The Oilers defense is lacking. As a team, forwards included, they are allowing too many shots and chances against. Specifically on D, I see a group comprised of too many #4′s and not enough 1 through 3′s.
Justin Schultz is a rookie in his 1st year of Professional hockey. It’s hard to remember that when you see him playing very well and logging the most minutes on the team. The kid is a dynamo and should be good for a long time, but how on Earth did the Oilers start the year with a D-Corps in which he was the best of the bunch? How does this happen? If Schultz had chosen a more established club to be a part of then he would be logging ice time against weaker opposition and generally being sheltered. Likely, he would be a second pairing player. A number 3-4 guy on the roster, because he’s too talented to be treated like a 5-6.
Schultz the Elder has been paired up with Schultz the Younger most of the season for obvious reason, he plays low event hockey. It’s the reason they got him while trading away Tom Gilbert. They wanted a stabilizing force on the back end. Somebody who wasnt a riverboat gambler and could be counted on to be in position. He is as Vanilla as advertised. He is also, however, the Epitome of what you want from a #4 guy on your Defense. He can play a bunch and not look like an Fish out of Water. This season he is sporting a -12 but considering plus/minus is a 5v5 stat and the Oilers are completely incapable of scoring 5v5 I expect much of the team will be minus.
I like Smid a lot. He is on the “Shutdown Pair” most nights with Petry. On Average he plays the 3rd most amount of minutes per night on the Oilers. He’s another guy that has grown as an NHL player in front of the Oiler faithful until he became a dependable, stand in front of the net, tough Defenseman. He brings comically low levels of Offense despite being able to make a pass and skate pretty well. If this guy is your #4 then your doing OK. You just might have one half of a decent Shutdown pair. Guys like Smid are useful come playoff time, not that Oilers fans would know. But he blocks shots and doesnt make polite conversation for opposing forwards in the Blue Paint. Thats said, he isnt a top pairing player. He brings NO OFFENSE. This guy is a number 4 and that is likely at the highest.
Jeff Petry is an OK player. He’s 25 and just now entering into the Prime age for Defensemen in the NHL. It’s a difficult position to learn and this is only his 2nd full season. In fact, he didnt get out of his “Call Up” number 58 until this year. I trust that Petry will be a useful defenseman in the NHL and carve himself out a nice career when its all said and done, but this is a guy still finding his legs in the NHL. He had a pretty good campaign last year all things considered, but on which Playoff team is he playing the 2nd most minutes a night? Much like Schultz this is a guy that would best be served on the 2nd pairing or lower gaining experience against weaker opposition. Petry does a lot of things pretty well, but is a master at none…yet. He’s just a 2nd year Starter and isnt a Dynamo Wunderkind like Schultz. He should not be higher than 4, on the Oilers he’s 2.
I only include Whitney on this list because, inexplicably, the Oilers went into this season expecting him to be in or playing like a top 4 Defenseman. He isnt one anymore. What separated him from the bottom pairing slugs of the NHL was torn the same moment his congenitally weak foot caught a rut in the Rexall Ice. On his good days he’s a top 4 player. Every other day its a question mark whether he should be getting Ice Time on one of the NHL’s weakest Defenses. Alas, poor Whitney! I knew him, Horatio…
Too Many Number Fours
The Oilers went into this season with too many Number Fours. We were all told Justin Schultz was good but didnt know how good. So we were told to expect Petry, Smid, N. Schultz, and Whitney to hold the Fort down. The results should have been more obvious but so many of us wanted to Believe that this year things would go our way. Taken 1 by 1 the Oilers defense isnt that bad, but as a unit they are lacking.
Management collected Four “Top 4″ D-men and proclaimed themselves good to go, but that perspective was horribly flawed. The Oilers dont have Four “Top 4″ defensemen. They have Four “Number 4″ Defensemen plus Rookie sensation Justin Schultz. That isnt good enough. They arent Talented or Experienced enough to help make up for the Forwards who ARE Talented but completely lacking in experience.
The Top 5 teams in the NHL are Chicago, Anaheim, Montreal, Boston, and Pittsburgh. The top 2 Defensemen based on TOI for each of those squads are: Keith & Seabrook, Souray (All Washed Up, eh Tambellini?) & Beauchemin, Markov & Subban, Chara & Seidenberg, and Letang & Martin. There isnt a 2nd year NHL Starter or Rookie Pro among that list. The closest is Subban and he’s coming into his 3rd year as a highly touted offensive player.
It just isnt feasible to expect this club can succeed as it was put together. And imagine the shitstorm they would be in if Schultz chose the Canucks like his Mom and Dad had hoped he would.