I imagine the conversations between Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan these days are about the blue. If we take the current Oilers defense and slot them in a way Todd McLellan might be doing, it looks like this:
- Veteran two-way top four D: Andrej Sekera
- Veteran stay-at-home top four D: Mark Fayne
- Young NHL defensemen who should be somewhat sheltered: Oscar Klefbom
- Young NHL defensemen who should be completely sheltered: Justin Schultz
- Veteran depth defensemen: Nikita Nikitin, Eric Gryba, Andrew Ference
- Close to NHL-ready defensemen: Darnell Nurse, Griffin Reinhart, Brandon Davidson
The top six today, if they had a game tonight, might be:
- Sekera—Fayne (MF had a similar role with Andy Greene while a NJD)
This isn’t good. Todd McLellan is no fool and this defense needs help now. Peter Chiarelli has added three NHL (or close to) ready defenders in Sekera, Gryba and Reinhart and there are good things on the way. Todd McLellan is focused on opening night and my guess is he’s not overwhelmed by the defensive options.
Is there anyone out there, someone who could slide into the second pairing with Klefbom? Or onto the top pairing with Sekera, allowing Klefbom-Fayne to have a lash on the second pair? I know we’re drunk with defensemen but the Oilers could afford to (wait for it) trade three young players for one very good NHL blue. They just need a partner. Come ON partner!
WHAT ARE THEY LOOKING FOR?
When Marc-Edouard Vlasic was a young man, he played the tough minutes (ZS and opposition) and did it with veterans like Kyle McLaren and Rob Blake (source: Vollman). Oscar Klefbom is not Marc-Edouard Vlasic but he’s a good young defenseman who (in my opinion) would be more useful on a tougher minutes pairing than another year with Justin Schultz. Klefbom’s offense is fine, his defense is what Edmonton needs. Finding a suitable partner for Klefbom might be as simple as attaching Mark Fayne and seeing how they work together. It may also come via that blessed three-for-one, or Peter Chiarelli could sign ANOTHER defenseman before training camp who might be able to fill the role.
- Marek Zidlicky: Old as the hills as twice as dusty, he played over 1400 even-strength minutes and finished up 50% Corsi 5×5. He didn’t face the difficult minutes but I like Fayne-Zidlicky-Schultz as the RH depth chart more than the current alignment (Gryba would fall to No. 7D).
- Lubomir Visnovsky: Laugh all you want, I’d rather see him 10 days dead patrolling the Oilers blue than some of the guys we’ve seen here since 2006. Had a nice 5×5 Corsi for % with Thomas Hickey last year, no idea if he can last 10 games let alone 82. Would not be a tough zone start, tough minutes option.
- Jan Hejda: He played tough competition and had a 44% zone start in Colorado, his possession numbers reflecting it. I’m not sure how much he has left but a one year deal at reasonable rate is alright by me.
- Cody Franson: People seem down on him because of the struggles in Nashville but I’d be more than happy signing him and moving out Justin Schultz. Suspect this bird has flown.
- David Schlemko: This isn’t a sexy name but he looks decent via the possession numbers and shouldn’t cost a lot.
So, we’re probably looking at a trade. I’d still bring any of these five guys into camp, I can’t name seven Oilers who are better and the idea of this coming season is turning north. If the Oilers sign Hejda and find a home for one of the expensive 5-6D veterans, is that a sideways more or a good arrow? I very much doubt they’d be going backwards.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
This week is crawling by but we’ll rip through two hours of radio in about 20 minutes this morning. TSN1260, 10am. Scheduled to appear:
- Andrew Mason, Denver Broncos dot com. Evan Mathis signed, can they protect Manning?
- Scott Cullen, TSN. We’ll talk Cody Franson, CFL, Blue Jays, pretty much everything.
- Dennis King. MLB pennant races.
10-1260 text @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!