The Edmonton Oilers in their defensive zone remain a tire fire’s tire fire. This isn’t something we can debate, this is a statement of fact. Craig MacTavish hired a bunch of new men this summer and now they look like the last crew once they put on an Oildrop. How can this be? Did Craig MacTavish hire the wrong people? I think the answers are contained in the statement “the Edmonton Oilers can talk themselves into damn near anything” when they have time on their hands. A few statements that might have been uttered in Oilers offices this summer:
- “Ha! That Leon is such an impressive young man—and very talented! You know, I wouldn’t be completely uncomfortable if we ended up going to camp with what we have!”
- “Nikita just needs a fresh start.”
- “Well, at least we have Andrew back there.”
- “Fayne calms all waters, no matter who you pair him with.”
- “I’m telling you this right now: Justin Schultz could win a Norris.”
- “A lot of the guys thought Arco was plenty good enough to play.”
- “I genuinely think Petry is our No. 6.”
- “To my eye, Brad Hunt has outplayed all of the kids. Can you think of a reason to send him down?”
I’m not going to give the forwards a free pass—the No. 1 line was not good enough by plenty in Vancouver, and Leon’s inexperience is costing Nail Yakupov playing time, and that’s a very bad thing in a year when the Russian looks impatient to kill the other team with goals. Having said that, Darcy’s point is well taken here, the numbers look good and the play is fine until the ‘tripping over the light fantastic’ defense is involved.
In the past, I’ve blamed Nick Schultz and Andrew Ference and it’s pretty damn easy to blame Nikita Nikitin for hearing a dog whistle and skating into English Bay on the penalty kill. Borrowing the words of the great defensive coach George W. Bush, “is our defensemen learning?”
Or, more to the point, WHAT is our defensemen learning? The number one question from me today about these Edmonton Oilers: WHY is Justin Schultz playing 18:13 a night at evens, 2:42 on the power play and 2:02 shorthanded? Jesus Mary and Joseph that’s a lot of TOI for a guy who isn’t a very good defenseman! And I know people are going to talk about that one crazy cool play on defense, but that’s one play and he was horribly out of position. Tire fire.
Meanwhile Jeff Petry is the No. 6 defender, playing 18 and a half minutes. It is to laugh.
Terrible idea. Just horrible. I understand the young man’s frustration but this team can ill afford to have him unavailable on any night. I’m sincerely thankful to the Hockey Gords he didn’t draw Dorsett (as Hall did) and let’s have this fight be his last battlefield.
There were some rumblings last night about Jordan Eberle getting his bell rung. Did anyone hear that? Something to follow for the Los Angeles game, one wonders what the lines might look like if he’s unavailable. I’d run Yakupov on the 1line, something we’re going to see soon enough anyway if the Russian keeps rocking and the top line keeps rolling over. Very disappointed in the 1line so far this season.
- Darryl Sutter: “The big thing in today’s game is you have to be able forecheck and backcheck, and you have to have the puck. You can’t give the puck up. We don’t play in our zone, so there’s not much defending. I’ve coached in three decades now and this stuff where they said Marian had to play in Jacques’s system is a bunch of bull-crap. The game’s changed. They think there’s defending in today’s game. Nah, it’s how much you have the puck. Teams that play around in their own zone think they’re defending but they’re generally getting scored on or taking face-offs and they need a goalie to stand on his head if that’s the way they play.”
The Oilers are better, you can see it in the numbers WG posted on twitter and I quoted above. They are 0-1-1 to start the season and frankly they deserve better. The penalties impacted last night’s game and there are going to be times when this young team doesn’t have the puck. In those moments, when the Oilers are puckless and in their own zone, I’m genuinely concerned about three things:
- What they’re doing
- What they’ve been told to do
- Who is doing it
Edmonton Oilers, the world has news for you: The Sedins figured it out. And Jeff Petry is NOT your No. 6 defenseman.