The first step is admitting there’s a problem, and lordy there’s a problem. Justin Schultz is a wonderful offensive weapon from the blueline, but the role of a defenseman involves several dimensions, and there elements of the position that don’t fit the Schultz bio.
This is Don Awrey (Bruins) getting a glove from Walt Tkaczuk, maybe 1972. Awrey played with two of the greatest teams of his era, the 1969-72 Boston Bruins and the 74-76 Montreal Canadiens. Awrey’s role in both cities was the same: stay at home, let the horses run, make sure all shots are contested.
- Awrey after being dealt to Montreal: “I was paired with Guy Lapointe and that suited me fine. He’s a puck carrier and a playmaker and I took care of things in our own zone, the way I did when I was with Bobby Orr. “
Awrey’s value was away from the puck, he spent the 1970′s between the puck and his own net and was very difficult to get around by land or by air attack. The Oilers have employed several members of the Awrey family of defensemen during the past few years (Ladislav Smid, Nick Schultz, Andrew Ference) and the NHL has dozens of them in any era you’d like to point out in the record book.
SCHULTZ PARTNERS 5×5 THIS YEAR (TOI TOGETHER, CORSI FOR % TOGETHER)
- Anton Belov (181:53) (49.7%)
- Andrew Ference (71:51) (51%)
- Denis Grebeshkov (46:57) (47.4%)
- Nick Schultz (14:24) (40%)
Belov and Ference seem to fit the bill, the captain is far closer in style to Awrey than Belov but both appear to be working fine based on the numbers. Grebeshkov is/was unready and the sample size for Nick Schultz is so small we can’t gather anything of value from it (matter of fact while I’m at it, these are ALL small sample sizes), but we know he was paired with Schultz the younger in his rookie season.
SCHULTZ PARTNERS 5×5 LAST YEAR (TOI TOGETHER, CORSI FOR % TOGETHER)
- Nick Schultz (544:48) (45.4%)
- Ryan Whitney (120:06) (36.3%)
- Ladislav Smid (62:52) (39.5%)
- Mark Fistric (34:42) (50.7%)
I think we agreed last year that the Schultz pairing wasn’t ideal, my complaints about the dog whistle wasn’t nice but did a good job (I think) of describing the chaos. Ryan Whitney was a stalled Winnebago and the Smid-Schultz pairing got about one full game to show their chemistry (not close to long enough to get anything done).
Bottom line? I’m fine with either Ference or Belov, but it should be third pairing. That’s the bottom line. If they’re playing above that level at even strength the Oilers are going to spend a generation more in the cellar. Craig MacTavish tried to get something done in the summer, he needs to pull the trigger before fall 2014, and that means either a lot of money spent on a free agent, a forward traded for a defenseman, or both.
PETRY PARTNERS 5×5 THIS YEAR (TOI TOGETHER, CORSI FOR % TOGETHER)
- Andrew Ference (213:29) (45.2%)
- Ladislav Smid (173:03) (44.3%)
- Anton Belov (64:35) (56.1%)
- Nick Schiltz (23:07) (50%)
Ference has played much more with Petry and the results have been about average (for this team), and not really much different than the Smid-Petry pairing. This is the tandem that plays the toughs every night:
Courtesy btn. Ference-Petry isn’t sexy and the results have been a shambles, but in fairness to the players and coach, it isn’t like Orr-Awrey is in the pressbox waiting their turn. Notice the Ference-Petry CorsiRel in the second column to the right—they are in fact the top performers based on qual camp and Corsi Rel so far this season.
The Edmonton Oilers are going to trade for a stud defenseman, and it’s going to happen between now and June 27th in Philadelphia (at the draft). And if they don’t their Edler or Coburn or Ehrhoff or Campbell via trade but Dion Phaneuf is a free agent? Back up the Brinks truck for a double Dion wham kablammo kapow number, because the Oilers need a very specific thing and the price will be dear.
Oilers placed Boyd Gordon on IR, opening up a roster spot. We know that Tyler Pitlick is close, so maybe he’s activated and draws back in to the lineup this evening. Oilers are 27th in the NHL right now after a 6-4-0 run in their last 10 and things are looking up a little, but back-to-back wins that include a victory over Calgary would put the entire city in a good frame of mind.
LAST 10 GAMES
- Taylor Hall 10, 5-7-12 +2
- David Perron 10, 8-4-12 +4
- Jordan Eberle 10, 6-4-10 +2
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 10, 1-8-9 +2
- Sam Gagner 10, 3-5-8 +2
- Ales Hemsky 10, 3-5-8 +1
- Ryan Smyth 10, 1-6-7 +1
- Nail Yakupov 10, 2-3-5 -2
- Justin Schultz 8, 2-2-4 +1
- Mark Arcobello 5, 1-2-3 E
32-25 GF-GA in those 10 games, 6-4 won-loss and that goaltending has been better. I don’t think they get anywhere near the playoffs, but the Oilers should be able to slide past a few teams here—Calgary being the prime and near target—as we near the new year. Crawling from the wreckage isn’t sexy, but it’s the task at hand.
Late update: Marco Roy is injured again, this time a concussion. The Pouliot career lock-step continues. Damn.