G33 Red Wings at Oilers

A great defenseman is like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s morning. Opposition sorties dissolve like sugar in coffee, alka-seltzer in water. The puck is moved up expertly and the shot gets through on the powerplay. Calm feet. Big brains. Complete skill set. A great NHL defenseman is a very valuable item.

The photo shows the expansion Buffalo Sabres against the veteran Red Wings. This was 40 years ago. Delvecchio is the captain for Detroit, Howe is crashing the net, Buffalo’s #7 is Floyd Smith and #3 is I believe Tracy Pratt. This scene has been repeated thousands of times over since this photo, and NHL teams are still looking for defensemen.

I thought it might be interesting to compare the Wings and how they use defenders with how coach Renney is rolling them out this season.

It’s 5×5 Rel Corsi but there’s also the TOI totals and this is all players with 5 or more games. That’s pretty consistent delivery of the top 6 there, with Lidstrom and Ian White getting the most work and delivering a solid year. Lidstrom is a freak, please Baby Jesus let one of these Oiler kids be half the player.

This is Qual Comp and Qual team and there’s some interesting stuff here. By the way, all stats here courtesy Gabe Desjardins as always. White and Lidstrom are facing the toughes and then the veteran tandem of Kronwall and Stuart get the secondary toughs. I’ve seen quite a few games this season and that top 4D are very consistent and of course the wealth of veteran forwards helps out every shift.

Detroit had some issues over the summer with defensemen, and it’s interesting to see how they solved those issues.

First thing we notice is that the Wings defenders have been healthy. Again this is >5gp and we see the Smid-Gilbert pairing at the top and Potter still shining after that brilliant start. Now, I know injuries are random things but the Oilers knew Ryan Whitney would be an issue and chose to solve their D problems with Barker and Suttin. Andy Sutton has been a pleasant surprise, but I think we knew Cam Barker’s 5×5 performance would be outside the realm of “delivering consistent defensive play.” A quick note on Jeff Petry–he does pretty well here.

This is about what we might expect, right? Smid and Gilbert followed by the dog’s breakfast and Barker is behind the youngsters and the old guys. Only Colten Teubert is facing softer music.

I think that’s the measurement we should employ, comparing the Oiler blue to a real, bona fide NHL top 6. How many Oiler defensemen could go to Detroit’s training camp next season with a strong chance to play every night? 

And another thing: is Ian White this good or does Lidstrom help that much even at his age? And if White is a better option than Barker–and he is–did Edmonton look into spending the extra money on White? How would they handle Petry? Why are their guys healthy? Would Smid-Gilbert improve Detroit? Where would they slot on the depth chart?

I don’t remember the last time Detroit had fewer than 4 actual NHL defensemen. Probably in the days of Gary Bergman. I’m stretching it, but not by much.

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