At some point over the last decade, the Oilers changed their minds about defensemen. Instead of “we need veterans to mentor the youth” the club appears to have adopted a “throw ‘em all out there, they’ll be fine” attitude.
And its driving me nuts. Completely around the bend.
During the Stanley Cup finals, the Oilers employed a strong top 4D of Chris Pronger, Jaroslav Spacek, Jason Smith and Steve Staios. Pronger (30:57) and Spacek (25:52) played big minutes and then Jason Smith (22:28) and Steve Staios (21:31) took regular turns at evens and PK but didn’t get powerplay time.
After that, they employed Marc-Andre Bergeron (chaos incorporated and I think MacT never forgave him for the Roloson injury–I might be completely wrong on this, or could be projecting my own venom); Dick Tarnstrom, who came over from Pittsburgh at the deadline and didn’t quite fit into the Oilers style; and green Matt Greene who was a penalty waiting to happen every time he stepped on the ice.
Incredibly, the lesson of the 2006 SC run wasn’t “lets get veterans like Pronger, Spacek, Smith and Staios” it was “man, that Matt Greene is going to be something some day.”
Since then, the Oilers have become a development team for the NHL and AHL clubs, too. In 2006-07, they introduced Ladislav Smid, Greene again, Jan Hejda (a keeper but they didn’t keep him), Danny Syvret, Tom Gilbert, Mathieu Roy, Bryan Young and Sebastien Bisaillon. After that, it was Theo Peckham, Taylor Chorney, Alex Plante, Johan Motin, Jeff Petry, Corey Potter, Colten Teubert and on it goes.
That’s an enormous group of young defensemen since 2006 fall–15 listed and about one dozen more on the way.
Photo courtesy Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved
We’re seeing this play out again this season in OKC. The Barons began the season with two young defensemen who had pro experience–Alex Plante (173 pro games), Colten Teubert (123 pro games)–and then 26-year old Dan Ringwald who had been a regular in the ECHL until catching on with OKC mid-season 11-12.
What does that mean? A pile of rookies. The Oilers have been fortunate in many ways–Justin Schultz paired with Martin Marincin to form a solid rookie duo, and Taylor Fedun–an older college prospect–has played well despite foot speed being an issue (as we might have expected considering the nature of his injury).
However, Alex Plante is not playing at last season’s level (4 concussions since turning pro can’t help) and Teubert has not been able to lead a second pairing successfully thus far in the season. I think that’s a big part of the problem–Teubert and Plante aren’t experienced enough to anchor a pairing with a rookie. That shouldn’t be a huge surprise, we see a veteran paired with a rookie in the NHL all the time.
The team’s best defensemen to my eye have been rookies: Marincin and Schultz. After that, there have been problems everywhere and Brandon Davidson’s injury doesn’t help matters. My own feeling is the club should retain Teubert and Fedun as the RH options on pairings 2 and 3, and then find a LH fit for Fedun outside the organization.
And it is probably a trade. Plante’s play means his value is not high at this time–even in the AHL. It will likely cost a useful AHL player, say Chris VandeVelde or maybe a mid-level prospect like Ryan Martindale.
Either way, the organization is completely off the rails in regard to how they use their blueline and this OKC club is just the latest example. How many kids have to fail before the Oilers decide a veteran hand is needed? This is ugly. I know wins and losses don’t matter in the AHL, but no one can convince me this is the way to develop defensemen.