.
  4. Dick Tarnstrom- 05-06 numbers were ES points-per-60mins: 0.60, PP points-per-60mins: 2.28. He’s my pick for the second pairing for a few reasons. First, he has NHL experience. Also, he has had long stretches of effectiveness in the NHL and in fact had a nice series of games with Edmonton in 05-06 (although overshadowed by Spacek). Tarnstrom’s offensive skills have been duplicated on the roster by Pitkanen (puck moving, powerplay passing) and Souray (shot, Tarnstrom has a nice quick release) and I’d much rather have a guy with a more consistent history, but he’s the best option for #4 on this roster.
  5. Ladislav Smid- 06-07 numbers were ES points-per-60 mins: 0.44, PP points-per-60-mins: 0.65. I think Ladislav Smid is going to have an excellent NHL career. He’d have been better off on a third pairing last season, but did show some nice things while playing with Steve Staios in 06-07. On a better team he might start in the minors and come back to the show when he was ripping things up.
  6. Matt Greene- 06-07 numbers were ES points-per-60 mins: 0.42, PP points-per-60-mins: 5.55 (in 11 mins). That PP number should be disregarded. Matt Greene is a huge defender who looks like a guy who will do good things when the game slows down to match his decision making. To my eye he hasn’t improved much, although his recognition might look worse because of his very slow footwork. If the game slows down a bit for him, he’ll be a player for a long time in this league.
  7. Denis Grebeshkov- 05-06 numbers were ES points-per-60 mins: 0.33, PP points-per-60-mins: 1.60. I remember liking Grebeshkov in his draft year. The scouting report on him: Is well rounded and intelligent. Isn’t shy about laying on the body and displays untapped offensive potential. Can log plenty of ice time. There are apparently concerns about his size although he’s not really small (6-1, 195). He’s a wildcard and could solve a lot of problems for this team if he can make a pass and keep the opposition logo between him and Roloson.
  8. Mathieu Roy- 06-07 numbers were ES points-per-60 mins: 0.58, PP points-per-60-mins: 0.00. Roy might surprise everyone and grab an everyday job on this hockey team. The things he lacks (footspeed, puck moving ability) are covered off elsewhere and the things he brings (stay-at-home coverage defender) are not found in abundance. I don’t think he’s the 8th best option at EV on this list, put it that way.
  9. Tom Gilbert- 06-07 numbers were ES points-per-60 mins: 1.61, PP points-per-60-mins: 1.67. He’s a pretty good hockey player right now, and if he could get 400 at-bats in the show this season he’d be a good bet to be able to move up the depth chart a year from now. Gilbert has size, can move the puck and pass it effectively, plus his decision making looked very good in his dozen games last year.
  10. Danny Syvret- Syvret also got some NHL time in 06-07, but from what I saw he has strength issues to go along with the size problems. Far enough down the depth chart now that we can question if he’ll see the NHL this season.
  11. Allan Rourke- He’s played over 400 AHL games and 42 in the NHL (11 last year), so Rourke is certainly a candidate for callup to the Oilers this season. Has size but apparently doesn’t use it enough and his numbers indicate he’s an average offensive player (50gp, 5-15-20) for the AHL level (76 AHL defenders had more than 20 points in 06-07).
  12. Bryan Young- Spent time in three minor league outposts before getting called up to Edmonton this past season. Stay-at-home type was in the NHL because of a rash of injuries and if the Oilers are doing their job he won’t see the show this season.
  13. TJ Kemp- He’s an offensive defender (5-33-38 in 65gp), 5-11 and 200 pounds. Kemp finished tied for fifth among league D-men in assists and was named to the AHL all-star game.
  14. Theo Peckham – I have no idea how they identify the really good stay-at-home types early, but Peckham either has the best P.R. in the history of junior hockey or he’s really a good player.
  15. Sebastian Bisaillon- A prospect many of us may have overlooked even with his emergency callup, Bisaillon had a very interesting season in the QMJHL. His offense (12-40-52) put him 14th among Q defensemen in total points, and his 10 powerplay goals ranked him second among league defensemen in that category.

Finally, a few stats for you that may help flesh out your opinions of this defnse.

