The Edmonton Oilers are continuing the rebuild with some fine work so far this summer. Another ridiculous forward and a watershed moment in free agency when Justin Schultz chose our town.
The major issue for Oiler fans is defense. Why? Ryan Whitney’s injury. We knew about it long ago (Robin Brownlee has been the best source of info to my eye) and it had a tremendous impact on Whitney’s season. Make no mistake, a healthy Ryan Whitney is a quality NHL defenseman–outlet passes, excellent zone coverage, physical.
Whitney’s season is profiled here and perhaps the most important question was this one:
- Let’s put it another way. Can the Oilers count on him? No. If Whitney comes to camp and can play 20 minutes a night effectively, the Oilers should consider that a major victory. But counting on it? No sir. It didn’t work out last fall and they shouldn’t count on it this one.
If the Oilers stand pat from now until training camp then I’d suggest the club must have some pretty good intel on his progress. In a Nation Radio interview with Jason Gregor in the spring, he suggested that Whitney’s inability to train last offseason set him back a lot and the big defender was never able to recover. That shouldn’t be a problem this summer, as Whitney himself told us he was not experiencing any pain after the all-star break.
In an article for the Cult of Hockey one month ago, Jonathan Willis took a look inside the numbers and posted interesting findings.
- Over that first stretch – to mid-February – Whitney had a Fenwick score of +232/-321 over 24 games, meaning that the Oilers were recording 42.0% of positive events with him on the ice, while the opposition was recording 58.0%. Over Whitney’s final 27 games, that Fenwick score jumped to +324/-345, meaning that the Oilers had 48.4% of positive chances to the opposition’s 51.6%.
So the question is this: how much can Whitney recover defensively? We know his sublime headman passes are still a part of his game, but will a summer of training improve his ability to turn?
It’s a huge bleeding deal, as the English would say. As time rolls on–and the Oilers don’t addres top 4 blue–is it reasonable to suggest they feel comfortable counting on the big man?
Godspeed Ryan Whitney. I have a feeling you’ll be playing a feature role in 12-13.