Whitney’s Malady

The Edmonton Oilers 11-12 training camp offers us hope in some areas, painful despair in others. The forwards look slick and skilled, and there’s some evidence the F troops may be improved over last season. The goaltending is likely to see a changing of the guard (coach Renney isn’t sure of his starter but is leaning one way. Any NHL coach is going to go with the guy who can stop pucks over the guy who can’t) so there’s something brewing there. Defense? Well, the one thing that we all agreed could not happened has already happened, and the kicker is that there’s no relief in sight.

Whitney’s injury (detailed by Jim Matheson here) has him behind the pace that would get him into the opening night lineup. The money quote in the article is here, as Whitney responds to a question about playing through the pain:
  • “Yeah, a little bit but you can’t play like that. It’s prohibitive, the pain, if you go to do stuff and you feel it. It’s not something you can play through.”
Hockey players have reputation of being extremely tough, and Whitney strikes me as a guy who isn’t going to let a flesh wound get him down. So, with that as the backdrop it is probably wise for the Oilers (and the fanbase) to proceed with plans that include out Whitney.
Which brings us to Tom Gilbert (in photo above). Despite Oiler fans verbal, the numbers suggest Gilbert is an effective defender who can play in all situations. His effectiveness-as is the case with all players–heavily depends on quality of linemates and opposition. It’s also relies heavily on the quality of the goaltending supplied by his team. Here are the advanced stats I use every summer on the RE series, with the addition of SP while Gilbert is on the ice:
  • 5×5 points per 60: 0.61 (4th among Oil D)
  • 5×4 points per 60: 2.63 (4th among Oil D)
  • Qual Comp: toughest among D
  • Qual Team: 2nd best available among D
  • Corsi Rel: 6.0 (best among D)
  • Zone Start: 51.4% (4th easiest among D)
  • Zone Finish: 50.9% (3rd best among D)
  • Shots on goal/percentage: 106 shots/6 goals 5.7% (3rd best)
  • Boxcars: 79gp, 6-20-26
  • Plus Minus: -14 on a team that was -52
  • SP behind him: .889 (worst on the team, 2nd worst in NHL)

Among NHL defensemen with 45 or more games played last season, Gilbert’s .889 ranks as second worst in the entire NHL (Filip Kuba was #1, or last). How much of that is a reflection of Gilbert? Not as much as most Oiler fans think so.

Put another way, should Gilbert do the same thing as a year ago–land the tough opponents and come out with the best CorsiRel–the odds favor a better than .889SP on his watch just based on luck and less Khabibulin. Ryan Whitney’s injuries are a concern and Oiler fans should be wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth. The Edmonton Oilers badly need an experienced anchor for the blue to replace Whitney and we all know he isn’t coming.

None of that changes the calibre of Tom Gilbert. He’s a good NHL hockey player, the most capable on the team and we should be thankful he’s so healthy and a willing soldier.

Now, let’s get back to ripping Gilbert for failures real and imagined, shall we?

Nation Radio hits the airwaves today at noon on Team 1260. Scheduled to appear:

  • Ted Wyman from the Winnipeg Sun. We’ll talk about the huge ratings success of the Jets and try to define this team’s personality.
  • David Staples from Cult of Hockey. We’ll talk about the excellent “Oilers Way” series that is wrapping up today at COH and about the arena, Whitney’s injury and if we have time David and I will discuss our opposing views on Sam Gagner.
  • Ian Walker from the Vancouver Sun. Walker is one of my favorites guests to have on because no subject is off the table. We could discuss everything from marine life to Ogopogo, but the questioning model has me inquiring about the 11-12 Canucks.
  • Derek Zona from Copper and Blue. We’ll discuss the Oilers and ask ourselves if they’re better this year. We’ll also try to figure out a way to shoe-horn Teemu Hartikainen into the starting lineup.
  • Kent Simpson from Oil Kings broadcasts. I’ll ask Kent about the Oil Kings and their chances this coming season and will get a scouting report on Griffin Reinhart–who could be the next first round selection for the Edmonton Oilers.

Emails and comments welcome at nationradio@theteam1260.com and we get rolling at noon.

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