If healthy, Ryan Whitney could move along the Oilers rebuild in a quick hurry. Whitney covers up all kinds of things–inexperienced partners, shabby goaltending, panic in Detroit. He’s a really good NHL defenseman on a team that has so few even the good ones look ragged by season’s end.
Whitney has also been a model citizen in Edmonton, something Oiler fans have come to value heavily. Lots of men say the right things, but Whitney’s comments about being an Oiler ring true. He doesn’t appear to be a man who says things for the sake of appearances. I think he’s telling the truth when talking about being a part of the rebuild and wanting to see this team succeed.
The issue with Whitney is health. The Oilers can’t afford to have him miss any games, but history tells us he’s going to miss 30 (or so). In the games Ryan Whitney doesn’t dress, the Edmonton Oilers are a lesser team. That reflects well on Whitney, and badly on team depth at a vital position.
NHL prediction for 11-12: 50, 4-24-28 (.560)
- You don’t think he’ll do as well this season. I think he’ll be injured and that the offense won’t repeat itself, but this is a quality NHL defenseman.
- Why can’t he repeat it? Ryan Whitney–playing for an awful NHL team–had the NHL’s 2nd best 5×5/60 minutes point total (1.58) among defensemen. I think it’s reasonable to expect some falloff from what was going to be an astounding NHL season. He could lose 30% of his offense from a year ago and still be quality.
- If he’d been healthy all year? The Oilers would have had a better won-loss record and Whitney would have scored more than 50 points (based on the 35-game sample).
- So he won’t be healthy and he’ll score less? I think both are reasonable suggestions. When he’s able, Whitney will make a world of difference.
- He didn’t make that much of a difference last year. Well, the Oilers won 12 of his 35 games and then after the injury won 13 of 47. I don’t know how many games we can credit one man with, but the team was clearly poorer for his loss. And early in the season Khabibulin had the Jimmy legs so that wasn’t helping anything.
- 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.
- What does he do well? Lots of things. He’s an amazing headman passer, just fluid like watching Will Clark swing the bat. He can make defensive plays and I think he would probably be an excellent mentor to the kids.
- What doesn’t he do well? Stay healthy. Man I wish he could stay healthy.
- Who should be play with? I think he would be able to face the toughest opponent (which he did anyway) and be > if paired with Gilbert. After that, I’d pick Petry.
- Petry? Yes. They played together for the first 6 shifts of Petry’s career and looked good. In Petry’s 7th shift, the first without Whitney, Buffalo scored on the Oil.
- Seriously. Based on 6 shifts! Well, there’s more to it than that. I think the Oilers will try Barker with Whitney when the big man is healthy. However, Petry is a more mature prospect and took to the NHL game quite well. If Whitney-Barker fails my guess is that the club tries Peckham in that role with Petry the next in line.
- You’re wrong. It’ll be Barker and then Sutton. Okay, I don’t think either will work.
- How will they use him? As one of two roster defensemen who are NHL veterans with a wide range of skills, Whitney will get heavy minutes in all three areas. I believe they’ll ride him hard as long as he can stay upright.
- How many minutes a night? Last season they rode him 18EV, 3SH and 4PP. I expect his workload may be about the same but the club might try some different things shorthanded this year.
- Is he better than Lubo? No, I don’t think so. A wider range of skills, but Visnovsky was so good at what he was good at (and clearly still is) that he trumped the range. Anyway, I don’t want to think about it anymore.
- Is Whitney good enough to be that franchise defender? No, I don’t think so. He can play tough opposition though, and if you give him a quality partner then you’re cooking with Christopher Walken.