Reasonable Expectations

So far we know that not much is changing. No new first line LW, no new 3rd line centre and no real moves other than the loss of a few forwards who weren't re-upped or were traded to clear roster space.

But alas, there is a bright spot that I think many of us have ignored thanks to our focus on other news consuming items. One area that hasn't changed and perhaps this is a good thing, is the Oilers defensive squad headed by Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky, Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov. These four have been and will continue to be looked to in many ways make up for what is a glaring lack of forward top 6 depth and underachievers in terms of goal production.

With that in mind, I was curious to see how the Oilers top 4 on defense might compare to the other teams we may be fighting for a playoff spot with and how much these four might actually make a difference in the grand scheme of things.

The teams I considered are:

Columbus, Nashville, Dallas, St. Louis, Colorado, Minnesota , Los Angeles, Calgary

I suppose to be fair I should/could have added Phoenix, Vancouver and maybe Anaheim, but I just see those teams as either out for sure or in for sure regardless of how well the Oilers play.

Top 4 D-Men By Comparison

Oilers 2008/2009
168 points in an average of 71.25 games played over the regular season.

Nashville 2008/2009
136 points in 77 games average

Columbus 2008/2009
100 points in 77.75 games average

Dallas 2008/2009
99 points in 73 games average

Calgary 2008/2009
120 points in 73.75 games avg

Colorado 2008/2009
92 points in 71.25 games avg

LA Kings 2008/2009
91 points in 76 games avg

Minnesota 2008/2009
125 points in 72 games avg

St. Louis 2008/2009
83 points in 69.75 games avg

What does this mean? If we account for the fact that a few of these teams made changes this summer, the Edmonton Oilers are leaps ahead of every other on the edge playoff competitive western conference team in terms of point production. Even more so, they did it by missing more games to injury than any other team (except St. Louis, who I think would have had much different numbers if Colaiacovo had played with them all season and Erik Johnson hadn't missed the entire season in a freak golf accident.)

This is big news for the Oilers and often overlooked in an otherwise dreary summer. Edmonton hasn't lost a single aspect of that defensive squad that was hands down better offensively than any team (4 players in the top 50 for offensive defencemen) and they'll be coming back healthy to start the year.

To me, no team really compares except Calgary, who added Bouwmeester (42 points in 82 games) but lost Adrian Aucoin who was their 2nd highest scoring defenceman last year. Sure, defensively there is a big difference, but it's pretty close to a wash on the offensive side in point totals. To boot, it cost them scoring punch in Cammalleri and Bertuzzi to bring Bouwmeester into the fold who is a good $4 million more expensive per year an option.

Teams like Dallas (Sergei Zubov) and LA (Jack Johnson) had their numbers affected by the sheer skill of the defensemen missing games, but it can be argued no more so than the Oilers whose numbers dropped drastically when Visnovsky (the Oilers best all around d-man) missed over 30 games due to shoulder surgery. Visnovsky will be healthy while Zubov for example will be in the KHL. Again a plus for the Oilers.

In total goals for, the Oilers ranked 18th in the league below only Calgary of the teams we looked at here. This despite not having a prominant point getting forward (Ales Hemsky led the team with score 66 points in the regular season) and a plethora of underachievers who struggled to put points on the board. The teams compared in this analysis had:

Calgary - 2 players with 80 plus points
Columbus - Rick Nash with 79 points
Dallas - Ribiero with 78 points
St. Louis - Brad Boyes 72 points

Teams that lacked the "superstar" as the Oilers did, placed much lower on the goals for chart. The closest being Minnesota ranked at 22nd with Mikko Koivu at 67 points. This seems to suggest that much of the reason Edmonton was able to seperate themselves from these teams without a "superstar" sniper was the contribution offensively from the blueline.

Ok, maybe this sounds obvious as we know the Oilers have a good core of offensive defencemen and likely why trade rumors involve moving one for a forward. But to me, I see why Tambellini wants to keep this group together and why our lack of adding a bonafide scorer hasn't gotten me down in the dumps like it has a lot of Oiler fans.

The Heatley trade would have been great in terms of on paper goals for, but believe me when I say what these top four d-men did last year is repeatable, and they'll have more games healthy to show it if the injury Gods are with Edmonton.

3 comments:

Good read. Finally, someone has mentioned this. I completely agree....however, I think asking the injury gods to be on our side might be asking too much! lol I firmly believe that, simply because of the defensive core, and the new coaching, while adding the potential and, hopefully improving, core group of young, skilled, undersized forwards, I still think we are a contending team...at least to make it into the playoffs.

Anonymous
August 27, 2009 at 9:28 AM comment-delete

I think we see this year and much more realistic idea of what these four can do. Grebs and Gilbert haven't hit their peak, Souray can do it again and Vis will not miss another 30 games.

This is a big contribution for Edmonton that has to be there if the offense continues to struggle.

August 29, 2009 at 12:30 AM comment-delete

I think edmonton has a lot of depth already deffensivly and its time for a big move, heatley didn't work out but if he didn't want to come here than it's really a blessing in discise that we didn't loose penner and smid to the deal. My point being that there is enough depth defensivly that we should really think about moving gilbert or grebb and go hard for someone thats a pure goal scorer.

Anonymous
December 3, 2009 at 1:33 AM comment-delete

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