In spite of a devastating season, the Edmonton Oilers have a world class blue. Led by the sublime talent of Lubomir Visnovsky Edmonton’s defense remains a quality unit despite inconsistent play and injury.
When hockey teams are as bad as the Oilers it is a very rare thing to have such an area of strength. This means that any improvement up front probably comes at the expense of the blueline. The chances that all of the men listed below survive the season in the Oildrop are very low. Here are the reasonable expectations from pre-season with their current stats.
- Visnovsky: Predicted- 66gp, 11-29-40 (.606)
- Visnovsky: Actual-56gp, 10-22-32 (.571)
Projection is fairly close, he’s been solid and delivered in ideal circumstances (see bottom of post). Lubo isn’t a smash mouth guy, rather an extremely confident puck mover with ice in his veins. He is the most thoroughly enjoyable defensemen I’ve ever seen in an Oiler uniform and runs a close second to Penner as Oilers’ MVP in 09-10.
- Souray: Predicted- 66gp, 17-25-42 (.636)
- Souray: Actual- 37gp, 4-9-13 (.351)
Well off the pace and not close to being the powerplay force of one year ago. It went south for this player (in Edmonton) in a quick hurry and there have been whispers for some time in regard to the player wanting a ticket out of town. My guess is he gets it. When healthy he is playing the tough opposition and in tough circumstances (below). A valuable player to a contending team when healthy.
- Gilbert: Predicted- 82gp, 9-31-40 (.488)
- Gilbert: Actual- 61gp, 2-9-11 (.180)
Gilbert is climbing a big hill every night. His boxcars are disappointing after that stellar 08-09 season. His TOI in each situation has remained the same but his confidence is clearly at a low ebb and the difference in PP results is shocking (2-14-16 last season, 1-3-4 this year). Some of the difference has to do with the situation he’s playing in (tough minutes, poor teammates) but it is also true he is one of the men playing with less confidence. A recent turnaround in play bodes well for the last portion of the season.
- Grebeshkov: Predicted- 71gp, 6-26-32 (.451)
- Grebeshkov: Actual- 47gp, 6-13-19 (.404)
Last season MacT played Grebs against the 5th toughest opposition among blueliners (5/7). This season it is up to a tie for 3rd toughest (behind Souray and Gilbert and tied with Staios) and probably a rung higher than you’d like. Either way, the Russian has been wildly inconsistent and is costing himself money on his next contract. Frankly I don’t know what the best plan of action is, aside from bringing Charlie Huddy back next year.
- Smid: Predicted- 65gp, 2-14-16 (.246)
- Smid: Actual- 51gp, 1-8-9 (.176)
Smid’s numbers are below expectations, especially considering the time he’s been playing with Lubo and the men they are facing. Having said that, he has matched Tom Gilbert’s output at even-strength this season (1-6-7) and seems to be gaining confidence as a puck mover. Considered an organizational cornerstone by some, he needs to deliver better results against the soft parade.
- Staios: Predicted- 75gp, 2-10-12 (.160)
- Staios: Actual- 39gp, 0-7-7 (.179)
These numbers are a solid match offensively, Staios appears to have played himself back onto the team for the final season of his contract. Blocking shots, playing with heart and generally playing the role of leader, Staios will be an expensive “Strudwick” next season but the team can deal him at the deadline.
- Strudwick: Predicted- 30gp, 0-1-1 (.033)
- Strudwick: Actual- 51gp, 0-4-4 (.078)
I’m not sure why, but there is a growing number of Oiler fans believing in Strudwick as a mentor and leader. He’s a good guy “in the room” but “on the ice” is what we’re really concerned about and the veteran is a step-and-a-half behind at this point.
At the mid-season point, here are the Desjardins numbers for the blue.
- Souray .039
- Gilbert .019
- Grebeshkov -.016
- Staios -.016
- Visnovsky -.056
- Smid -.060
- Chorney -.067
- Strudwick -.090
Toughest minutes to Souray and Gilbert, Visnovsky and Smid facing the soft parade and Grebs and Staios in between. Strudwick is playing against j-e-l-l-o.
- Visnovsky .211
- Smid .114
- Chorney -.012
- Staios -.053
- Strudwick -.055
- Grebeshkov -.094
- Souray -.103
- Gilbert -.229
Gilbert at the bottom of this table and the top of the other, a pretty neat trick. Souray too is in hockey hell, while Lubo and Smid get help. Staios and Grebs in the middle.
One final note: Chorney. 21gp, 0-1-1 -9. I don’t see it.