Blocked Shots

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

Powerplay Minutes

  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

Penalty Killing Minutes

  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 spent 8 minutes a night last season on special teams. Could MacTavish cut back on the 15 EV minutes he got a night last season and ride Pitkanen-Staios a little heavier at EV?

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19 Responses to "Oilers Training Camp D Depth Chart"

  1. YKOil says:

    The Souray issue is the big one imo. Play him like a #1 defenseman and the team will get slaughtered. His ace-in-the-hole is his PK play and it is here the team gets some flex. So…

    – add a minute to his special teams play (PP and PK),
    – drop four minutes from his EV play and
    – increase his playing time ratio (per the 3rd and 4th lines of the opposition)

    … and a pairing of Souray/Smid might just work wonders. I think it WOULD work wonders.

    Chances the Oilers do that… yeah.. thought so…

    -sigh-

  2. Devin says:

    YK- are you saying a third pairing of Souray-Smid? Yes that would be great, except for the fact that we’d have Greene and Tarnstrom playing on the second pairing. Now, if you meant S-S as a second pairing, well, not sure that would work out so well.

    I just don’t get this Souray signing – wouldn’t Hejda have been a much smarter signing for 4.4M less? Or Melichar, Tjarnqvist, even Tanabe. Damnit!

  3. Lowetide says:

    devin: The more I think about it the more it looks like they signed Souray to make some news with Katz sniffing around and making the EIG look bad.

    Lowe had already traded the captain for a puck mover, signed Tarnstrom and dealt for Grebeshkov.

    Souray is a real straight shooter who may trump all of them on the PP, but he’s a born DH.

  4. timokamuraartworks says:

    Devin…
    was just going to post similar thoughts to LT.
    It seems pretty obvious imo Souray is the consequence of Plan B, as is Penner.

    Lowe was given a financial green light this summer to try and sign a couple of “impact” UFAs, as well as to finally consumate the Pitkanen deal, and was determined to spend the dough…

    It’s like going to Bloomingdale’s dying to buy this designer leather jacket you’ve been saving up to get for months, only to find out it’s sold out when you get there – you’ve got this big wad of cash burning a hole in your pocket, and you don’t want to go home with nothing, so to ease your disappointment, and to try and impress your neighbors, you buy some fancy designer shoes… problem is you didn’t really need shoes (the ones you recently got at Macy’s are fine) – you needed a jacket. Your wife is not happy.

    I think Lowe’s happy little Plan A (version 4.0) may have at one point (perhaps for about an hour or so…) been penciled in to look something like this:

    Vanek-Nylander-Hemsky (Impact first line?)
    Torres-Horcoff-Nilsson (pretty decent second?)
    Moreau-Stoll-Pisani (excellent third)
    Thoreson-Pouliot-Sanderson (quite serviceable fourth)

    Pitkanen-Staios
    Tarnstrom-Smid
    Grebeshkov-Greene

    Keep Hejda and add Gilbert to the mix, and I’d be pretty jazzed about this lineup opening night….

  5. PunjabiOil says:

    Yeah, the Souray signing was strictly a PR move as if to say, “See? We’re spending money! We’re interested in being competitive. Now call up 414-GOAL and re-new your season tickets, dammit!!!”

    The fact that the Oilers had shown little interest in Souray on July 1 and a few days after tells something. When they struck out on forwards, Lowe felt like he needed to make a move – hence, Sheldon Souray. Aug 21 Journal (from the Gazette?) has a story on Souray, in which Sheldon quotes along the lines of, “Edmonton just came out of nowhere, and after the offer came, I made sure it was quickly done.” (paraphrasing).

    Still don’t terribly mind the signing. You just hope it’s not a Jovonovski Part Deux.

    Initial work done by IB on HF indicates a 54.5M salary cap next year – if the EIG is serious, there should be plenty of room to get Stoll and Pitkanen on the dotted line (preferably, they should be locked up before July 1).

  6. Devin says:

    All…
    Yes, that was the rationale, and it was incredibly stupid. A team that cares more about positive fan reaction and PR buzz in July than April is hard to cheer for.

