I spent part of today trying to remember the last time I felt the Oilers were completely set on defense. You know, 6 guys who could play, maybe a prospect or two on the farm who could be asked to fill in for injury. I found it! And it was awhile ago.
The 1998-99 Oilers blue consisted of:
- Boris Mironov (25:55)
- Roman Hamrlik (23:49)
- Janne Niinimaa (23:54)
- Tom Poti (19:33)
- Marty McSorley (16:58)
- Frank Musil (14:21)
- Sean Brown (12:14)
Now they traded BoBo (doesn’t everyone love BoBo? I miss him) but brought in Jason Smith. There’s some real talent there, some outstanding youth–and lots of chaos–but great skill. You might choose the Stanley spring defense, but that group ran a green Matt Greene out there a lot. A lot.
I know we’re in a lockout, but we know a little more about Justin Schultz. I think we can safely say he’ll be better than Poti was (98-99 was his rookie season) and I do think that Ladislav Smid, Jeff Petry and Schultz the elder can help an NHL team. How many of the current Oilers blue can play 24+ minutes a night? Oilers in 98-99 had three of them, followed by a rookie with puck moving ability and then two old timers to settle things down and a tough son of a gun in Sean Brown.
Current Oilers do have an older timer (Sutton) and a tough son of a gun (Peckham), but again I ask “how many of the current men can play 25 minutes a night?” How many are capable–today–of playing EV, PP and PK? How many are capable of stepping into a feature role?
I’ll say Jeff Petry and I think he’s arrived.
And maybe Justin Schultz. Now. Today.
Schultz was named AHL player of the week today, after an outstanding pro debut. I don’t know that he’s going to anchor the blue for a decade, but I do know that any discussion about easing him into the top 4D on this team borders on knee slapping hilarious. Justin Schultz is among the best defenseman on this team the moment Gary Bettman’s face clears his ass.