Thoughts on the Oilers: Defencemen, Rookies and Training Camp

10279542Welp. This hasn’t gone as planned.

Five straight losses to start the season. Three of which were against division opponents.

From what I’ve seen, this is a better team than last year. The goals against are coming from quick plays and bad turnovers. I haven’t seen a whole lot of running around in the defensive zone, which was prominent last year. And it was always after that running around the Oilers would get scored on. This year, there’s just been some horrible turnovers and sub-par goaltending that’s been to blame. But both of these things are fixable.

I’m still confident in the twelve forwards. Again, it’s not a deep lineup, especially at centre, but I think all four lines (for once!) are pretty decent. My only issue is the utilization of Draisatl on the second line. The club has got to do something about that to not only find a complementary player for Yakupov, but also give Draisatl a chance to develop properly.

I had confidence in the defensemen at the start, only because I assumed that Petry would be playing important minutes and the rest of the group would be legitimate NHL players. Instead, Petry has had his minutes reduced, including a healthy scratch, and the club has relied on guys like Schultz, Nurse (back to junior now) and Hunt (back to the AHL).

What this tells me is that the Oilers training camp did not go too well. There were injuries, but the coaches didn’t do enough of an assessment to confidently assign the right minutes and situations to the right players. We’re five games in to the regular season, and the club is only now starting to iron out their defensive roster.

I guess this is what happens when you’re coming out of a losing season and start to re-jig your defensive tactics. Coaches have to test out which players fit where and basically reacquaint themselves with the roster. Perfect example is benching Petry for guy like Hunt. The latter has a decent shot and can join the powerplay, but his overall game isn’t near the level of the former. Marincin, who stood out near the end of last season is only now getting in to the NHL roster.

I’d also be curious to know how much say the forwards have on who plays defense in key situations. I don’t understand how or why Schultz is playing more than 24 minutes when he’s having such a hard time playing without the puck. The guy is fantastic getting out of the zone, but still has trouble keeping up with rushes from the opposition. He’s still developing, and really should be deployed more efficiently.

Regardless of the poor start, there’s ample time to turn this around and get some wins. There has yet to be a game where the forwards, defensemen and goaltending all played a decent game as a unit. Now that the defense is looking like somewhat of an NHL roster with the promotion of Marincin, the goaltending should improve.

Recommended Links

Gregor: Draisaitl’s development likely better in junior – Edmonton Journal

Mirtle: Blame bad luck, goaltending for Oilers early mess – Globe and Mail

Same time next year – Lowetide

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