Continuing on with my series of posts that break down the Oiler’s different areas, today we look at the defense.
Last year I mentioned how I thought that we had a really strong D-core, and how we had positioned ourselves going forward as well with lots of good youngsters. Well, there are 3 players that are the same. Note I am not including Souray, because he won’t be here (I think).
Lets take a look at what we have so far:
That group seems to be pretty average. Not terrible by any means, but not the best in the NHL either. I see Gilbert and Whitney kicking ass much like they did last year, and I like the Foster pickup. Smid has been a favorite of mine for a bit now. I don’t hate Vandermeer being there, but I think he should be more of a 5/6 player (as well as Peckham). Strudwick doesn’t deserve to be on the ice in my opinion and we have too many forwards as is, so we can’t move him up there. But who would be replace him with anyways? Chorney and Plante both need more time in the A to get better I think.
The top pairing is good. I’ve been high on Gilbert for a couple years now, and by pairing him with Whitney (who played well in Pit, just for some reason couldn’t hack it in Ana) it has given us a good #1 pairing. I would like to see them placed in a more offensive role and not have to depend on them for defensive matching, but you put your best players on the ice against the other teams best players.
Tough. With Vandermeer, Peckham, Smid and Strudwick (I may not like him, but he is tough) this team has a tough defense who won’t back down from fights, and can punish the other teams forwards.
Offense. We have good puck movers back there who can get the puck to the forwards quickly, and help the transition to offense.
There seems to be no middle tier players in this group. Right now we have the top line, and a bunch of 5/6 d-men (at this point in their careers). I have a feeling that Foster and Smid can make the jump to 3/4 type players but I’m going to have to see it first.
There isn’t much depth in this group. Should there be any injuries (and with this team its more of a when, not if) then we will be bringing up Chorney or Plante and then this D group looks even weaker (especially if its one of the top two that get injured).
A defensive defenseman. One that could fill the 3/4 slot while being a stabilizing force back there. Say Jason Smith.
I find it amazing the swings this team makes from a good group of players (Souray, Visnovsky, Gilbert, Grebber Grabber, Smid, Staios and Strudwick) to an average group (see above). And that is not including the year a few back, where the defense group was a sad sad thing (all young).
I’m not sure what to make of this group. I think they have the ability to be a decent core, and just have to hold the fort until the kids get some experience. Just looking at the forwards its obvious that that is what management wants to do anyways.
On another note, I don’t consider Souray a part of this defense group. He wanted out, and I honestly think Tambellini is doing all that he can to get him out of the way. Only thing that has stopped that from happening is his negative value (which he doesn’t seem to want to admit….although that is all hearsay). But I truly think he will be gone by the time that the season starts.