The Oilers are regarded around the league as having one of the most exciting young rosters. At forward, there is endless skill and exuberance, but on the back end… well that’s a different story. The Oilers defense can be summed up like this:
“Ryan Whitney and… um… I got nothing.”
Whitney is a great talent who had 27 points in 35 games as a d-man, but that was the problem — he only played 35 games. The ankle injury that took him out last year is still ailing him and has him starting the season on the injury report listed as “Day to day”. On the positive side, Ladislav Smid will be ready to go Sunday for the Oilers opener. Smid was slated to miss up to a month with a dislocated shoulder, and his presence is much needed considering the defensive makeup of this team. Factoring him in, here is what the “D” will probably look like:
So let’s see:
Guy who only scored one goal in three years? Check.
Guy who routinely gives up the puck and doesn’t hit? Check.
More inexperience? Check.
Guy who has been happily let go from two teams, one of them being the Wild? Check.
Big old guy who should be a sixth or seventh defenceman at best? Check!
Gang’s all here!
With Whitney not being able to go for the start of the season, people were looking for ways to acquire a d-man just days before the season starts. Not a lot of trades happen at this time of year. A better idea would have been addressing this earlier in the season. Even with Whitney, this isn’t an Oscar winning cast of characters.
There isn’t a top pairing D-man on this team besides Whitney. Wonder why he’s mentioned so much? Because he’s all that the Oilers have. The D will be the downfall of the Oilers this year. Not that it’s all doom and gloom, there are positives like… umm… Ryan Whitney could come back soon… and… I got nothing.
For goal, if Devan Dubnyk doesn’t receive the majority of starts over Khabibulin this year, I’ll question Tom Renney’s sanity. Dubnyk has been the better goaltender since last season, posting more wins (12 to 10), fewer losses (13 to 32), a better save percentage (.916 to .890), and a better goals against average (2.71 to 3.40). He also proved to be the better tender in the preseason. Contract and seniority shouldn’t matter when it comes to winning hockey games. The Oilers are out there to win and should do everything in their power to do it. It makes no sense starting an older goaltender most nights when you have a better, younger one on the bench.
Even with Dubnyk, they wouldn’t be great in goal, but it wouldn’t be painful to watch.
I like their look at forward, but the Oilers will be hard pressed to stop a lot of scoring chances. Expect a lot of 4-3 and 5-4 games this year.
This is what exciting last place hockey is all about. But this year, Oilers fans are hoping for a little less of the “last place.”