Ryan Whitney 10-11: All Along the Watchtower

At his very best, Ryan Whitney as an Oiler reminded us how much fun this game is to watch when the home team has capable hands on deck. Measured, calm, intelligent, aggressive, forceful, skilled and large as needed; he towered over the other Copper drops along the blue this past season.

The night he was injured, Edmonton Oiler fans knew. They knew they way you know something bad is about to happen in any move when CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising” starts the opening riff.

One of the main areas of worry with this now extremely young club is the quality and depth of the defense. Upon this shifting soil we have Whitney at the top; fine in most cases, he’s a quality talent. The worry is injury, and his resume is long and increasing. My Left Foot in 2008, Loose Ankles this past season.

Ryan Whitney is captain material. When he talks about the team, it’s credible (he suggested RNH might be a good pick at #1 overall) and positive. He’s not a minion, he’s a leader. If he can stay healthy, this guy can help the Edmonton Oilers enormously.

Ryan Whitney 10-11

  • 5×5 points per 60: 1.58 (1st among Oil D, 2nd in NHL)
  • 5×4 points per 60: 2.91 (3rd among Oil D)
  • Qual Comp: 3rd toughest among D
  • Qual Team: worst available among D
  • Corsi Rel: .6 (6th best among D)
  • Zone Start: 53.4% (3rd easiest among D)
  • Zone Finish: 50.6% (4th best among D)
  • Shots on goal/percentage: 43 shots/2 goals 4.7% (4th best) 
  • Boxcars: 35gp, 2-25-27
  • Plus Minus: +13 on a team that was -52
  1. What do these numbers tell us? He’s a quality NHL defenseman on a bad, bad team. Whitney’s 5×5/60 number is so good we shouldn’t expect another one like it, but he’s clearly a talented puck mover. He delivered quality and appears to have had enormous puck luck based on CorsiRel but credit where due the results are insane based on the mayhem going on all about him. Even taking air of of the tires there was some good hockey in these numbers.
  2. How could these numbers be better? He could have been healthy for an entire season. That’s about it, he had a fine, fine season on a sinking ship. I also think we need to temper the idea that since he played in good fortune we can’t expect quality. Ryan Whitney is the one defenseman–if healthy–we can expect to flourish in the role he’s expected to fill. It’s a major item on a team with more holes than answers.
  3. The ship was fine until he was injured. Quite right. By my count, they won 12 of his 35 games and then won 13 of their final 47. It wasn’t brilliant at any point.
  4. You’d build the blue around him? Yes. If he’s healthy, Whitney is an outstanding candidate for future captain.
  5. How big a worry is the foot/ankle? I’m not sure. Whitney’s feet seem to be an issue but I haven’t seen any evidence that the recent injury ties it into some kind of genetic deficiency. I hesitate to call anything medical a one-off, but there is some evidence it was unique.
  6. It’s dangerous to count on another season like this one. Certainly. Jonathan Willis did a very nice job pointing out that we shouldn’t expect this kind of performance every year. Having said that, Whitney isn’t in a situation where he can do damage to the cap (read: he’s already got a contract) so that kind of concern isn’t in the equation.
  7. Who will he partner with? Ideally Whitney would be part of a veteran top pairing, perhaps a shutdown type defender like Jason Smith in 2000. However, with the team in full rebuild mode it’s more likely Whitney will have a younger hire like Jeff Petry on his right.
  8. When will he be captain? Horcoff is signed through 2015 summer.
  9. How important is he to the team? Just short of oxygen. The Edmonton Oilers roster depth on the blueline is razor thin. When Whitney went down in 2010-11 the organization had no counter save for showing up and bleeding. Pretty freaking important player.
Prediction for 2010-11: 70gp, 8-26-34 (.486)
Actual 2010: 35gp, 2-25-27 (.771)
A fine veteran defenseman

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