    I’m no business or hockey genius, but it’s pathetic that I can look at this club and see about 20 ways in which I could run it more successfully (and yes, I’m talking bottom line and hockey-wise).

    Anyway, back to the D. Word is from the U that Staios and Smid are inseperable bosom buddies once again. Do you think they are going to jam Smid into first pairing minutes this year? He played them with Smith late last year. The problem is when we all pencil Staios in as the only “obvious” tough minutes guy, we’re forgetting he played second pairing last year, too. :(

  7. YKOil says:

    Devin – nope. I may have my ‘handeds’ wrong but:

    Staios/Smid (or Grebeshkov)
    Souray/Pitkanen
    Greene/Tarnstrom/Grebeshkov (or Smid)

    could work. Souray doesn’t need to be shut out of decent EV minutes altogether – just face reduced load all around on EV.

    No question – this is a complete clusterf&*k of a set-up because:

    a) Staios HAS to stay healthy
    b) Pitkanen HAS to mature as a DEFENSEman
    c) one of Smid/Grebs/Greene HAS to be decent against 2nd tier competition
    d) as mentioned – Souray HAS to be used properly

    Those things happen and the team stands a chance.

  8. Jeff J says:

    There’s an interesting little comparison of Tarnstrom ’04 and Souray ’07 in Alan Ryder’s 2007 review. See pg. 18.

    It would make a lot sense to maximize Souray’s PP/PK time and minimize him at ES. Too bad he’s being paid way too much to be a specialist.

  9. Jonathan says:

    Timokamura: Lowe publicly stated he was quite disappointed at being unable to sign Paul Kariya, who seems to have been his plan A at left wing.

    As for defense, Denis Grebeshkov always sounded like a two-way defender. He’s had NHL minutes before, and *hopefully* improved over in Russia. I’m probably being super optimistic, but perhaps he can establish himself as a second-pairing guy?

  10. Vic Ferrari says:

    jeff j:

    Thanks for the link. Are you going to start writing in your blog again when hockey starts?

  11. Vic Ferrari says:

    LT:

    Ya, sign me up on that long list as well. I think this sudden urge to spend came as a direct result of the image problem resulting from the Katz offer. And the legitimate concerns about the consequences of disclosing their financial details to the Katz group.

    Polls on both the OilFans and HF fan message boards showed that the option for EIG remaining the sole/majority owner had less than 10% support. Ouch! That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of the EIG.

    They must have felt the pressure to make a splash. Call it the collateral damage caused by the Katz offer, if you like. Of course the formal Katz offer directly increased the borrowing power and wealth of the EIG investors, so don’t cry for them.

    Looking back … they moved their older, key players for picks and unproven youth. Even the Bergeron trade was evidence of that. They play youth over experience on the blueline (Smid and Greene over Hejda, and any number of readily available AHL vets who are better than both of those youngsters).

    Then Nichols insults Lowe in the press. Later Lowe remarks to the press about needing to negotiate a higher budget. Then the Katz offer and a complete change of direction … trying to spend like drunken sailors and surprised that no bugger wants to play for them. I mean if I was good enough to play in the NHL, the Oilers would have to pay me a boatload over market value to play for their dodgy little outfit.

    I think that’s what happened with Souray, I can’t imagine that anyone else was in the same ballpark. Believe the “I’m coming home!” angle if you want, but I’m going to believe that it was dollars.

    I’m not blaming Souray, he seems like a good teammate. I remember his shots at Tommy Salo in the Swedish press during the lockout, priceless. I think I remember a quip about Cherry always using clips of him being beaten 1on1 on HNIC broadcasts as well. He won the lottery in July, good for him. Beats the hell out of Nylander, in any case.

  12. Bank Shot says:

    Devin said The problem is when we all pencil Staios in as the only “obvious” tough minutes guy, we’re forgetting he played second pairing last year, too.

    That’s the worry for me too. I think if the Oilers can cobble together a nice solid first pairing, then they’ll be alright otherwise. There are only a handful of Western teams with scary secondary scoring.

    Only problem is, who is going to be first pairing? Pitkanen-Staios seems to be the only sane choice. We have alot banking on them being able to carry the load. Something neither guy has done before.

