Handling the Blue

This is Taylor Chorney. In his pro career, Chorney has been leaking at even strength like a 74-75 Washington Capital.

There are some things we can observe about the young man that might contribute to the horrific plus minus numbers. First, he’s a rookie and rookies make mistakes. Chaos passes, errors in positioning, covering the wrong man and on it goes. Second, Chorney has the bad damn luck to be a young Oiler at a time when the veteran chosen to protect him (Strudwick) is a human gas can.

There’s another item. The Oilers have played Chorney in some of the more difficult circumstances available to the team since his arrival in pro hockey. Jonathan Willis did a splendid job of showing us the 08-09 Falcons blue in terms of which defenders were playing the toughest minutes. Here are his findings:

  1. Theo Peckham 1.905 (-7) (47gp)
  2. Taylor Chorney 1.751 (-29) (68gp)
  3. Cody Wild 1.712 (-14) (59gp)
  4. Jake Taylor 1.703 (+1) (28gp)
  5. Mathieu Roy 1.639 (-20) (49gp)
  6. Bryan Young 1.489 (-2) (63gp)
  7. Robbie Bina 1.489 (-18) (37gp)
  8. Mike Gabinet 1.422 (-13) (45gp)

What we have here is three kids playing the toughest opponents and three veterans (Taylor, Roy and Young) playing secondary minutes. I understand there weren’t enough veterans on the blueline and that injuries had an impact, but the only reasonable conclusion we can draw from that list is that the Oilers were content to have their young defenders struggle against more mature and better competition.

Earl Weaver–the smartest man in baseball in terms of integrating minors to majors talent–never put a young man in a position to fail. His starters, even the really good ones, had to pitch in the bullpen for a time. His position players were mostly placed in a platoon or used for late inning defense. Earl got a tremendous amount out of his rosters and this was a key component.

The Oilers like to send their kids into the deep end, and the results for Chorney have been predictable. This year, Chorney is in the NHL (although he doesn’t belong) and has the toughest zone start along the blue (39.3% of his faceoffs are in the offensive end). He’s facing mid-level quality and getting mid-level help, although being paired with Jason Strudwick is not actually help at this point in time.

How are they doing with the newest college hire, Jeff Petry? In 2 AHL games this weekend, the Oilers newest pro defenseman is -6. The goals that have been scored against Springfield came from Philip Gogulla (5th in Portland scoring), mid-level talent Cody McCormick and depth player Travis Turnbull. The two Hartford goals were scored by Justin Soryal and Andres Ambul, 2 forwards who are near the end of the roster for the Wolf Pack. He’s been paired with Johan Motin and Jake Taylor on the GA.

If we can agree that the step from college and junior to the AHL is a big one, then the handling of Taylor Chorney so far is a mystery. The very early returns on Jeff Petry are less alarming.

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