The absolute star of the Edmonton Oilers in the 08-09 season is the defense. Four of the club’s top 6 look like they may get beyond 40 points and their year over year numbers are pretty much impressive across the board.
The big worry moving forward is injury, as Sheldon Souray’s seasons often involve stretches when he is unavailable.
That said, it’s been a beauty run for the blue in 2008-09. Lubomir Visnovsky gives sports fans an idea about how the Baltimore Ravens would play defense on the ice, with his puck-hawk style giving the Oilers an interesting wrinkle in the neutral zone and down low. Many have noticed that Lubo turns the puck over a lot, but it has to be mentioned that he also has way more touches than any defender on the club. He’s a beauty player.
Sheldon Souray has also been spectacular, with his freak shot from the point reminding oldsters like myself of the golden days of table hockey when magical tin men with their sticks curved just right were unstoppable.
Sometimes the Edmonton Oilers blue is pure magic this season. Here’s a look.
Souray has been splendid this season. His 5×5/60 (0.99) and Corsi (-3.1) are an improvement over his injury-plagued season in 07-08 (0.76 and -5.4) for the Oilers. His GF/GA ON number is better (28-30 versus last year’s 11-16) and he’s playing against top flight opposition (with quality help). I think we can give him full credit for an outstanding season. He has a real chance at 20 goals this season, and would become the first Oiler D to score 20 since Paul Coffey broke Orr’s record in 1985-86 (Coffey scored 48 that season).
My theory with Gilbert is that he would be forced into a more defensive role and that the lack of PP time would hurt his numbers. He has in fact exceeded my full-season prediction at the AS break and is once again having a career year offensively. This year’s 5×5/60 (1.23) is the best on the club (D) and his -5.0 Corsi comes against the toughs and with average help. Last season’s numbers in those categories (0.98 and -5.2) got him a very nice contract and he is delivering on the promise this season. His GF/GA ON this season (35-32) is a slight improvement (65-67) over one season ago. Tom Gilbert has more than covered my bet and is delivering a quality season in a very tough role.
And the hits just keep on coming. An erratic start (it lasted quite awhile) gave way to improvement across the board and he reaches midway with a nice line. 5×5/60 this year (1.22) is just shy of a club best and his Corsi (5.4) is a very nice number. These compare favorably to last season (0.84 and -1.3) and it’s reasonable to suggest that the Oilers most important signing this summer will be this player (Cole being the competition for said honor). His GF/GA ON is 33-27 and although it was also quality a year ago (45-41) there’s slight improvement even on that quality number. He looks chaotic and some of his decisions are a nightmare, but the boxcar and the secondary numbers are just fantastic. He rounds out a ridiculous top 4 at halftime.
Steady Steve hasn’t lived up to his name this season but has had an offensive year “in the range” up to the All-Star break. His 5×5/60 (0.68) compares well with a year ago (0.65) but his Corsi drop (-13.7 this year, -7.8 a year ago) is even more ghastly when considering his toughness of minutes have also dropped this season (compared to the other men on the blue). He played (according to Desjardins) the toughest D minutes a year ago and is playing some of the easier minutes this season while getting poor results. He was playing with end-of-the-roster help both seasons and we should probably talk about the injuries taking their toll and his possibly being a spent force after a nice run with the Oilers. Sometimes these veterans respond at he’s not 45 or anything but there are warning signs.
He’s covered the offense and honestly looks more confident with the puck this season. He’s never going to be Paul Coffey and one doubts there’s a lot of PP time in his future but the game has slowed down a little for him. His 5×5/60 this season (0.56) is double his 0.25 of one year ago. Smid’s Corsi (-11.9) is a concern, especially considering last season’s respectable -7.0 in a tough season overall. He played mid-level toughness with subpar help a year ago, and is facing slug minutes with dead men walking this year. I honestly don’t know if Staios or Smid is the problem and don’t want to overtstate the issue because it may just be that the other 4 are kicking ass and these guys look awful in comparison. One thing is certain: if the Oilers look like a playoff team at the deadline this third pairing will be addressed by management.
Next up: the goalies.