    There are enough other piece floating around to make decent enough second and third pairings.

    I know Greene isn’t a favourite in the blogosphere, but I like his chances of becoming a top four guy this year.

  13. godot10 says:

    Pitkanen Greene
    Smid Staios
    Souray Tarnstrom

    Grebeshkov is the wild card. I think he relegates Tarnstrom to the pressbox by Christmas.

    I think Souray and Tarnstrom will get the softest even strength minutes. Souray will lots of power play time and some PK time, and Tarnstrom some power play time.

  14. timokamuraartworks says:

    Jonathan said…
    Timokamura: Lowe publicly stated he was quite disappointed at being unable to sign Paul Kariya, who seems to have been his plan A at left wing.

    Thanks, good reminder – that why I wrote Plan A (version 4.0) just in case – miss some nuggets living in NYC….

    Also share your optimism about Grebeshkov – obviously tough to accurately assess what we have just yet, so I’m approaching it with a hopeful attitude – though my pseudo-positivity could be quickly crushed and burned once the season actually begins…

    Vic : Saying Souray, “Beats the hell out of Nylander, in any case.”… not so sure if I agree – having seen Nylander play a ton here in NY, I think he’s a very smart player, who still has some decent mileage left – brings solid offence as a bona fide No.1 center, could have taught some of the young center prospects a couple of things, and is not a potential defensive liablity at ES as Souray could end up being…. and would have come with a cheaper price tag.

    Anyone? Nylander vs. Souray… who would you choose?

  15. Cheeks says:

    Off topic – but we are really scraping the bottom of the barrel in many positions – even goal. The Oilers have a 9 year old playing goal in the bears game tonight – Pitton ;-)

    http://oilers.nhl.com/team/app/?service=page&page=NewsPage&articleid=336939

  16. Devin says:

    timo-
    Yup, Nylander for me as well. Watched a ton of Rangers the past two years like you. I remember in the playoffs weighing in in a debate about Nylander over at IOF. IIRC I took exception to the common view that he was basically a garbage soft player, and in fact he ended up lighting it up big time. The guy has evolved as a player and is a very good offensive C, even if he’s not the guy to send out against the tough opp.

  17. Dennis says:

    Well, it would’ve been nice if Nylander could’ve played against tough opp and did well and yeah, maybe he did piggyback Jagr but the guy had stretches of killing soft opp so if he wound up here pairing with 83 against the soft while a 14-10-34 line took on the big guys, would that have been a terrible thing? In the last couple of years of his deal, yes, it probably would’ve been. But intially? I don’t believe so.

    The whole thing about it’s too bad that SS is being paid too much to be a specialist, well one decision was Lowe’s ie how much to pay him and the other one is MacT’s ie how how to play him. Hopefully, the former won’t impact the latter and I trust in macT to let SS’s paycheque determine how much he plays at ES.

    We all know the Oilers history with rearguards and in that respect it seems like me and many others are hoping that they can turn Pitkanen into a Lydman PLUS offense type. Time will tell on that one and if the boys know their backenders, there’s hope they can squeeze more EV effiecny out of Souray as well.

    That being said, hopefully they size things up and realize that salary be damned, they’re better off using his minutes in a special teams role and go from there.

  18. Vic Ferrari says:

    The Oilers mgmt can spot quality D, no doubt. I mean every bugger in the stands can spot quality forwards, there is no trick to that, but seeing through the context is a tougher gig with the D.

    I don’t know if I buy into the “Huddy as a master” thinking, though. I mean you’ve got a couple of guys that like to move with the man, chasing behind the net (Staois and Greene, I don’t even know which side those guys are playing on when I’m watching).

    And then you’ve got guys that held their side like they were playing for Lemaire in a bad mood (Smith, Bergeron, Tjarnqvist).

    I don’t know what it is, really don’t. But I can tell you, for damn sure, that this isn’t the work of a master teacher.

    And those people who think that Souray was a defensive specialist in Jersey, well they’ve been smoking 85% pure black tar stupid, right off of the foil. Bless ‘em. The world just might be a better place if goofy teenagers made up stupid shit and it became true when hopeful fans agreed … but alas, it doesn’t work that way. Too bad.

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