Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If this is the case, I think the Boston Bruins should prepare to be flattered this summer.
The Oilers appear to be getting ready to add some energy to the 4th line, shore up the blue with a veteran to replace Vandermeer/Strudwick–and one that can perhaps play more minutes in critical situations, and a center who can win faceoffs. Hell, maybe they’ll even find a goalie this summer.
Let’s look at the blue. The Bruins had a nice group of “Seidenberg” veterans, calm feet and an idea about how to play the game. They also had Chara, but let’s not talk about that right now.
The blue has been a pain in the ass forever, and part of the problem is lack of experience. The Stanley team boasted veterans like Chris Pronger, Jason Smith, Steve Staios and added Jaro Spacek and Dick Tarnstrom at the deadline.
That blueline also featured two youngsters (Matt Greene and M-A Bergeron) but they were sent away (for Lubo and Grebs) over the last few seasons.
The Oilers on defense currently have some issues. Their best defenseman (Ryan Whitney) can’t stay healthy, and their second best defender (Tom Gilbert) suffered periods of ineffectiveness and then what appeared to be a crisis of confidence during the year.
Veterans Kurtis Foster, Jim Vandermeer and Jason Strudwick were not what the doctor ordered and the rookies were rookies. Ladislav Smid showed some signs of progress and Theo Peckham played tougher minutes than expected based on profile and experience (48% of his EV minutes were played with Tom Gilbert). It’s a mess. However, there are some things we know already about the group, including the fact that Jason Strudwick won’t be back and things are looking dim for Jim Vandermeer.
I don’t see any way for this team to improve along the blue without a veteran defensemen being added to the group. This player would be able to penalty kill and might also be right-handed. Here’s a look at last season’s top 4 (TOI per game) based on situation:
- Whitney 18:19
- Gilbert 18:09
- Petry 16:54
- Smid 16:50
- Peckham 15:58
- Vandermeer 15:39
- Foster 13:39
- Whitney 4:19
- Foster 3:50
- Gilbert 2:59
- Petry 2:11
- Smid 0:45
- Vandermeer 0:27
- Peckham 0:06
- Gilbert 3:21
- Whitney 2:42
- Smid 2:40
- Peckham 2:31
- Vandermeer 2:04
- Strudwick 1:57
- Petry 1:16
The special teams were a mess; the PP suffered because Kurtis Foster didn’t have a good season and Whitney was injured again. The penalty-kill was also poor, I think mostly because Vandermeer and Strudwick (the two veteran defensive defensemen) couldn’t handle the workload (they should be much higher on the PK TOI GP list).
What’s the solution? I think they need a Jan Hejda for the PK and evens, and maybe a Sami Lepisto to help with moving the puck and to provide insurance when the kids struggle.
Petry can start in the minors and be the first injury call up. He’ll probably play 82 games anyway.